With increased steel prices, equipment trailers have become a major investment. "Today, you have to pay more attention to the details because you are investing $75,000, $100,000 or $200,000," says Jim Ladner, national sales manager, Landoll Corp. "It isn't like 20 years ago when they were a third the price."
The decisions you make now can have consequences well into the future. "In most cases, we have life cycle on our product of 15 to 18 years," says Ladner. "If you look back 18 years, what did the equipment look like? Keep in mind that the equipment in the construction field always tends to grow and get heavier. You need to look down the road and buy a trailer that is probably more than you really need, but will do the job for you tomorrow."
Ladner adds that no single trailer is likely to haul all of your equipment. You should designate trailers to groups of equipment suited to that trailer design.
As equipment designs change, it may also be more of a challenge to get by with the trailers you have used in the past. Fred McClure, engineering manager, Eager Beaver Trailers cites its 10-ton tag trailer as a unique example. "When we started building it almost 30 years ago, the typical backhoe that was put on it weighed 14,000 lbs. Today, the same series of backhoe literally grew in weight from 14,000 lbs. to closer to 18,000 lbs."
However, many contractors resist going up to a 12-ton trailer since they have to pay Federal Excise Tax (FET). "The private contractor is still trying to hold onto the 10-ton trailer and not pay the FET on it," says McClure. "He has to be very critical on how he loads it so he is not overloading the tires and axles."
It is important to understand trailer ratings and industry standards when comparing equipment trailers. "There is an important balance between the tare weight, the weight of the trailer and its ultimate load capacity," says Ladner. "If you build a trailer too light, it may not be able to haul the payload. But if you go too heavy, then you lessen the legal payload it can handle."
Determining the trailer weight is rather straightforward. "On the serial tag, you normally have the GVW," says Butch Odegaard, national accounts, Trail King. "That gives you the capacity of the trailer plus the payload. You can subtract the capacity from the payload and that will give you what the trailer weighs."
But there are often trade-offs between weight and durability. According to Odegaard, with lighter trailers, you have to keep the safety factor in mind. Trail King builds to Truck Trailer Manufacturer (TTMA) guidelines, which include a 2 to 2.5 times safety factor. "There are some trailer manufacturers that don't live by that safety factor," he points out. Their trailers can be constructed lighter because they are forfeiting the safety factor.
In addition, you need to make sure the load is compatible with the trailer's concentrated weight rating. "The contractor has to fully understand what he is going to haul — what it weighs and how much deck space it is going to consume," says Ladner.
The weight over a given area determines the necessary concentrated weight rating. "If the contractor has a forklift that weighs 10,000 lbs. in 10 ft., he needs to know the frame is going to hold it."
Not every manufacturer lists the concentrated load factor the same, and some manufacturers do not list it at all. "Landoll rates its trailers within a 10 ft. area," says Ladner. Some manufacturers rate trailers at 16 ft. Make sure you are making an "apples to apples" comparison. "If my trailer frame is strong enough to hold 35 tons at 10 ft. and theirs is strong enough to hold 35 tons at 16 ft., theirs is a weaker frame."
Next, you need to consider how the trailer will be loaded. The entire GVWR is not intended to be carried by the tires and axles. A portion of the weight is actually assigned to the hitch. Deck length and axle placement need to allow the weight to be distributed so the weight at the hitch and over the axles is within acceptable limits.