For trucks, fifth wheels are at the point of safety

I haven’t had a chance to thank the fine people at Fontaine Fifth Wheel for a visit I and other journalists made to their new facility in Trussville, AL, last week. The trip was wonderful and the management of Fontaine could not have been nicer.

ultra_ns.jpgThe trip served as a bit of an eye opener for me when it comes to fifth wheels. Like so many other people within the industry, I sometimes forget the importance of fifth wheels. It’s almost like fifth wheels are the Rodney Dangerfield of trucking. Everyone knows they are there, so as long as the trailer stays attached to the tractor, no one cares.

But to the employees of Fontaine, that is the furthest from the truth.

“Here’s this 80,000 lb. rig rolling down the road, a 20,000 lb. truck, a 60,000 lb. load potential and it has a 2 inch pin and something’s got to grab that and hold it under all conditions - stopping, slamming, whatever - so we take safety and performance really, really seriously,” one executive said.

To ensure that all their fifth wheel products withstand whatever road conditions are thrown at them, Fontaine created what they said is the largest research and development facility for fifth wheels in the world in the Trussville building.

“Aside from safety, the second most important thing in our entire operation is research and development,” said President Henry Bell, “and I wanted to dedicate a huge space to those guys for whatever they wanted to create. And we’ve had to cut back significantly, just like every business has, but one area that we didn’t decrease a penny was R&D, and we’re real proud of that; that’s our future.”

Fontaine has a number of different testing scenarios, including some that are unique to their operation, just so that drivers of both cars and trucks can be safe on the roads.

So next time you purchase a truck, remember that the fifth wheel is not just a throw-in, but a vital piece of safety equipment. Fontaine certainly believes that.

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