Coming on the heels of 1995's banner year, sluggish demand for trailers in 1996 sent shock waves through the trailer industry -- from which it is just now recovering. For some companies, the news is not in new products brought to market, but rather stabilization of financial situations. Monon declared chapter 11 bankruptcy, only to be rescued by a group of investors, while Great Dane Trailer and Pines Trailer agreed to combine operations. Fruehauf Trailer Corp. was not so lucky, becoming the most notable casualty of the year.

Additional consolidation may be in the offing. "It's scaring customers," says one trailer manufacturer. "Customers are looking for a company with staying power." They're also looking for increased productivity.

One of the major trends sweeping the market is the integration of all undercarriage components. This "full package" approach incorporates everything from the wheelends to the suspension. The benefit many fleets see in this one-stop shopping is a lower life-cycle maintenance. Plus, they know who to go to when they encounter a problem. This integrated approach also allows trailer manufacturers to concentrate on building bigger, more damage-resistant boxes. Specifically, trailers continue to offer increased inside width, air ride suspensions, and translucent roofs.

Dorsey Dorsey Trailers recently began production at its Elba, Ala., plant of an ultra-cube plate trailer for Averitt Express. The trailers are being used in dedicated service for the new Mercedes-Benz manufacturing facility in Vance, Ala. The wedge trailers are 53-ft., 102-in. aluminum plate vans offering 101.3 in. of interior width and inside height ranging from 118 in. at the nose to 121 in. at the rear. The door opening is 119.5 in. Trailers use the Hendrickson HT 250 U-9-021 suspension, which was developed jointly with Dorsey engineers. This component provides the versatility of an air-ride with an anti-dock walk feature.

Dorsey builds dry freight vans, refrigerated trailers, steel and composite flatbeds, steel and aluminum dumps, package delivery trailers, bulk fruit trailers, open-top vans, and chip haul trailers.

East The newest member of East Manufacturing Corp's composite family is the East Combo platform, which uses welds rather than ordinary fasteners to join the floors, crossmembers, and main beams into a single integrated unit. According to East, advantages of the unitized design include increased load-bearing strength, better road handling, improved stability, and elimination of galvanic corrosion.

The heavy-duty composite tri-axle model is load-rated at 120,000 lb. distributed and 70,000 lb. over 4 ft. Both the standard composite drop deck and the 48-ft. East Combo drop deck weigh in at about 10,000 lb. The drop deck is load-rated at 60,000 lb. over 10 ft., while the platform is load-rated at 55,000 lb. over 4 ft. The OEM continues to manufacture the original East composite platform and the "Beast from East" aluminum platform series.

Great Dane Earlier this year, the Crown and Pines families of Chicago bought Great Dane Trailers from the Stamford Capital Group. Under terms of the agreement, Great Dane Div., Savannah, Ga., and Pines Trailer Div., Chicago, will operate together as the Great Dane Limited Partnership.

Great Dane builds refrigerated and platform trailers, which Pines historically has not. Pines brings a reputation for low-cost, same-spec units for large fleets -- a market in which Great Dane has not been a player. As the companies establish their product lineup, look for a new van trailer capturing the best technologies from both Great Dane and Pines.

The companies also are aligning their distribution strategies. Great Dane sells its products and services through 19 company-owned branches, 49 independent dealers, and 24 parts-only dealers. This complements Pines' five company-owned branches and direct sales efforts.

HPA Monon For HPA Monon, the big news is not a new product but a new start. Plagued by financial problems, Monon entered Chapter XI bankruptcy in October 1996. Last March, a group of investors led by Charles S. Homes and James J. Pinto (HPA) bought the assets from the bankruptcy court. The new company began producing trailers once again in May.

The new venture will focus on breathing new life into the old company's core strengths in the intermodal and truckload sectors, although company officials say they are in the process of developing as yet unidentified niche markets.

With much of its attention focused internally, the trailer lineup remains unchanged from last year's report. Current offerings include an aluminum plate, aluminum post-and-panel, and FRP trailers, as well as a complete line of domestic and marine intermodal containers and chassis.

Hyundai Hyundai's new focus on becoming one of the top three manufacturers in the U.S. has led it to develop a 53-ft. plate van that will be added to its lineup of sheet-and-post dry van trailers, high-cube vans, and 28-ft. doubles. With an interior width of 101 in., the plate van features 0.144-in. prepainted white aluminum plates attached with rivets to 2-in. extruded aluminum uprights with Series "A" steel inserts on 4-ft. centers. Extra uprights appear in the areas around the upper coupler, the support gear, and the leading edge of the running gear. Flooring is made from 1.38-in.-thick hardwood with three screws per board per crossmember (4-in. steel I-beams on 12-in. centers). The threshold is 0.125x12-in. steel diamond plate.

Hyundai will enhance its product line with a new refrigerated entry. The design, based on the company's intermodal containers, will be unveiled by the end of the year, according to company officials. With the broadening product line, Hyundai officials are looking at shifting some production from their Tijuana, Mexico, manufacturing facility to a new East Coast plant.

Ravens An all-aluminum flatbed trailer, designed to compete with heavier composite trailers, is the latest addition to the lineup at Ravens Metal Products. Dubbed the FleetHAWK, the unit saves 1,500 lb. over composite designs. Constructed with a fabricated, 24-in.-deep main rail, 5-in. aluminum channels on 15-in. centers, and hollow-core extruded floor planks made of 6061-T6 aluminum alloy welded to main beams and crossmembers, the 48-ft. version of the FleetHAWK offers concentrated load ratings of 50,000 lb. over 10 ft.

