Jan 1, 2008 12:00 PM
The most common trailer issue facing those in the foodservice industry was the subject of a panel discussion during the annual Foodservice Distribution Conference & Expo. On the panel were Adam Hill, director of customer technical services, Great Dane Trailers; Rick York, national account manager, Kidron; and Craig Bennett, senior vice president, sales and marketing, Utility Trailer Manufacturing.
All three panelists agreed that the trailer industry has been going through more changes than ever before and grappling with many more challenges. Chief among these:
The price of materials used to manufacture trailers.
The push toward increased fuel economy, efficiency, and productivity.
Better protection from the corrosive effects of the harsher anti-icing chemicals applied to roadways to prevent frost and ice from forming or from compacting and bonding onto roadways.
Using research and new technology to continually create new and better products.
“From a manufacturer's point of view, we have listened to the feedback of our customers and have learned to take advantage of everyone's input for our designs and specs,” said Kidron's York. “Manufacturers have found ways today to add value and longevity to equipment with new innovations, and that will continue to happen.”
“Trailer manufacturers always are bringing new specs to their equipment, so it's very important to keep up-to-date on these changes, Great Dane's Hill said. “As manufacturers, we need to be in better touch with you to learn what is working and what's not working, and what we can do to help you with your equipment needs to best serve your customers. We need to be open to new ideas all the time.”
York, Hill, and Utility's Bennett all echoed the same message: With all the changes in operations, equipment, and technology, and greater demands on equipment, trailers can no longer be spec'd as they have been. “Even what you did just a few years ago is no longer valid,” said Kidron's York.
Bennett said “the essential thing these days in trailer design is how to get more productivity out of the equipment with the lowest lifecycle costs. Typically, we see the duty cycle of equipment increasing, and that impacts trailer life.”
Weight remains a critical issue, he said. “Manufacturers are always trying to make their trailers with lighter weight, particularly on long trailers. Reducing trailer weight can mean getting on additional payload, and that goes right to the bottom line.”
Manufacturers also are continually looking to reduce weight through the use of composite materials, said Kidron's York.
Fleets, meanwhile, are switching to wide-base single tires, which replace the dual tire and wheel assembly, as a way to get additional weight savings for increased cargo capacity, said Great Dane's Hill.
Weight savings for a tractor trailer combination using single wide-base tires ranges from 800 to 1,000 pounds, said Utility's Bennett. In some instances, these tires are providing some fuel economy improvement, as well as better roll stability.
Great Dane's Hill pointed out that trailer manufacturers work diligently to make sure users of their trailers get the most years of life out of their equipment, especially in foodservice, “since most equipment is run until it dies.
“We'd like to see more consideration for products that can improve reliability,” he said. “We'd also like to see increased use of new technology and products that require less maintenance, which provide a better return on the investment.”
Among this new technology and products, the three panelist mentioned LED lights, which often can last for the life of the trailer; extended maintenance wheel end products; extended service brakes; and long-lasting stainless steel components.
“There are products available that last virtually the life of the trailer for more uptime and less downtime with equipment in the shop for repairs and service,” said Kidron's York.
Great Dane's Hill recommended spec'ing stronger internal linings on refrigerated trailers to help keep moisture penetration from getting into the insulation, decreasing a trailer's thermal efficiency.
Utility's Bennett suggested adding exterior rub rails as a way to protect sidewall panels and keep damage away from the insulation package in the trailer walls.
Kidron's York noted that there are a number of trailer components that come with extended maintenance or maintenance-free packages.
“We're seeing more widespread use of nitrogen for tire inflation because of the benefits it has to offer over compressed air,” said Hill. These include less inflation pressure loss for a more stable, consistent tire pressure; cooler running tires; and longer tread life, all of which helps increase tire life, improve fuel economy, and reduce tire aging.
Once again, Hill, York, and Bennett had the same advice: “Spending more money up front on certain specs can, over the life of the trailer, actually save you money.”
“Whatever manufacturer you are working with,” said Kidron's York, “do yourself and your company a favor - talk about your specific operation, the particular challenges you're having with equipment, and what your objectives are for your next purchase.
“You can add a lot of value and longevity to your equipment by getting the proper specs. If you're running equipment for 10 to 15 years, say, a small upcharge for a particular spec will pay dividends in the long run.”
An unlimited number of features and options can be added, the panelists concurred, and new products and technologies are being introduced more frequently these days.
That's why, said the panelists, it is important to have good relationships with the manufacturers. They can help keep fleets informed and up-to-date on advances with specs and equipment.
Great Dane's Hill pointed out that manufacturers have had to deal with numerous price spikes within the metal industry. Increases have been as much as 200% since 2003, depending on stainless steel or aluminum.
“Prices have stabilized some, but haven't gone down,” he said.
The three panelists expect that trailer prices for next year will be up moderately for two main reasons. One is a new regulation from the US Environmental Protection Agency that goes into effect this March that requires new foam insulation in insulated trailers and truck bodies.
The other reason is the continuing rise in tire prices worldwide. Each situation will add to the capital cost of equipment, according to the panelists.
Then there is the impact on industry that comes with every US presidential election, said Bennett, Hill, and York. Things “could change dramatically” come the November election.
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