LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Wabash National has begun working on a trailer that – with the exception of brakes and tires – will run 10 years with no maintenance required.
Internally dubbed the Wabash 10, the trailer aims to raise the bar for life cycles in the trailer industry. Rod Ehrlich has been handed the task of developing the trailer and will devote all his resources to the project.
"Today, most fleets are looking at a 10-year life expectancy but during that 10 years we do have maintenance issues," Ehrlich announced at the Mid-America Trucking Show. "We are sitting down with the fleets and specifically talking about what they’re spending money on."
The trailer box typically lasts 10 years without maintenance, but numerous other components decrease the life of the trailer, Ehrlich said. Wabash will be addressing each link of the chain and strengthening the ones that traditionally cause headaches for maintenance managers.
"Let’s look at the money trail and focus on what we can do to drive the cost out of it," said Ehrlich. Everything from LED lights to suspensions will be under microscope.
"Even with the LEDs today, corrosion still haunts us. We’re not seeing trouble-free operation today with lights," Ehrlich said.
As a result, Ehrlich has been working with Truck-Lite to encourage development of a better LED lamp that will resist corrosion and other forms of damage.
Other areas of concern include the rear frame powder coat which currently only provides five to seven years of acceptable performance. Undercarriage coating is also not durable enough to last 10 years, however, Ehrlich said wax-based, soft coatings and resist chips and undermining of rust better than enamels.
Air-ride suspensions typically require attention every seven years on average, so improvements are needed in this area as well. Also, the axle camshaft currently requires annual lubrication so that too will have to be addressed. While a sealed camshaft can be spec’d, extending the lubrication period to five years, it’s still well below the 10 year target.
Axle wheel ends rarely last beyond five years, Ehrlich said, so that too will be an area of concern. And standard slack adjusters are also a component that requires regular lubrication and a warranty of well under 10 years.
Still, despite the challenges, Wabash is confident it can build the industry’s first 10-year maintenance-free trailer.
The company says it has already identified several areas where maintenance issues need to be addressed, including: corrosion problems caused by new road salts; and high maintenance areas in the undercarriage and electrical system. Wabash says it will release five improvements per year until the trailer becomes a reality.
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