It is not an exaggeration to say that trailer innovation appears to be in a golden age. New trailer models, new and redesigned components and systems, new materials, enhanced aerodynamics, and new technologies are rolling out at an amazing pace—and the customer is the clear beneficiary.

A number of the new trailers making their debut this year are for specialty applications. If you haul agricultural products, for instance, Trail King introduced a new continuous belt super hi-lite rolled side ag trailer (ASHR-C) in March for carriers that move feed, seed, fertilizer, and other ag-related products. It features a continuous 48-in., 2-ply SBR rubber belt driven by a dual-reduction planetary gearbox with heavy-duty roller chain and steel Z-Bar support.

Trail King says the continuous belt design was engineered to deliver fast, horizontal discharge of the load and hopper clean-out in one revolution or less. It also reduces the risk of cross-contamination between loads. The trailer is available in capacities ranging from 55-105 cu. yds. and in overall lengths of 43 to 53 ft.

Truckers moving natural gas also have a new line of trailers to consider. This April, Westmor Industries introduced its line of Proliner Transport Trailers specifically designed for the LNG industry. The cryogenic tank, with a volume of 12,860 gals., is designed to keep the fuel in its liquid form until the time of dispensing, thanks to a controlled temperature range of 100 deg. F to -360 deg. F.

Rogers Brothers Corp. introduced a special 55-ton platform deck trailer designed for a Buffalo, NY, company that hauls construction equipment. According to Rogers Brothers, the trailer can handle a load concentrated on any 13 ft. of the 25-ft. platform deck.

The adjustable deck height is standard at 18 in. fully loaded. The trailer features Rogers’ CobraNeck detachable gooseneck design, which adjusts for various ground clearance positions and is adaptable to multiple fifth wheel heights.

To meet the needs of carriers that must comply with 43-ft. kingpin laws, Talbert Manufacturing also rolled out a new model, the 5051 50-ton traveling axle trailer. It is especially suited to companies that do towing and recovery, move rental equipment, or run small to midsized construction firms, Talbert says. The 5051 has a six-degree load angle and an overall length of 51 ft. It also features a 15,000-lb. planetary winch for faster loading speeds.

Great Dane Trailers featured four newly redesigned trailers at the recent Mid-America Trucking Show. Showcased innovations included Great Dane’s CorroGuard anti-corrosion coating, its newest EnduroGuard rear frame assembly, and patented ThermoGuard reefer lining package enhanced with a subpan to extend thermo protection throughout the trailer’s floor.

Stoughton Trailers also introduced a new product this spring. Its new Tough Plate configuration offers an inside width of 101 in. and features a high base rail designed to better withstand the forklift damage and scuffing that can occur during loading and unloading. The Tough Plate also comes with a lower tare weight, which will allow a higher volume of freight to be transported while still remaining under state-regulated weight limits.

Canada’s Manac Inc., a manufacturer of custom-built and specialty semitrailers, made an announcement this spring as well concerning its unique approach to rear underride protection.

The company reports that its Manac dry van passed recent underride guard crash tests held by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety “with flying colors.”

The supports of the Manac underride guard are bolted to a reinforced floor and spaced just 18 in. from the edge. That enabled the system to prevent underride even when the overlap between the test car and the trailer was only 30%. It was the only trailer to do so during this series of tests, according to Manac. The company notes that its underride system exceeds both U.S. and tougher Canadian standards.

At the Technology & Maintenance Council Transportation Technology Exhibition, Wabash National Corp. displayed products showcasing the company’s use of high-strength bonding technology. A DuraPlate pup trailer featured fully bonded sidewalls, a bonded DuraPlate composite roof system, and bonded logistics posts.

A DuraPlate HD dry freight van featured Wabash National’s new MaxClearance overhead door system. According to the company, the system provides up to 110 in. of vertical door opening. The trailer also featured the DuraPlate AeroSkirt.

ONBOARD SYSTEMS

Another of the most innovative new trailer systems comes out of Great Britain. The Cambridge Vehicle Dynamics Consortium (CVDC) recently introduced its “Path Following Steering System,” designed to enable trailers to accurately follow the trajectory of the tractor thereby reducing tail-swing and cut-in.

The system incorporates lightweight electrohydraulic actuators engineered to control the steering of each axle on the semi-trailer. A computer monitors data from sensors on the vehicle and controls the actuators to enable the trailer to more precisely follow the path of the fifth wheel. On-highway, real-world testing is scheduled to begin by the middle of this year.

According to the company, the steering system also “significantly” increases tire life, thanks to reductions in the lateral forces on conventional trailers. With any luck, the U.S. market will also find this technology commercially available soon.

Closer to home, Bendix Commercial Vehicle Systems rolled out the latest enhancements to its SmarTire tire pressure monitoring system this March. The company now offers trailer wheel-end monitoring and integration with its SafetyDirect system. The integration enables both fleets and drivers to view real-time tire alerts and pressure or temperature data via an in-vehicle display or integrated OEM dashboard for the driver and remotely via the secure SafetyDirect portal for the fleet manager. SmarTire for trailers can be installed as a stand-alone system or with the SmarTire system for tractors.

Meritor Wabco unveiled a new version of its roll stability support (RSS) system this spring designed to provide the benefits of both ABS and trailer-stability control in a single unit that also links with trailer components. Dubbed the RSS 1M, the new system is based on the earlier RSS 2M system widely deployed by tanker fleets. It features an auto-lift axle control and access to tire inflation data.

The auto-lift system is designed to automatically raise and lower the lift axle based on the load of the trailer, allowing for improved fuel economy and reduced tire wear. The tire inflation data management system monitors tires and broadcasts an alert in the event of tire pressure loss. Retrofit kits for the RSS 1M are also available to support air and spring suspension systems on fleets of any size.

This March, SAF-Holland announced that the company is offering Auto-PosiLift Axle Lift technology as an option on SAF CBX40 Tandem Axle Slider Suspension systems. The system combines CBX PosiLift components with a Meritor Wabco ABS. According to the company, the combination results in a DOT-compliant lift axle with automatic operation.

How does it work? The system is programmed to read the air pressure in the rear axle air springs each time a delivery or pickup is made. Without driver interaction, it automatically raises the front axle or keeps the front axle in the down position.

Hendrickson introduced a new zero-maintenance damping (ZMD) ride technology for trailers at the Mid-America Trucking Show. The new air spring, available exclusively through Hendrickson on select Vantraax integrated air slider models, eliminates the need for shock absorbers entirely to reduce maintenance costs and improve ride. What’s more, this solution is designed to provide constant damping over the life of the spring, without the performance deterioration that is typical of shock absorbers.

The new spring system also features chain down-stops to replace the rebound limiter function traditionally performed by the shock absorber. According to Hendrickson, these heavy-duty down-stops provide maximum durability and also offer protection for trailers being loaded onto rail freight cars.