Trailer orders stayed strong through December, putting an exclamation point on the best year ever, according to the latest data from FTR. December saw 45,500 units ordered, marking the second best month ever recorded, just 1.5% shy of October 2014’s record levels. Trailer orders for the year came in at 360,000 units, “by far the best order year ever,” FTR reported.
“The trailer market is blazing hot as fleets continue to lock up future build slots in anticipation of a strong freight environment this year,” said Don Ake, FTR vice-president of commercial vehicles. “Fleets are placing orders for vans and flatbeds out through the end of the year. Manufacturing capacity is still tight, however several OEMs have plans to increase build rates during the year.”
Meanwhile, fleets aren’t just ordering more trailers, they’re ordering better trailers. Canadian suppliers Truck News spoke to said carriers are spec’ing higher-end technologies and components.
“We’re starting to see highly-spec’d trailers, we’re not just selling boxes on wheels,” Conny Weyers, the recently retired president of Trailers Canada said in a recent interview. “People are looking at floors, wheels, tires, disc brakes, lighting systems, air deflection systems – there has been a really big change over the last five years.”
Here are a few items that have attracted some extra attention from fleets.
Canadian fleets appear to be gravitating towards disc brakes on trailers more rapidly than their American counterparts.
“There appears to be a lot of interest in disc brakes and from what Great Dane is telling us, the majority of interest is coming out of Canada,” said George Cobham Jr., v.p. of sales and marketing with Glasvan Great Dane. “We’re seeing a lot of repeat purchases of the product, but it’s not quite the hands-off system people thought they were. It’s important people buy them for the right reasons; there will still be some maintenance on the product.”
Disc brakes can reduce maintenance requirements and improve braking performance. A set of brake pads can be replaced in about half an hour, Cobham noted.
Nick Lambevski, president of Transport Trailers Sales, has noticed this trend as well.
“Disc brakes are a big deal right now,” he said. “Everybody asks about it. It’s still a bit expensive when you get into multi-axle trailers, but when buying tandems it’s not that big a deal.”
Disc brakes are especially popular on more expensive trailers such as tankers, Lambevski added.
Some leasing companies such as Trailer Wizards have made disc brakes standard on their rental fleet, which has helped showcase the benefits to customers. Mark Diamantopoulos, v.p. of sales for Trailer Wizards said the company is pushing the life-cycle of its trailers out to 25 years by spec’ing premium options such as disc brakes.
Tire inflation systems
While demand for disc brakes in Canada has outpaced that in the US, the opposite is true when it comes to tire inflation, which has become nearly universal on trailers in the USbut is just now gaining acceptance here in Canada. This could be because Canadian conditions may have been deemed too harsh for early tire inflation systems.
“We’ve seen pretty widespread adoption over the last year, year-and-a-half on tire inflation,” said Cobham. “Hendrickson’s Tiremaax Pro is the first tire inflation system we’ve seen offer some real-world reliability. It’s getting a lot of repeat purchases. In the past, people would buy tire inflation on a round of trailers and on the next round, not buy it again. This system is getting repeat orders. It inflates and it deflates, so the product is finding its way onto a greater proportion of trailers.”
One of the advantages is that it can keep enough air in a punctured tire to allow a fleet to limp it home and repair or replace that tire at their home terminal and avoid a service call, Cobham said.
Trailer side fairings have become a common spec’ in recent years, but as provinces move to allow full-sized trailer tails, those too are getting some attention.
“On any given day here, we have a trailer in our shop we’re retrofitting for a customer,” said Cobham. “I can’t speak to the payback on the product but I can tell you people are taking a hard look at it.”
“Finally customers are placing an emphasis on corrosion-resistant options that not only help to keep maintenance costs down during the life of the trailer but also maximize the residual value of their trailer when it comes time to dispose of their assets,” said Tom Ramsden, v.p. of sales and marketing with Manac. “The majority of customers are requesting that any exposed metals be hot dip galvanized. This is something we have been doing for over 20 years now including – but not limited to – coupler plates, crossmembers, landing gears, bogie frames, threshold plates and rear door frames.”
Lambevski has seen this as well. “We’re seeing more people trying to get away from anything that rusts,” he said. “People are trying to get rid of paint on their equipment and going to aluminum air tanks, aluminum landing gear, aluminum rims even.”
Diamantopoulos said Trailer Wizards spec’s all its trailers with galvanized crossmembers to prevent corrosion.
Matt Tubbe, Canadian applications engineering manager with SAF-Holland, said better landing gear is being designed to meet the longer life expectations of buyers. A lifetime warranty is now available on some landing gear, which has been well received by fleets looking to keep their trailers for 15 years or longer.
Fleets can also choose lubrication-free landing gear to reduce maintenance requirements, or galvanized landing gear to better resist corrosion. For fleets that are frequently reposition their trailers, cushioned feet are a popular choice, as they better absorb impacts and protect freight and other components on the trailer.
One premium option that has received some attention, but has yet to catch on in a big way, is Prime Transport Solution’s PTS50 pneumatic landing gear, which can be lowered or raised with the push of a button. The driver-friendly landing gear feeds off the trailer’s air system and eliminates strain on drivers’ shoulders while also improving efficiency through quicker coupling and uncoupling, PTS claims.