Getting There and Back

Sept. 11, 2012

Every day, the Lac Qui Parle County Highway Department in Minnesota is dealing with some challenge along the 500-mile stretch of road it maintains, including the drainage, shoulders, ditches and-in the winter-snow removal.

The ability to transport the necessary equipment to handle the challenges is key, points out Daryl Tobias, maintenance supervisor.

“Having a quality heavy-duty trailer is an absolute must in the grading and excavating industry,” says Chris Pokornowski, national sales manager for Towmaster. “The last thing you should have to worry about is if your trailer can get you to the job site and back home again. You have expensive equipment to do important jobs, so don’t cut corners by purchasing a trailer that will just get you by. Downtime is not an option for our industry.”

Lac Qui Parle County has two Towmaster trailers to assist its highway department in its tasks. One is a tilt-bed tandem axle trailer for carrying a track-steer loader and a small utility loader. “We like the way it’s built,” says Tobias. “It has the carrying capacity. It handles what we need.”

Carrying capacity is augmented by other desirable factors. “We looked at a number of different types of trailers and this one seems to be superior: the gross vehicle weight rating, the quality, the materials and the workmanship,” notes Tobias.

“The suspension was more than adequate,” he adds. “The axle ratings were good. The tire sizes and the weight ratings were enough to meet our needs. The LED lighting is excellent. The wiring seems to be very good on it. The tilt-bed feature with a locking mechanism is very good. It’s got a tool caddy in the front to carry our chains and binders. It’s put together and designed very well.”

As with any public or private operation these days, budgets are tight. “For the dollars this trailer cost us, we’re getting our benefits and stretching our budget as far as we can,” Tobias points out. “It certainly wasn’t the cheapest trailer, but it met our needs. The service department is down the road for us, so the location of the manufacturing plant was part of our decision, too.”

The trailer is pulled behind a three-quarter ton or a 1-ton pickup.

Lac Qui Parle County also has a 48-foot lowboy trailer with a hydraulic tilt on the loading ramp. Tobias likes the features this trailer has as well. “There’s a tilting ramp that leads up to the gooseneck of the trailer if you want to load something up on top of the gooseneck,” he says. “There is storage in the trailer for chains and binders. The LED lighting is excellent.”

That trailer is pulled by a 2003 International 9100 with a Cat block engine. “The biggest loads we haul are wheel loaders and payloaders,” says Tobias. “They take up to the capacity of the trailer but the combination of the trailer and tractor pull it very easily.”

Towmaster provides trailers with automatic self-adjusting brakes, LED lighting, sealed modular wiring harnesses and heavy-duty suspensions that range from rubber torsion axles on the smaller trailers to spring or air-ride on larger trailers. “There are several challenges that this industry faces when it comes to trailers, starting with the frame and structure,” says Pokornowski. “In our industry, there is high demand for trailers that can take the on- or off-road abuse day in and day out.”

Towmaster provides a one-piece, cold-formed I-beam main frame engineered to perform under those conditions. “Another common challenge is keeping the loaded equipment height as low as possible,” says Pokornowski, adding that Towmaster offers several trailers with different load heights, ranging from the low profile deck-over style trailers to a low profile detachable gooseneck trailer.

Although Towmaster does not have a tractor preference, it’s important that the end user can confirm he has the correct horsepower and tow package to legally haul his needs, Pokornowski says.

Maintenance will help extend the life of the trailers, with the key factors being checking lug nuts, grease or oil in hubs, grease zerks on a continuous basis, lighting connections and air line connections, and tire pressures. “Just like any piece of equipment, a trailer needs to be designed specifically for the operation and equipment to ensure that contractors can get that piece of equipment to the work site,” says Patrick Jennissen, sales and marketing director for Felling Trailers. “If you can’t get your equipment to the job site because your trailer is down, you are out money.”

To assist contractors to that end, Felling Trailers offers many options on its standard product lines in addition to customized builds for specific needs. Options include automatic tire inflation systems, roll stability braking, centralized greasing systems, and hydraulic winches.

One of the challenges Felling is taking note of with respect to its company’s end users is the ability to get some of the larger scrapers and other pieces of equipment loaded onto equipment efficiently and legally.

For that challenge, Felling has designed the X-Force line with a scraper neck profile 30 inches tall as standard equipment on all models. The company also offers packages with Jeeps and single- and tandem-axle, air-bag flexible stingers that can safely traverse rugged terrain without damage to the trailer or equipment.

Felling’s trailers are offered in 3,000 to 120,000-pound capacities, enabling them to accommodate any tractor, Jennissen says.

The Felling trailers are designed to be different from others in the marketplace through engineered fabricated mainframes on the Low Pro deck-over series, allowing for a lighter and stronger frame.

Felling offers optional air-operated ramps on almost all models. This feature relies on the air supplied by the truck to actuate the ramps. “This feature is safer than traditional ramps and less costly-initially and over time due to maintenance-than standard hydraulic ramps,” Jennissen says.

