The typical dry van semi trailer has a lifespan of 7 – 10 years. Owners and operators would like them to last longer, and that’s possible with higher quality, more durable components.
Given that it’s probably not cost-effective to upgrade every piece of a trailer, the key is to identify and improve the high wear items. To figure out what those are, let’s consider the kind of use and abuse trailers endure.
Road (and Yard) Life is Hard
Pressure for rapid turnarounds at factories, warehouses and distribution centers means fork truck drivers aren’t as careful as trailer owners might wish. Plus, at 9,000 pounds or more fork trucks aren’t exactly light-footed either.
Yard jockeys don’t have time to give trailers the kid gloves treatment either. They’re in a hurry, moving trailers to where they’re needed and being non-too gentle on aprons, base plates, landing gear and braces in the process.
Then there’s weather. The dry heat of the desert southwest makes for a benign operating environment, but not so the northeast or Midwest. Salt in particular is a trailer-killer, promoting corrosion that quickly eats through steel. So how can trailer operators reduce maintenance costs and make their trailers last longer? At Wiley Metal we have some suggestions.
Extending Truck Trailer Life
Given that Minnesota, Michigan and Maine won’t stop spreading salt any time soon, and assuming fork truck drivers and yard jockeys aren’t going to slow down, there are two possible approaches.
- Invest in accessories that provide additional protection (or upgrade those already installed)
- Specify higher quality trailer components
Here’s a dive into what each of those mean and the options available.
Inside the trailer, scuffs protect the sides against damage from wayward truck forks and pallets while thresholds and door track protectors guard against knocks and bangs from fork trucks moving in and out. Outside, rub rails down the sides of the trailer protect against the kinds of contact that happens so easily in crowded loading bays and yards.
If your trailers don’t have all these installed, invest in them pronto! They’re essential for protecting the trailer itself and so avoiding unexpected repairs or worse, early replacement. Consider them as sacrificial though. They take the knocks so your trailer doesn’t, but that will mean you should consider replacing them before they give out completely. And yes, at Wiley we make and sell all of these. Just call or Contact Us for details.
Going for Quality
OEM trailer manufacturers specify high quality components. (We should know, we supply them to the largest manufacturer of all.) However, price is of course a factor. For longer life on a new trailer, consider specifying higher quality, more durable components. Done prudently, this will extend trailer life and reduce your total cost of ownership.
When buying replacement parts in the aftermarket look for those made to OEM standards or better. How will you know? Finding a fabrication shop that supplies leading OEMs is a good start point, but also look for those who can explain why their parts are better.
Better quality can mean many things. For us and the trailer parts we fabricate it’s primarily about maximizing durability. Here are some of ways we go about achieving that:
- High quality material – purchased from dependable suppliers and meeting all applicable standards
- Superior grade/strength/hardness material
- Thicker gauge material
- Precision cutting and bending – taking the time to set up machinery correctly for accurate and consistent pieces
- Corrosion protection – galvanized or powder-coated steel for example, or stainless
- Quality welding – tacking is okay in some places, but we prefer continuous seam welds made with the right filler
In addition, we put a lot of emphasis on rigorous first article inspection. Until Mike checks and double-checks that every feature and dimension is right we don’t even think about cutting, folding or welding the next part.
Quality Trailer Parts Fabricated by Wiley
The list of semi / truck trailer parts we make is a long one. However, for some examples of how we put quality and durability into all our work, consider:
- Scuffs – you can get these in composite, wood, steel and aluminum. Steel scuff plates are the strongest, although aluminum can be also as good, and saves weight too.
- Thresholds – protect the trailer floor at the point where it gets most abuse. Steel is preferred, though stainless has the advantage of not needing corrosion protection. Ask us about thickness, tread patterns and the size you need.
- Aprons and base plates – now these do suffer some abuse! Whether you’re looking for replacements or specifying a new trailer, ask us how and why Wiley parts will hold up longer.
Trailer operators often say they’d like to get 12 – 15 years from a trailer. That depends very much on how many times it’s loaded and unloaded, where it’s used and how it’s treated. We can’t tell you how much more life you’ll get from Wiley trailer parts, but we’re confident that higher quality and increased durability will take you in the right direction. To learn more, or to inquire about trailer parts not on our list, Contact Us. We’d love to hear from you.