Why risk a major piece of iron by using the wrong equipment trailer? This is not the place to save money. Instead, think of an equipment trailer as a long-term investment.
"A trailer has a life cycle that's over a decade long," says Jim Ladner, Landoll Corp. This longevity means you should take future growth into account. "A trailer purchased today may not fit your needs as you grow."
"Planning for the future may be the most important consideration when matching an equipment trailer to a fleet," agrees Gary Knudsen, Felling Trailer. "Oftentimes, a customer will purchase a trailer just large enough to haul a select piece of equipment. Future projects may require the use of a different, or larger, piece of equipment and the trailer doesn't fit the need."
Before selecting a trailer, ask yourself: What am I hauling today? What am I going to haul next year? Where am I going to haul? "You must match four things: truck, trailer, payload and road regulations," says Ladner.
Look beyond GVWR
Trailer prices can vary drastically, but not all trailers are created equal. "A lot of times, trailers look the same, but they are really not. The first thing is don't shop on price," emphasizes Clint Lancaster, National Association of Trailer Manufacturers.
He recalls a contractor that purchased a 7,000-lb. GVW (gross vehicle weight) car hauler trailer to haul a skid steer. "Even though that skid loader may be within the trailer's weight capacity, the trailer wasn't necessarily designed for it. The skid steer has a very concentrated area of weight."
As Knudsen explains, "Weight distribution is a very important factor when choosing a trailer. The distribution has a huge affect on how the trailer pulls and, even more important, on how it stops. Weight distribution affects how much weight is transferred to the tow vehicle and the resulting load on the axles.
"Some trailers' capacities are rated in 10 ft., some in 16 ft. Others may have a distributed load rating. There are many ways to rate a trailer's capacity," he adds. "The calculation of the GVWR of trailers rated at 10,001 lbs. and above varies by manufacturer. Therefore, an equipment trailer cannot be selected by the GVWR rating alone. The weight of the cargo and distribution has to be considered, as well."
"Concentrated weight deck capacity and manufacturing safety margins are important to understand," Ladner emphasizes. "Spacing on crossmembers and wood type/thickness are important."
All decisions start with the type of equipment to be hauled and the terrain. "It is very important that you have a real understanding of what you are hauling and where you are hauling it," says Ladner. "When you have those answers, then the manufacturer can make sure the trailer has the correct components (axles, suspension, tires), the proper wheelbase, the correct deck length and the overall length. When you are maximizing payload, you must have everything just right.
"No one in the industry designs a product to fail," he continues. "In most cases, when the customer uses the trailer for its intended purpose, there are no problems."
Identify the weak link
Inspect the trailer frame construction. "When you have pieces of equipment that are heavy, you need to make sure there are sufficient crossmembers underneath the vehicle," says Lancaster.
But even that can be misleading if you don't understand the type of steel used in its construction. Consider a trailer with 6-in. channel. In the steel industry, there are three different types of 6-in. channel: 8.2, 10.5 and 13.0 lbs./ft. The strength of the trailer can vary widely depending upon which type of steel was used, so don't take chances.
Because a trailer is only as strong as its weakest link, check the ratings of all components. "Axle size is only one factor of a trailer rating," says Knudsen. "The actual rating is based on the lowest rated component. The various components can be the axle, suspension (springs), rims, tires, hitch coupler, frame, etc."