The wheelbase of the tractor directly impacts the best trailer setup. “When a customer looks at spec’ing a dump trailer, I will ask if he is trying to match it up with an existing wheelbase truck,” says Wells. “If you have a long wheelbase truck, the optimum is a long tandem dump trailer.” But you must consider the application. “You are not going to use a 39-ft. tandem-axle trailer to do paving work. So you have to sift through the information and come up with the best spec.”
You also need to consider trailer weight. “During the last decade, heavyweight trailers became more popular because they were cheaper,” notes Ladner. “They were cheaper to buy because you don’t use high-tensile-strength steel and structures that cost money to keep weight out of the trailer. Today, I see a transition coming back in where payload is very important.”
Sales of heavyweight trailers are starting to slow down. “The customer is looking toward the actual payloads that the trailer is capable of hauling,” says Ladner. “If a trailer weighs 2,000 lbs. less, in a 10-trip haul, you move 10 tons more in the same day as the heavyweight trailer. That is where that lightweight trailer starts to pay benefits.”
Abuse shortens life
Most dump trailers will provide trouble-free operation provided they’re not abused. “A dump trailer is not all that technical,” says Ladner. “If you take care of maintenance items, the only other thing is abuse.”
Rough roads are a good example. “It might be a road where you can sit in the seat at 20 mph, but you have to tighten your seatbelt when you are driving 35 or 40 mph due to the road condition,” Ladner comments. “There are going to be drivers that drive at 35 mph and drivers that drive at 20 mph. Those issues always surface in product repairs.”
That brings up the point of driver training. “You need to have basic training for drivers so they know what you expect as an owner,” says Ladner. “Today, these trucks and trailers become very expensive. You are just trying to maximize that life cycle.”
Trailers do have limits, even in areas where you may not be travelling on weight-restricted roads. “Don’t overload a trailer,” Ladner emphasizes. “The limit is on the vehicle identification plate we put on every trailer.” This includes the gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) and gross axle weight rating (GAWR). “Those are the two primary components that are weight restricted. Everything else is designed to the maximum numbers on the data plate.
“Our trailer actually has more yard capacity than it can legally haul,” he asserts. This accommodates the different densities of various materials. “How many cubic yards of capacity you need does depend on the materials you are moving.”
Don’t overlook maintenance
After you choose the right trailer, you need to keep it working. Downtime is typically caused by a lack of maintenance.
“[That includes] everything from not putting a nickel’s worth of grease in a joint to not washing the equipment,” says Wells. “Corrosion is a big problem, especially where steel components are bolted to aluminum components and you get galvanic corrosion.” As such, it’s important to keep these areas clean.
Don’t forget to periodically drain the air tanks. “If you get condensation in the air tanks, the next thing you know, it is affecting valves and other components,” says Wells.
Before starting your work day, perform a pre-trip inspection. “Look at the tire inflation,” advises Wells, “If it is a spring-type suspension, make sure none of the springs are broken.” Visually check that the bolts in the torque arms are tight. “If you are starting out in the morning in a garage, look to see if there is any fluid on the floor anywhere.” Make sure there isn’t a wheel leaking. “From that point, fire it up and check lights, and make sure the brakes are actuating.”
Also make sure tires are properly inflated. “Tires are a major cost item. There is more awareness of tire pressure today,” Ladner comments. He notes that Landoll offers a tire inflation system that ensures air from the main air supply of the truck is constantly fed to tires to maintain proper pressure. “It is a good investment.”