When comparing capacities of various trailers, be sure you're comparing apples to apples, advises DeGeorge. "You need to understand that there is a difference between payload capacity and GVWR (gross vehicle weight rating)," he says.
Payload capacity is strictly the weight of the payload. Trailer weight is already taken into account. For example, Eager Beaver lists its trailers by payload capacity. As such, its 35-ton model can carry 70,000 pounds plus the 18,000-pound trailer weight. Other manufacturers may list capacities as GVWR. In this scenario, a 35-ton trailer would be rated to carry 52,000 pounds, since you have to subtract the 18,000-pound weight of the trailer.
Also pay attention to the concentrated frame rating of the trailer, Ladner advises. Manufacturers vary in how they list this rating, as well. For example, some trailers are rated at 50,000 pounds per 10 feet of space vs. 50,000 pounds for 12 or 16 feet of space. The latter examples will, in reality, have less capacity.
It's also a good idea to know the component capacities of a trailer, Ladner adds. "Trailers are permitted on their weakest link," he says. "Let's say the axles and the suspension have a 25,000-pound capacity. But if the tires only have a 20,000-pound capacity, that's all you can get a permit for."
What are the load dimensions?
Although paving equipment does not tend to be as tall as other types of construction equipment, you still need to be aware of the load height. In most states, you need to keep load height under about 13 feet 6 inches, unless you obtain a special permit. Lowboy trailers tend to have an advantage over other types of paving trailers, since their decks are typically about 24 inches high, with some as low as 17 inches.
Tire selection can play a role in lowering deck height somewhat. "The whole key is to keep the deck height as low as possible," says Bodnar. "We do that by using a low-profile radial tire - a 215/75R17.5 tire with a 30-inch diameter."
Air ride systems available on many lowboys also help to keep deck heights low if all you need is an extra inch or two to fit underneath an overpass. "If you get to a bridge that's too low and you can't get under it, you can dump the air from the air bags on the trailer and sneak underneath," says DeGeorge. "Once you're through, then you can air them back up."
Load width is another consideration. Paving equipment used for driveways and small parking lots likely won't have any issues with width. But large machines may require the addition of outriggers to support any overhang on the trailer.
Also keep in mind future growth and how it may affect the size of the load and the trailer required. If you start with a small paver and roller, how long will it be before you upgrade to larger units? If you fail to plan ahead, you may find you need to upgrade your trailer, as well.
"One of the biggest things I see contractors overlook is that they don't plan for growth," says DeGeorge.
How often will you load/unload?
If you load and unload equipment frequently, you will want a trailer that simplifies the task. The biggest differences can be found between front- and rear-loading lowboys.
"Rear-loading trailers, such as our sliding axle models, are easier to load and unload pavers, rollers and brooms than a front-loading detachable gooseneck. You don't have to unhook the tractor, and they typically have very low load angles," says Jorgensen.
The advantage of a detachable gooseneck is it can usually handle a bit more weight, and it tends to be a little more versatile for hauling equipment other than pavers if you plan to use it for multiple purposes.
Many manufacturers have made detachables more user-friendly with the addition of hydraulics. "These are very forgiving," says Jorgensen. "You don't have to be perfectly lined up to connect the gooseneck."
Give it time
Determining the answers to all of these questions can take time. Yet, it's well worth the effort. While trailers don't directly add income to the bottom line, it doesn't mean they don't affect it.
"Spend quality time to match a trailer to your needs," encourages Ladner. "Without the trailer, you can't move large equipment to the jobsite. It's part of the team, so you should treat it that way."