Five tips to correctly size trailers for excavators

By |  March 16, 2022
Photo: Talbert Manufacturing

There are a number of variables to consider when it comes to finding the right trailer to haul earthmoving equipment. Photo: Talbert Manufacturing

Selecting the right excavator isn’t a decision to be taken lightly.

Research is required to find the machine that fits an operation’s needs. It’s a long process, but the end result is hopefully a machine that safely increases productivity for years to come.

Choosing a trailer to transport an excavator is an equally important decision with just as many variables to consider. Here are five considerations to make when sizing a trailer for an excavator.

1. Equipment weight & dimensions

The first step in sizing a trailer for any hauling job is determining the length, height, width and weight of the machine. Be sure to also keep in mind that the information on the spec sheet may not include the dimensions and weight of added accessories.

When making initial calculations, ensure the truck is suitable to haul the excavator before moving it onto the trailer. A three-axle and a four-axle tractor will have different hauling capabilities.

Excavators require some special considerations. Certain machines have adjustable widths for operation or transportation mode. It’s important to determine which mode will be used during transport because it may take time to make the necessary adjustments to convert between the two.

For safety reasons, one half of the track width must be on the deck, excluding the outriggers. While the standard 8 1/2-ft. trailer might work on paper in transport mode, operators must be honest in how the trailer will actually be loaded from job to job.

Operators must also consider which boom is required, where the boom will sit on the trailer and how it will be cradled. A low-enough position of the boom is critical to keep the load within height restrictions. Some manufacturers offer customizations such as a rear bridge design to eliminate interference with boom placement and make transportation safer and easier.

After determining the weight and dimensions, it’s time to look at trailer deck designs. Manufacturers usually offer three-deck configurations: flat, raised center and beam.

Determining the best fit is a question for professionals, as there are pros and cons to each. Custom trailer manufacturers have the experience and knowledge to determine which style would be best overall. While the primary focus might be on the excavator, a trailer often hauls a variety of equipment types. Backhaul equipment should also be included in calculations. An expert can determine the best trailer to meet all hauling needs, but here’s a brief overview on deck designs to get started:

Flat. This is the standard deck design. It offers the most versatility for moving more than just excavators. Still, it has the highest deck height and may not be ideal for taller excavators.

Raised center. This deck offers a lower deck height than a flat deck. Not all excavators will fit nicely over the raised center, though, and extra blocking may be required to ensure the equipment sits safely on the trailer, reducing efficiency when loading and unloading.

Beam. Equipment straddles a central beam with this deck design, meaning it has the lowest ground clearance of the three. The main drawback is the lack of deck for accessories or smaller components.

2. Trailer capacity rating

While knowing the overall weight of the excavator is imperative, it is also important to know where that weight is concentrated. An excavator may have a 10-ft. track, but all of the weight is in the 8-ft. span between the front idler and the final drive.

Still, whether all of the weight is in 8 or 10 ft. shouldn’t be a problem for a 26-ft., 50-ton lowboy, right? Not exactly. The length of deck calculated in the capacity rating varies between manufacturers. One trailer might need the entire deck length for that 50 tons while another handles that same weight in half the deck length.

So, if the majority of the excavator’s weight is concentrated in 8 or 10 ft., a trailer with a half-deck load concentration rating offers the best solution. Failure to pay attention to how the capacity rating is calculated can lead to overloading the trailer, which can result in stress fractures and, ultimately, trailer failure.

3. Loading configurations

Today’s trailers offer a variety of loading configurations.

While tag-a-long trailers that unload off the back are an accepted option for small excavators in tight spaces, safety can be a concern. Driving an excavator over the back of a trailer is no easy feat and requires a careful, experienced driver to prevent damaging the trailer and minimize the risk of tipping the excavator.

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