Sliding home A new trailer concept from Argentina may change the way U.S. fleets look at loading and unloading
What if you could easily open both sides of your dry van or reefer trailers in addition to the customary door at the end? Would it speed up and simplify loading and unloading? Help you make better use of trailer space? Permit deliveries curbside and at other hard-to-service locations?
The principals of Advanced Engineering Ltd., who reside in Argentina, have good reason to believe fleets will derive these and other benefits from side-opening trailers because they have been manufacturing them for operations in South America over the past six years. More than 450 of their patented side-opening units (with the working name of SideSlider) are currently on highways in Argentina, Brazil, and Uruguay.
"The concept was originally developed for use by Pepsi-Cola's beverage truck fleet as an alternative to side roll-up doors," explains George Mueller, managing director of Mueller & Associates, Advanced Engineering's U.S. representative. "Today, the company's whole fleet in Buenos Aires is comprised of SideSliders. Coca-Cola's local distributor, FEMSA, is also using the new trailers. The design is so versatile, however, that it works equally well on any dry or reefer trailer or straight truck in most vocational applications," he adds. "For example, SideSliders are already in use in local P&D, step van, mail courier, and rental truck fleets, as well as in beverage fleets on straight trucks and semi-trailers. We're also getting a lot of interest from household goods movers."
SideSliders are not curtain-sided. Instead, the metal or composite sides of the trailer are cut into framed panels that function as sliding doors. They are opened and closed by means of attached wheels at the top of the doors, which roll along an overhead track. The doors abut one or more movable posts that contain a lever system that lifts the doors into the "closed/locked" position or drops them into the "open/sliding" position. According to Mueller, one door-panel width, or as much as half the trailer on either side, can be opened and accessed at any given time.
"There are really only three moving parts per door," he notes, "the two overhead wheels and the hand-operated lever located in the movable post. For fleets, this simplicity means that the entire interior of the trailer is available for cargo, since there are none of the pulleys and counterweights associated with roll-up models. It also results in easier maintenance; all the doors require is periodic, preventive lubrication.
"Durability is another benefit of this design," Mueller adds. "Lic. Marcos Glascher Krum, the director of marketing for Buenos Aires Embotelladora SA (BAESA) - the area's Pepsi distributor - told us they are still running their original SideSliders after six years of pretty tough use, including opening and closing each door more than 200,000 times. And their drivers report high levels of satisfaction with the system's ease of use and good cargo access."
For some high-profile fleets, however, the initial appeal of the SideSlider design has been its appearance, Mueller observes. The smooth sides of the trailer make a great rolling billboard for product advertising.
The SideSlider is not yet available in the United States, but Advanced Engineering Ltd. is offering its patented technology and assistance to potential strategic partners.