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Trailer maintenance can be cost-effective

DON MILLS, Ont. - Trailer maintenance programs need to begin before new equipment even arrives at a fleet, according to speakers at the Canadian Fleet Maintenance Seminar. But the work doesn't end the...



DON MILLS, Ont. – Trailer maintenance programs need to begin before new equipment even arrives at a fleet, according to speakers at the Canadian Fleet Maintenance Seminar. But the work doesn’t end there.

A pre-delivery inspection of components is important, says Bill Arthur, of L.E. Walker Transport. “(And) in-service inspections are necessary, and come at a minimal cost, compared to a road service call in the middle of nowhere, or lost CVOR (Commercial Vehicle Operator Record) points.”

Before your trailer is even delivered, said Arthur, things like alignment should be carefully checked.

“Compare the order sheet to the component parts numbers.”

Light and bright

Patrick Morris of Grote Indus-tries Canada noted that lighting and wiring problems are still a major concern for truck maintenance, and a major cause of out-of-service problems.

“Level lights and don’t install anything in front or behind the lighting to make it illegal,” he adds.

The most common wiring problems, says Morris, are corrosion, shock, inadequate wiring and cabling, excess voltage and poor grounding.

“You can seal electrical wire connections with non-corrosive grease, and use a shock-mounted cradle bulb to absorb some of the shock. Sealed harness systems, with proper gauges and routing is what you want to address inadequate wiring and cabling,” he says.

Morris says that, most of the time, bad ground connections are the cause of excess voltage. LEDs – light-emitting diodes – will help reduce amperage draw, and an internal grounding sealed harness system will address bad ground connections.

LED lights, says Morris, can offer an epoxy-encapsulated semi-conductor design (“potted design”), protecting the semi-conductor component from exposure.

“The benefits of LEDs are low amperage draw, no filaments, no wires, they are theft-resistant and corrosion-resistant, with a male pin and seals. You might replace an incandescent light within a year, at a cost of $6 for the light, but $44 in downtime,” he says.

Morris says that future lighting technology will see more fluorescent lighting and fibre optics, with no electrical interference, low energy use and explosion-, shock-, and fireproof qualities.

“This is probably going to be the wave of the future,” he says.

Keep the wheels on

Wheel-end maintenance is also a major concern, given the bad public image that wheel separations have given the trucking industry. But during more than 8,000 fleet maintenance tests, Dale Holman of Truck Watch Services says he has found that fleets and shops often do not pay adequate attention to damaged parts that could indicate the cause of separations.

“We have about five separations a month in the Toronto area. In the industry, they’re spending lots of time training for new installations but they’re not looking at reducing scrap or examining it for the source of problems,” he says.

Wheel separations, says Holman, are often caused by failed bearings.

“Bearings will fail because they’re overtight, or loose, or the seals are leaking, or the hubcaps are poorly secured,” he says.

Incorrect rims, torque, and damaged or worn features are also culprits.

“Brake drums are being installed out of position at a large rate. Wedges on spokes should have no more than a 1/4-inch gap, and the stud should not be bent in any direction at any time,” says Holman. Hubs, studs, and spindles on axles should also be checked for cracking. “Check for something that should be wearing out and isn’t. That means something else may be absorbing that wear,” he says.

Brake components

Brake linings are a major wear indicator, says Holman. “The larger linings, say eight and 5/8 inches, will give you more brake life although they cost more. There is more surface area to spread the heat.”

Rollers, he adds, cannot have any flat spots, or the brakes won’t apply.

“Also, don’t lube the cam head or the roller won’t roll. The drums have to fit correctly, with the line-in having full contact, not hanging out.”

The finish

Truck and trailer finishing is another area of spec’ing importance for those purchasing or refinishing equipment.

“With poor surface preparation, an excellent coating cannot perform,” says Gary Pomfret of SICO Industrial Products. “A clean surface is critical, so you must remove rust back to the bare metal. Most cleaners will not remove surface corrosion.”

Pomfret says there is a need for higher-performance coatings, and that he expects a water-based epoxy primer to be available within two to five years. Currently, he says, alkyd primers plus top coats offer a very minimal protection, acrylic enamels will offer better color retention and are resistant to stone chipping, and earthenware coatings will offer excellent gloss, and a flexible but tough surface that will last a good five to seven years. n


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