Of the many newly emerging technologies in the truck market, those that fleet managers ultimately embrace are those that can be proven to offer them the lowest cost of ownership. Recognizing this, fifth wheel manufacturers have been working at new designs and technology that offer customers many cost-savings benefits.
For example, last year The Holland Group unveiled trucking's first fifth wheel that requires absolutely no grease, not even to the locking mechanism. Taking into consideration the cost of grease and labor to apply, the manufacturer claims the NoLube fifth wheel will pay for itself in less than two years. Beyond this are other cost implications like increased safety in and out of the shop as well as reduced waste disposal issues.
Holland notes that nearly ten years of R&D went into NoLube technology. It's available as a premium option within Holland's FW-35 fifth wheel model lineup, which also includes a LowLube model that requires no grease to the top plate. As part of the No-Lube development process, a number of these units were run in fleet trials in a non-lubricated environment. Not only was there no significant wear on the fifth wheel, but there was no substantial wear on the king pin as well.
At a basic level, Holland says fleets want a safe, reliable product that's durable enough to last for the useful life of the vehicle, with minimal maintenance and with a high level of driver acceptance. Among the fifth wheel features Holland says it incorporates into all its designs are an infinite lock adjustment feature, redundant locking systems, a drop handle and easy release effort of the locking mechanism. The company also notes increased interest in cab-actuated air-release applications and its electronic lock indicator.
Fontaine International agrees that cost of ownership is the driving force for fleets spec'ing new equipment. Along these lines, the fifth wheel manufacturer says that this fall it will be releasing the 7000 Series Low Lube cast fifth wheel that features a no-lube top plate. In addition, it will be introducing a lighter-weight standard-duty model — the new 3000 Series cast fifth wheel. Both products were displayed at the Mid-America Trucking Show last spring.
The company reports that next year it will be introducing more products for standard-duty truck applications that will provide substantial weight savings to fleet operators without making the fifth wheels smaller and sacrificing stability. Fontaine is also working on a sensor this year that will indicate proper locking of the lock mechanism.
Consolidated Metco has reintroduced the Simplex 400, a product inherited from the ASF line. The 400C is retooled from computer-generated 3D models; it's compatible with all ConMet sliders and mounting systems.
The Simplex 400, along with a new 2-in. slider and new top plate designs will go into production this fall. ConMet notes its next-generation 2-in. slider is a lube-free design, which will decrease maintenance requirements. It's also 50 lb. lighter than the company's existing product, and offers fleets the ability to make finer adjustment of the slider position by providing for smaller slack adjustment increments.
ConMet says it has also made it easier to fine-tune slack adjustment in the king pin, allowing for a 30% reduction in slack. Other recent enhancements to product design include incorporating a J-shaped rod handle that allows operators to use an extension rod for quicker, easier, more intuitive release of the jaw when uncoupling. Also, a top plate with larger, more continuous surface area will reduce wear while providing additional strength for improved service life.
Jost International says there's a lot of interest among fleets in low-lube options to reduce maintenance costs. Jost builds its products with just four moving parts to reduce labor and maintenance costs.
Perhaps what distinguishes the Jost fifth wheel the most is that it can be rebuilt on a vehicle in approximately 30 minutes, according to the manufacturer. This becomes especially important to fleets that are extending their trade cycles.
Jost notes that is has just released a new slider unit that uses an inboard mounting system and provides significant weight savings — from 60 to 80 lb., depending on the model a fleet specs. The company is also working on a blocked, or no-tilt, fifth wheel for frameless dump applications.
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Consolidated Metco 311
Fontaine International 312
The Holland Group Int'l. 313
Jost International 314