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Corrosion: Options Can Lessen Impact of Season

TORONTO, Ont. - The road salt season can wreak havoc with corrosion on truck parts but there are options available that can lessen the impact and maintain the clean, safe images that carriers and drivers want to project for their equipment.


CLEAN AND CLEAR: TST Overland Express is testing out galvanized wheels (shown here) in order to combat corrosion. Photo by Katy de Vries
CLEAN AND CLEAR: TST Overland Express is testing out galvanized wheels (shown here) in order to combat corrosion. Photo by Katy de Vries

TORONTO, Ont. – The road salt season can wreak havoc with corrosion on truck parts but there are options available that can lessen the impact and maintain the clean, safe images that carriers and drivers want to project for their equipment.

Corrosion occurs when two dissimilar metals are mixed and an agent like road salt is added. This creates a galvanic reaction and the voltage of the metal will travel one inch away from the connection point so the metal with the lower voltage will always sacrifice itself to that with a higher voltage, explains Ray Camball, fleet sales manager for Trailmobile Canada.

In Ontario corrosion can be especially problematic. The province, particularly the areas surrounding the Great Lakes, sees all types of weather conditions, no matter how severe, and this creates the best environment in North America for corrosion attacks.

Since the truck parts closest to road will experience the most salt spray, the wheels, bumper, trailer rear door frames and some electrical connections seem to be the most susceptible to corrosion.

Buyers tend to opt for stainless steel in their trailer components because of its look, but in actual fact the stainless encourages the corrosion problem, says Camball.

“The other alloy (namely aluminum or carbon steel) gets the blame for the corrosion because it is generally those parts that corrode, but buyers don’t realize they are damaging the opposing part when they use a large surface area of stainless in their trailer,” Camball says.

Camball suggests the use of a zinc galvanized rear doorframe to eliminate this problem completely.

“Zinc is a low voltage material and a thick coating of sacrificial zinc is the best way to protect the metals and joints of the trailer from corrosion,” says Camball.

Galvanized steel is less expensive and although it may not have the same bright shine as stainless, it has a characteristic that heals itself and the surrounding metals when they suffer a wound, which in turn makes the part look newer longer.

Robert Turner, fleet maintenance and transportation asset manager for Canadian Tire said all of Canadian Tire’s trailer orders since 1996 have been with galvanized rear doorframes.

“The difference is phenomenal, the zinc galvanizing is definitely worth it in the long run,” says Turner. “We have a fleet with over 3,000 trailers and we will continue to purchase only trailers with galvanized frames.”

Another variable in the equation is proper cleaning and maintenance, says Turner.

“It’s critical to wash the equipment down and be sure to remove the salt. It’s also important to not use acid washes or brighteners and it is a good idea to spray components with Krown Rust Control. All of these things go a long way in the life of the trailer and it helps to make them look clean and sharp,” he says.

The galvanized steel is the way to go, says Vic Wintjes of VW Transcon Services, a consulting service specializing in asset procurement and risk management procedures.

“I work on a lot of case studies for companies where I assess the problem and establish the evidence that the possible solutions will either work or won’t work,” Wintjes says. “There definitely is evidence that galvanized trailer frames are working to eliminate corrosion.”

Galvanizing has also been effective on chassis components, says Pat DiLillo, president of Di-mond Trailers Inc.

“I’ve been getting a huge response from galvanizing chassis,” he says. “It’s growing in popularity but it’s all about getting people to change. We are all creatures of habit and we don’t really want to change.”

Galvanizing will become more mainstream, says DiLillo, it will become an accepted product down the road, but like anything it will take time. Right away, people notice that it doesn’t look the same without a stainless steel shine, but once they realize the value in it, they will move towards it.

Not only would a corrosion solution contribute to a positive image, but it would decrease operating costs, increase fleet safety, help with vehicle reliability, increase uptime and lengthen longevity of the vehicle, said Frank Haselden, vice-president of maintenance/compliance for TST Overland Express, who has been experimenting with creative ways to combat corrosion in his fleet.

“We have been testing two trucks in Ontario and two reefer trailers in Newfoundland and Labrador with zinc galvanized wheels,” says Haselden. “They’ve been on the road since June so this will be their first winter out there but I don’t expect any problems at all.”

Truck components are rusting more these days than in the past, Haselden says. There are different salt solutions out on the road and they are proving tougher on equipment, on wheels in particular. Which is why he wanted to do some research and development of his own.

“Engines are running better, trucks are running longer, oil change intervals are longer, truck bodies are looking better, so you have a $100,000 truck with rusty wheels,” Haselden said. “It puts more of a spotlight on the wheels.”

Running badly rusted equipment is like waving a red flag at inspectors and customers to signal that you are either running tired old equipment or that you are not keeping your vehicles in top shape, adds Haselden.

He points out that on one of his five-year-old trailers: everything on the trailer looks great, but the wheels are awfully rusty. By using galvanized wheels, the tires could be replaced and the same rims can be put back on, he says. That allows the trailer to be back on the road again much faster than if the rims had to be repainted.

It costs roughly $25 to $30 to paint one wheel rim and on average a fleet might paint the rims four to five times depending on where it travels and how long it keeps the vehicle – such costs do add up, adds Haselden.

“I’m after lifecycle cost,” he says. “I want to invest in something, use it and still have it look good.”

His next trailer order will include galvanized wheel rims, and eventually he is looking at galvanizing bogies.

Many trailer manufacturers, especially in Canada, offer galvanized doorframes and bumpers as either standard or as an option. But galvanized wheels are not yet an option on new equipment.

The galvanizing dip process for rims doesn’t seem to be a major problem and manufacturers that Haselden has spoken to are interested, but they are questioning the volume. Both Camball and Haselden feel it won’t be long before the volume comes through.

“I’ve had other fleets call me and ask me what I’m doing differently, so they are being noticed out there on the road,” Haselden adds.


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