Toting Your Compact Equipment From Site to Site

Nov. 1, 2007

Trailers that can easily be towed by a dump truck or pickup truck offer flexibility and options when it comes to hauling compact equipment for grading and excavating to a construction site.

There are several factors to consider when choosing the right trailer for a company’s needs, with safety being paramount.

Just ask Chris Dixon, a project manager for Truck-N-Buckets, a land-clearing and excavation services company in Raleigh, NC. While his company primarily uses tractor-trailers, there are a few occasions when the company will bring a 20-ton “tag-a-long” onto a job site to haul buckets and other construction materials.

“If I had to buy a brand-new one, it would have to be something I could use for hauling a small tractor or a 35,000-pound excavator,” he says. “The bigger, the better.”

Dixon considers safety to be of paramount concern.

“I like plenty of tie-downs, a low center of gravity, and air brakes,” he says. “I like having a heavy-built trailer. I’m not one for having light duty. Even though ours is a 20-ton, I don’t really care for what they call a “˜light payload’ type. The older, heavy-built trailers are really what I like, because they can take a lot of abuse.”

From past experience, Dixon’s company has learned the limitations of different trailers and the importance of safety features.

“I had one hitch break on my dump truck,” Dixon explains. “I had bought a 50-ton trailer hitch from an Army surplus store. I knew I had plenty of hitch for what we were doing. I thought there was a sufficient amount of weight.”

But the hitch sheared off, broken in two as if it had been sawed in half. Fortunately, the truck and trailer-which was carrying an excavator-hadn’t been moving very fast and safety chains held the trailer to the truck.

“But I hate to think what could have happened,” says Dixon. “There was probably less than $200 worth of damage to everything. That was enough for me to realize we didn’t need to be doing what we were doing. And I was trying to be as safe as you could possibly be, but things happen. That was enough that I realized the company was growing and we needed a lowboy trailer.

“So safety is definitely a big issue. A low center of gravity is a big thing with an excavator on a tag-a-long, because they are very top-heavy,” Dixon adds. These days, the company normally uses the tag-a-long for hauling dragline mats, buckets, and some odds and ends.

Safety First
Contractors should keep several points in mind when it comes to the issue of safety in choosing trailers, points out Russ Hutchison, director of product safety and technical services for the Association of Equipment Manufacturers.

Lighting requirements for trailers are covered by US Department of Transportation (DOT) regulations. As for weight considerations, “The gross weight at and above which trailers require brakes varies from state to state,” Hutchison says. “Where specified, that limit can be as low as 1,500 pounds to as high as 5,000 pounds. Some states do not specify a weight above which brakes are required. The DOT regulations do not require brakes on trailers for weights at or below 3,000 pounds, provided the trailer gross weight does not exceed 40% of the towing vehicle weight.”

Hutchison says the DOT recently changed its regulations to allow the use of surge brakes (automatic hydraulic inertia brake systems) on trailers used in interstate traffic.

“However, there are limitations,” he points out. “The maximum trailer gross weight must be below 20,000 pounds, and it must not exceed a stated percentage of the towing vehicle. The percentage varies, depending on the weight of the trailer.”

For the typical equipment trailer, the brake systems can be electric or surge, Hutchison says.

“An advantage of the surge brake system is that it is self-contained on the trailer,” he says. “No brake system connections to the towing vehicle are required. When towing vehicles are constantly changing (for example, a trailer provided by an equipment rental house to its customers), this system is often preferred.

“Where the towed and towing vehicles are always the same, then the electric brake system may be more suitable. With the electric brakes, there is a controller installed in the towing vehicle, and connections between the trailer and towing vehicle are required.”

Brake controller switches help brake proportionally to the tow vehicle as needed.

There are other considerations as well when selecting a trailer to tow compact equipment.

Flexibility is necessary. The trailer needs to be able to haul whatever variety of materials one’s company transports on any given day. Consider, too, the terrain upon which your company’s vehicles will be traveling and choose a trailer accordingly.

Truck hitch requirements and safety chains also are not to be overlooked when hitching a trailer to a truck.

Peter Calhoun, product manager for Pace American, a manufacturer of closed cargo and auto trailers with locations in Indiana, Texas, Utah, and Georgia, says there are several other factors to consider when choosing an appropriate trailer for hauling compact equipment.

  • What is the weight of the cargo the company is looking to haul? (Weight is important and includes vehicle weight ratings, the gross and tongue weight, and weight distribution within the trailer. Think about wear and tear on tires, brakes, suspension, and steering, for example).
  • What is the towing capacity of the truck that will be hauling the cargo?
  • What size trailer box-including length, width, and height-is necessary?
  • What door configuration is needed: ramp or double-rear doors?
  • Compare the weight of the cargo versus the trailer needs and truck capability.
  • Specify correct trailer cargo capacity.

“This is decided upon by the gross vehicle weight rating [GVWR] or the axle configuration of the trailer and will determine the amount of cargo capacity,” Calhoun notes. The GVWR encompasses the weight of the trailer that’s to be loaded with cargo, including the weight of the vehicle itself, in addition to trailer-tongue weight, cargo, fuel, and passenger weight.

Kelly Hendershoot, a spokesperson for JLG Industries, a McConnellsburg, PA-based company that designs, manufactures, and markets access equipment-adds that contractors should consider whether specific weights will require special licenses. Other factors she says should be considered include how the equipment will be safely loaded onto the trailer: ramps, drop-deck, or hydraulic tilt.

Oostburg Concrete in Oostburg, WI, is a company that handles the poured-wall foundation work at construction sites. When the company needs to haul compact equipment onto a job site, it opts for Pace American’s CargoSport, says Rick Liebelt, who is in charge of the shop, equipment purchase, and repair for Oostburg Concrete.