Felling also offers an air-actuated Air Tilt Model (TA Series). “This model tilts the bed via air bags in lieu of gravity or hydraulics,” Jennissen says. “Our customers have found this to be safer than traditional gravity or hydraulic tilts because the axles are located further to the rear, which leads to safer towing conditions.”

Making absolutely certain that a trailer selected for transporting grading and excavation equipment is of adequate capacity for the load is paramount, says Dan Rosen of the Fontaine Trailer Co.

Size and weight of the equipment are the two most important variables to consider, he says. “It’s not just the total weight of the equipment, but the load concentration of the equipment as well,” Rosen says. “If the equipment to be moved is a 50-ton load in 10 feet, then don’t cut corners by selecting a trailer rated at 50 tons in 12 feet. Once the proper trailer capacity is selected, then the trailer manufacturer sizes the tire, brakes and suspensions to meet or exceed that capacity.

“Grading and excavation operators spend a tremendous amount of their time moving their trailers and equipment off-road. Unlike over-the-road operators, there are no guarantees that they will have a firm, level location to load or unload their equipment from of the trailer,” Rosen points out.

Ground that is not level or soft can make connecting a gooseneck very difficult at best, he says, adding that Fontaine’s hydraulic removable gooseneck that is part of all Magnitude and some Renegade models accommodate those conditions (to see that in action, visit

The Magnitude 60 Class of trailers is designed to be light at 60 tons at 12 feet and to work with regional regulations, says Rosen.

Heavy-haul conditions are tough on brakes, tires, suspensions, and even lighting equipment, he adds. “A regular maintenance program is a must to keep the equipment up and running as opposed to down in the shop,” he says. “Regular visual inspections of the high-stress areas are another recommended practice.”

It’s difficult to calculate an ROI on a trailer, as many of them are not generating revenue during the time they are sitting on a job site, Rosen says.

On the other hand, “a smart operator knows how much time he can potentially lose if his trailer and load won’t connect to the gooseneck because one side has sunk into the ground,” he adds.

“The durability and reliability of trailers is important,” notes Shawn Murtha, national accounts manager for Trail King. “On a lot of job sites, they want to get in and out and done as quickly as possible and they don’t want to have failures, breakdowns, or delays on any part, especially including a trailer.”

Local and state laws on some of the longer moves contractors must make with the trailers is one of their primary challenges, Murtha says. “The laws can be different from state to state,” he says. “There are federal bridge formulas, but states are also able to pass their own laws and exceed or supersede the federal laws.

“They’re looking for a trailer to legally haul their loads, whether it’s a 90,000-pound or a 400,000-pound piece of equipment. They want a number of axles and tires to equally distribute the weight out to legally haul on the roads. We help them find a hauling solution that fits their business and their equipment.”

To that end, Trailer King offers tag trailers, tilt trailers, and utility-style trailers. The tilt-bed trailers are built for up to 14,000 pounds. The fender-style utility trailers are for smaller equipment.

In the tilt market, Trail King builds deck-over in capacities ranging from 18,000 to 50,000 pounds. The company offers the same in ramp-style trailers. Fender-style utility trailers are manufactured in the 10,000-, 12,000-, and 14,000-pound capacity.

Tag trailers with rear ramps are made in capacities of 18,000 to 50,000 pounds. The company also makes fifth-wheel-style trailers.

“We build anywhere from a 70,000-pound capacity trailer up to a million pounds,” says Murtha. “That includes hydraulic tail trailers, hydraulic sliding axle trailers, sliding axle trailers, detachable gooseneck trailers for front loading, and rigid gooseneck style trailers for rear loading.

Trail King equips its trailers with lighting, brakes, tires, conspicuity, and all features needed to make them DOT legal. “Every one of our trailers has a sealed lighting system. LED lights are standard on most of our products. Drum brakes are standard. Some of the smaller ones have electric brakes. Disc brakes are an option. Some of our fleet customers order trailers with back-up alarms if they’re in residential and city traffic. Back-up cameras are another available option.”

Trailers such as goosenecks are matched to customers’ tractors, whether they are three-axle or four-axle tractors. “That will determine what kind of swing clearance they need and the length of the gooseneck that goes along with it,” says Murtha.

Trailers will stay in good condition with proper maintenance, Murtha points out. “You have to hit all of the grease points,” he says. “How

Credit: XL Trailers
Developed to handle contemporary heavy-construction needs, XL Trailer’s “Scraper Trailer” includes features specific to hauling scrapers, excavators, and trucks of all sizes.

often you do that depends on how often you use it. If you use a trailer a couple of times a week and only for an hour at a time, you’re going to want to grease it more just because it’s sitting so long between usages, whereas if you use it all day every day, like rental industries, you’re going to want to grease it every 40 or 50 hours of use. There’s maintenance that you have to do. The better you take care of any piece of equipment, including trailers, the longer it will last.”

Talbert Manufacturing recently introduced the 35-ton SRG Double Drop Trailer.

