Four ways to optimize your fleet of trailers

By |  November 8, 2022
A manufacturer with a diverse product line provides flexibility to meet an operation’s unique needs, both now and in the future. Photo: Talbert Manufacturing

A manufacturer with a diverse product line provides flexibility to meet an operation’s unique needs, both now and in the future. Photo: Talbert Manufacturing

For fleet owners looking to standardize their operations, selecting a trailer manufacturer might feel more like picking a favorite sports team than a strategic move to maximize hauling equipment investments.

To some extent, it is. Teams with dedicated fans play smart and deliver results year after year.

Similarly, OEMs who inspire “diehard” customer loyalty have a proven track record for durable, high-quality products. For savvy fleet owners who base decisions on spec more than brand, these manufacturers also provide diverse product lines and exceptional customer service that make it easy to jump on the bandwagon.

But how do you pick the right team for your operation? Some equipment needs might be immediate, but the real value of standardization lies in a long-term partnership.

Standardization can significantly impact efficiency and profits for 10, 20 or even 50 years. Fleet owners should carefully weigh their options before making a decision. Not every manufacturer has what it takes to become a dynasty, so to speak, and no amount of rally caps can turn around a poor investment.

So, here are four key stats to consider when optimizing trailer fleet standardization.

Diverse product line

Consider this: A sports franchise with a deep roster of high-quality players has a better chance of making it to the championship year after year.

The same is true when it comes to equipment standardization. A manufacturer with a diverse product line provides flexibility to meet an operation’s unique needs – both now and in the future – maximizing earning opportunities while limiting equipment investments.

Interchangeability is perhaps the most obvious benefit of standardization. Accessories such as axle attachments, axle extensions, deck inserts or jeeps are often designed to pair with a specific manufacturer’s line of trailers.

Purchasing accessories for each individual trailer results in unnecessary expenditures and equipment lying around the yard. Working with a single manufacturer, on the other hand, means operators can limit accessory investment without limiting potential.

For example, an operation might have two lowboys – a 55-ton and a 60-ton – they’d like to run with a fourth axle. It’s important to note that these trailers must be designed to accept a fourth axle from the very beginning, which is why thinking ahead is important. Simply adding another axle onto a trailer that wasn’t designed for it does not increase capacity – and doing so can lead to stress and premature failure.

But if the trailers were designed by the same manufacturer and can each accept a fourth axle, the operator only needs to purchase a single axle attachment to optimize capacity on both trailers. This represents significant savings.

Standardization can also streamline processes in the maintenance bay. Stocking common components and wear parts – cylinders, valves or bushings – for a single brand minimizes investment and necessary storage space, because manufacturers will often use the same wearables throughout their product line.

Common parts paired with familiar design elements across multiple trailers can also increase repair and maintenance efficiency. From air and electrical to tire cylinders, working with a single manufacturer minimizes the number of complex systems technicians need to understand.

On the road and in the yard, similarity between trailers increases ease of use and operator comfort. For example, the process of attaching a removable gooseneck varies slightly from manufacturer to manufacturer. Ensuring safe, efficient completion of this common task is vital. And, if it’s done the same way every time, operators save a good deal of time and worry.

In the long run, as employees become familiar with the equipment, they can perform more efficiently and identify problems early when a trailer is not behaving as it should.

Custom engineering

In addition to a diverse product line, OEMs that include custom engineering as an option can help maximize standardization benefits. Working with the right manufacturer can provide equipment that meets current needs but also allows for future growth, resulting in better ROI for the long haul.

For a small operation just starting out, funds might be tight. An off-the-lot trailer might provide the capacity needed for current applications, but what happens when it’s time to grow? They can’t just add an axle to increase capacity, and maybe they aren’t ready to invest in another trailer.

Flexibility can be designed into a trailer, but it must be done at the outset to minimize the trailer’s final weight. This is where working with established OEMs makes a difference.

There’s nothing that says all the elements of a custom-designed trailer must be built right away. Instead, with the future in mind, operators and OEMs can work together to design a trailer that will meet immediate hauling needs and those five years down the road. The customer can choose the trailer as a standalone purchase initially, and as the operation grows and equipment needs change, they can purchase additional components such as axles, deck inserts or jeeps.

Manufacturers offer a number of versatile trailer designs that allow for growth and overall efficiency from the get-go. Certain manufacturers feature trailers with variable capacity to increase operators’ versatility while limiting permitting costs and the need for additional equipment. With these trailers, a 55-ton spread axle configuration with a nitro-boosted axle extension can increase to 60-ton capacity in close-coupled configurations.

Some manufacturers also offer modular trailer options. This custom design provides versatility through a mix-and-match setup that allows operators to add a custom deck insert between the deck and rear bridge or swap out deck styles all together.

Additionally, it provides space for shimming, allowing for ideal weight distribution. This minimizes the risk of overloading axles, which can stress components and puts the operator at risk of fines.

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