While fifth wheel assemblies likely aren't the first component you consider when spec'ing a truck for your operation, they're critical in hauling payload. And bold new innovations are on the horizon.

At Jost International, Rich Carroll, vice president of sales and marketing, says customers are asking for lightweight products and extended warranties which include corrosion protection. Fleet managers want aerodynamic improvements and gains in fuel efficiency. Jost, though, is not letting development lag.

The gap between the tractor and the trailer is a huge barrier to aerodynamic functioning, Carroll explains. “Jost offers a solution to this challenge with an active fifth wheel system called the Smart Gap System, or SGS. This is a patented system with advanced technology sensors and hardware added to the platform of our Pro Tech slider. [SGS] allows for closing the gap between tractor and trailer automatically when it is safe and smart to do so, and then opening the gap to the original settings to allow proper clearance when emergency maneuvers or turns are required.”

THE WEIGHT OF IT ALL

If that doesn't blow the door off your operations manager's office, weight considerations are also under review at Jost. “There is no question that weight remains a hot topic regarding our core product lines of fifth wheels and landing gear assemblies,” Carroll says. “Jost offers our Pro Tech inboard angle slider … The angle is a patented one-piece extrusion that does not require the OEM to weld an angle to the assembly to facilitate installation. [We believe that] our design that eliminates welding and also a set of angles provides the most sophisticated solution to the industry. We can offer a 24 in. slider assembly at a weight competitive to any without sacrificing the safety and integrity of the Jost locking mechanism.”

Saving weight continues to concern customers of Fontaine Fifth Wheel. “Right now, our customers are most interested in saving weight, especially in light of the added weight to the tractors due to 2010 emissions regulations,” says Toby Harris, vice president-sales & marketing, Fontaine Fifth Wheel. “Additionally, training and information in general are key items for our customers.

“We have launched the new Fontaine Ultra LT, which provides the weight of an aluminum fifth wheel system at the cost of steel,” he continues. “We have a new dedicated customer support team that now canvasses North America providing training in sales and service of the Fontaine product. Also, we have worked hard to improve our website, which now has all collateral materials available including training videos, schematics and technical/sales bulletins.”

KNOWING YOUR CUSTOMERS

Kenneth Griswold, director of marketing services-Americas at SAF-Holland USA, knows and supports his customers' requests and concerns too, number one being lower weight. “The Holland FWAL Series [is] the lightest weight standard fifth wheel in its class. The FWAL meets all the load and pull requirements of standard fifth wheels, yet weighs in about 100 lbs. lighter than standard fifth wheel designs. It has also proven itself durable in the field.

“For less weight-sensitive fleets, the SAF-Holland fifth wheel product line includes the FW17, the lowest weight cast top plate in the world,” Griswold adds.

“The ‘17’ is an optimized design that meets all of SAF-Holland's performance and durability requirements for standard duty applications [up to 105,000 lbs. GCW]. Additionally, SAF-Holland offers the ‘ILS’ [integrated low-weight slide] mounting system,” Griswold explains. “This design reduces the weight of a sliding fifth wheel assembly by up to 75 lbs. compared to the previous generation slider system.”

Drivers may already be familiar with the company's in-cab air release option, as the company has offered this on the FW35 and FW31 fifth wheels for many years. “This feature allows the driver to safely unlock the fifth wheel by flipping a switch on the dash. And our fifth wheel engineers have recently introduced this option for the FW17 product. This feature not only provides driver convenience, it is also a safety feature — reducing the risk of driver injury,” Griswold said.

FOR MORE INFORMATION,VISIT THESE WEBSITES:

Fontaine Fifth Wheel
www.fifthwheel.com

Jost International
www.jostinternational.com

SAF-Holland
www.safholland.com