Also making its debut is a standard flatbed body for straight trucks. The new body, which boasts the same heavy-duty construction as the company's flatbed trailers, comes in lengths from 12 to 30 ft. for single- and tandem-axle Class 6, 7, and 8 straight-truck applications. Crossmembers are 5-in. aluminum channels on 22-in. centers, and the floor is constructed of 1.5-in. multi-hollow-core aluminum.

Stoughton Stoughton has begun production of its new super high-cube van designed for fifth-wheel settings of 40 in. Boasting 4,330 cu. ft. of storage capacity, the 53-ft. trailer will accommodate a 265/70R19.5 tire, or the 255/60R22.5 tire when it becomes available. Stoughton says air-ride suspensions, which have narrowed the gap with spring suspensions in terms of price and weight, account for 38% of the company's commercial production. In addition, fiberglass roofs now run on 25% of the company's van production. The additional visibility has resulted in sharply reduced damage of van sidewalls during loading.

Stoughton Composites has taken advantage of composite technology to produce the Revolution refrigerated trailer -- a durable, lightweight, thermally efficient over-the-road trailer. Available in 48- and 53-ft. configurations, the trailer comes with either 2- or 1.5-in. walls, which are achieved through the use of 0.065-in. interior and exterior skins. Made of pultruded aluminum fiber-reinforced polymers, the skins are thinner than the commonly used aluminum sheet, thus offering both strength and weight advantages.The base weight of the 53-ft., 102-in.-wide unit is 12,603 lb. A CFC-free polyurethane insulating foam provides improved thermal properties. Filled sections are then bonded together, forming a leakproof box structure.

Trailmobile Trailmobile Corp. has enhanced its product line with the addition of a redesigned dry van unit and a refrigerated trailer. The dry van weighs 300 lb. less than previous models and features 4-in. I-beam crossmembers on 12-in. centers, with the exception of the front and rear of the unit. At the front of the trailer, 21/4-in. I-beams run on 8-in. centers from the coupler to the landing gear, while at the rear, the company sticks with 4-in. crossmembers, but runs them at 9-in. intervals. A 1/8x13-in. steel tread plate threshold is now standard. Inside front corners are squared and feature full-height liners, which protect the unit during loading. The lower front rail is a full-wrap aluminum extrusion, providing greater durability.

With no wood construction, the reefer weighs in at 350 lb. less than previous models. The rear six floor spacers are 3-in.-wide composite plastic on 9-in. centers for increased durability. Repairs are made easier by the use of new bolts that can be replaced without cutting into the nose.

Trailmobile alleviates nagging maintenance headaches in both of its new offerings by enclosing air and electrical lines in the front wall and tucking lights in the rear sill behind full eyebrow protection. Enclosed rear corner reinforcement extends four crossmembers deep on both models, eliminating the need for heavy-duty lower rail gussets. Both models also offer flush rear entry.

The company has also started building limited-option fleet-type vans in minimum runs of 50 units. Options include logistics posts, roll-up doors, and air-ride suspensions. Because of the efficiencies gained in long runs, the company says the fleet orders allow the company to "substantially" reduce the price.

Utility A new composite flatbed trailer has been added to Utility Trailer Manufacturing's offering. In addition, the company continues to enhance its dry van trailers. The flatbed is built around high-strength, 26-in.-deep steel beams and comes with a 121-in. spread air suspension. The extruded aluminum deck and frame components, which are supported by a high-tensile steel superstructure, offer a 600-lb. tare weight reduction. The rear structure contains an extruded aluminum buckplate for extra damage protection. A new high-strength steel bumper, which acts as a structural extension of the main beam assembly, offers better impact protection at the rear of the trailer. A network of gaskets that run the length of the main beam and width of the front rail and rear buckplate help seal moisture out of the extruded floor system.

The van has a stainless-steel door frame that never needs painting and is expected to lower maintenance costs. An anti-rack header makes it easier to close the van's doors, especially when the ground is uneven. Door closure is also improved with long-throw dogs and an anti-theft center lock mechanism and aluminum hinges.

Wabash Wabash National has enhanced its lineup with the DuraPlate van, which replaces conventional aluminum plate with a proprietary design that consists of a flexible thermoplastic core flanked by tough, puncture-resistant pre-painted steel skins.

Developed jointly with Reynolds Metals, the new design eliminates the exterior posts found on aluminum plate vans, leaving a clean and smooth outside wall. The DuraPlate design also offers the benefits of traditional plate trailers -- clean interiors, low maintenance, easy repair, and durability.

On the refrigerated side, Wabash has made its new SolarGuard roof standard. SolarGuard is a fiberglass-based reflective roofing material that does not absorb radiant energy from the sun. By reducing the heat that penetrates the box, the material reduces the load on the refrigeration unit by as much as 17%, according to Wabash.

Another Wabash innovation is the new TempTech modular door design for reefer units. The two-piece construction eases repairs by allowing new liners to be snapped in place. Plus, hinges or lock rods can be changed without opening the door.

The trailer maker is expected to come out with a family of lightweight air-ride suspensions, including a proprietary design. While company officials refused to say who would build the unit, they confirmed that it will be marketed under the Wabash brand. The new line will include both a lightweight parallel arm and a lightweight trailing arm suspension. Looking beyond product innovation, the acquisition of Fruehauf Trailer's assets includes a factory branch network of 31 locations across the U.S., plus two manufacturing facilities.