Pace American offers CargoSport for compact equipment hauling. The “round top” commercial-quality enclosed trailer features dustproof sidewall construction, riveted roof seams, heavy-duty bottom trim, a flatter roof profile, and a formed steel rear header with clearance lights and inside cover.

The trailers come in 11 standard exterior colors. Additional features include body color aluminum-wrapped side door and rear corner posts, double-rear swing doors with semi-style cam locks and T-nuts, wiring harness on some models, automotive-style D-Bulb weather-stripping, Dexter ITS axles with EZ-Lube hubs, modular-style Enkei steel wheels with E-Coat primer and powder coat finish, trailer-rated radial tires, aluminum fenders, noncracking TPO front cap, three-eighth-inch plywood interior walls and three-quarter-inch plywood floor, and 16-inch, on-center sidewall posts.

Oostburg Concrete uses the CargoSport for hauling Formadrain (no-dig pipelining technology), Liebelt says.

“Our cleaning crews also use them and keep all of their tools and the Formadrain in there, too,” he says.

What Liebelt favors about the CargoSport is his ability to fabricate the trailer to suit his company’s needs. He constructs racking and storage units inside the trailer.

“I look for a trailer’s structural features, because I’m always hanging and bolting stuff to the sides and on the floor,” he says.

The trailer’s dustproof sidewall construction means road elements don’t compromise the integrity of the trailer, Liebelt adds.

As for its roof construction, “Anytime you rivet something, it’s stronger in my book,” he adds.

Photo: JLG
Whether to use ramps, drop-decks, or hydraulic tilts will affect trailer selection.

The heavy-duty bottom trim is of utmost importance in the work conducted by Oostburg Concrete.

“We’re always the first one to the job site,” Liebelt points out. “That means we’re going through mud. If your trailer has a light understructure, you can do a lot of damage by dragging it through some of these job sites.”

The flatter roof profile means there’s not a lot of wasted space, says Liebelt.

“I can run my racks right up to the top of the sidewall,” he notes. “Some of these trailer manufacturers run their roofline lower and they’ve got the high arch roofs. I can run maybe a 6-foot rack up to the sides-sometimes only a 5-foot rack.”

The steel rear header is another strong point of the trailer’s structure, Liebelt says.

“Since we are the first ones to the job sites, we’re going over rough terrain and these trailers are twisting. The whole back end of the trailer is solid steel, so it won’t crack off,” he adds.

The trailer manufacturing industry offers other choices as well.

JLG Industries offers TRIPLE-L trailers, with a design that incorporates a Power Deck hydraulic system allowing operators to lower and raise the deck in less than 15 seconds for efficient loading and unloading without the need for ramps, ascending grades, or additional personnel. Capacities range from 2,000 to 10,000 pounds, with deck sizes up to 6 feet wide by 16 feet in length.

JLG has nine models of flatbed trailers with eight models of utility trailers for carrying equipment and supplies, featuring sidewalls surrounding the deck and a rear gate. The company also makes three fully enclosed trailers to keep equipment secure and out of weather elements.

Standard features include two lockable steel compartments, a quick-adjust tongue jack, heavy-duty tie-down rings, and a 12-V system that powers the hydraulic pump used to lower and raise the deck. Optional accessories include extended side rails, surge brakes, loading winch, and trickle charger.

Overbilt Trailer Co. in Drumright, OK, offers several options for hauling compact equipment.

Its 10-ton platform equipment truck trailer’s tag-a-long model includes a platform length of 20 feet, with longer equipment truck trailers available up to 40 feet in 2-foot increments.

Its main frame is constructed of 12-inch I-beam, a high-tensile material that is 38% stronger than mild steel. Its cross members are 3-inch channel iron placed on 24-inch centers.

The trailer towing ring has a 30-ton rating and is designed for quick placement in three various positions to allow ease in hooking the trailer up to various towing vehicle heights.

The running gear on the equipment trailer is dual tandem with 44-inch axle spacing, qualifying it as a tandem equipment truck trailer.

The self-cleaning beavertail truck trailers are a continuation of the 12-inch I-beam trailer main frame. Six cross members support the 2-inch-by-2-inch-by-three-eighths-inch angle iron turned V-side-up for maximum traction when loading cleated or rubber tire equipment. The 21-inch treadplate walkway in the center of the truck trailers facilitates easier loading with the folding, sliding, and removable ramps located on equipment trailers.

For better stability, the Overbilt truck trailers use two-speed equipment trailer landing gear with a lifting capacity of 50,000 pounds.

The braking system features eight-wheel braking power with a choice of straight air, air over hydraulic, vacuum over hydraulic, or electric. Eight-hold hubs with taper rolling bearings provide maximum load support.

The trailer also features slipper spring suspension with multiple leaves and 5-inch tubular high-yield axle trailer beams with oil bath hubs.

Overbilt Trailer also offers flatbed gooseneck trailers and much of the same construction of the tag-a-long model. The trailer coupler is designed for rapid hookup and release and is available with a “junior fifth wheel.”

The flatbed gooseneck trailer beavertail is a continuation of the 12-inch I-beam main frame. Flatbed gooseneck trailers are available without beaver tails.

Overbilt Trailer also offers 10-ton carrying capacity tilt trailers available in gooseneck and tag-a-long models with a standard platform of 20 feet. These trailers also offer many of the same features as the regular tag-a-long models.

The platform is designed to tilt with a person weighing just 150 pounds walking on it toward the rear of the tilt trailer. The self-actuating hydraulic cylinder will start the tilting action the moment pressure is applied to the rear of the tilt trailer platform.