This trailer features innovative aluminum pullouts, adding a full 2 feet on each side. The 35-ton SRG accommodates wider equipment at lower heights for over the road haulers and transportation of large agricultural equipment.

Consisting of a 48-foot overall length, the tandem-axle trailer has a 29-foot deck length with a rated 35-tons distributed, and 30-tons in each 10-feet of deck length.

The 8-foot, 6-inch deck width has the ability to extend to 12-feet, 6-inches with the optional aluminum pullouts. Additionally, the 35-ton SRG offers a low 18-inch loaded deck height with a 6-inch ground clearance.

The 35-ton SRG features a lighter-weight mechanical removable gooseneck design and air-ride suspension.

The customized unit offers heavy-duty T1, 100,000-PSI minimum yield steel construction, a four-beam design and Apitong flooring outside the main beams.

The 35-ton SRG can be equipped with optional aluminum wheels, strobe lights, battery backup, and connections for a flip axle.

Globe Trailers offers a variety of trailers, including lowboys and tagalongs.

Lowboys are offered in 35 to 60 ton and 60 to 100 ton sizes. The tagalongs are manufactured in 15 to 25 ton and 30 to 40 ton sizes. The trailers offer a variety of components for selection, as well as powder coating.

Jeff Walters Jr., vice president of engineering, says the trailers are designed for the mid-price market. “They need to consider how many times per year they’re going to be using their trailer,” he says. “If they’re not going to use it a lot, then going with our company would not be a good fit.”

Those who use their trailer a couple of times a day will find value in the Globe trailers, he adds.

XL Specialized Trailers’ newest custom-engineered hydraulic neck, a low-profile neck, is called “The Scraper Trailer” by many end users. XL developed the Low-Profile HDG lowboy to handle contemporary heavier-construction equipment hauling needs.

The XL Low-Profile HDG is available with a load rating of 110,000 pounds overall and 100,000 pounds in 10 feet, or 120,000 pounds overall and 120,000 pounds in 10 feet, or 130,000 pounds overall and 130,000 pounds in 10 feet. The 60-ton HDG is 52 feet long and 102 inches wide, with other lengths and widths available.

Jeff Ingels, XL’s vice president of engineering, says the Low-Profile HDG was designed to include features specific for hauling scrapers, excavators, and trucks of all sizes as well as being versatile enough to handle the wide variety of situations end users face daily.

The company focused on decreasing the load times through the low-profile neck design and the incorporation of specialized features. The last three cross-members in the sub frame of the XL Low-Profile HDG are recessed so that, when loaded, the excavator arm does not damage the cylinder. The low-profile neck, open boom trough, and 32-degree slope of rear transition are designed to make loading construction equipment an efficient process.

The 24-inch loaded deck height and 8-inch ground clearance offer hauling flexibility.

Heavy-duty swingout outriggers and top flange reinforcement run across the 26-foot long deck. The full-depth outriggers distribute weight evenly. Battery backup is standard on the XL Low-Profile HDG for increased driver safety with the ability to disconnect and still have power for lights when needed.

The lighter weight Durabright hubs address the challenge of weight for grading and excavating customers. XL also uses Grote wiring harness, a three-sealed system.

In addition to the three axles on the XL HDG, the XL “Scraper Trailer” also comes prepped for a single axle booster for extra capacity when needed. The XL Low-Profile HDG can be equipped for multi-axle configurations with the addition of a flip neck extension, XL Jeep, and XL Booster.

Trailers play an increasingly important role on today’s jobs sites, where the distance between them continues to grow as companies expand, making transporting equipment reliably that much more important, says Nathan Guess, vice president of sales and marketing for XL Specialized Trailers, adding that companies are expanding in ways his company hasn’t seen for “quite some time.”

According to South Central Regional Sales Manager Rodney Crim, weight and height are constraints that are among the challenges found on job sites.

To meet that challenge, XL Specialized Trailers offers a full line of heavy-haul trailers, from 35 to 100 tons to provide solutions to the permit challenges associated with weight and height. A trailer that is best suited for an end user’s needs is designed around state regulations.

“A trailer must be made to suit the individual customer’s needs for hauling their equipment,” adds Guess. “A trailer spec’d properly will serve its purpose for many years.

It’s also important to choose a company that focuses on after-sale service and warranty, says Guess, adding that preventative maintenance goes a long way to help each trailer reach its ultimate lifespan.

On the average, a customer will see a return on the investment from 15 to 36 months from a heavy-haul trailer, says Guess, adding that depends on the number of hauls.

“When a company is deciding whether to use an outside trucking company or purchase their own trailer, they need to look at how often they will use their trailer as well as the availability and cost associated with of an outside company to determine how cost effective their purchase will be,” says Guess.

One factor end users need to consider when choosing a trailer is versatility, given the long life span of some trailers and the need to plan not only for what a customer is currently hauling, but what that customer will be hauling in the future, Crim points out.