On-Site Magazine

A look at what’s new in trailers

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June 1, 2014 by DAVID BOWCOTT

Sure; everyone’s got a construction trailer that’s stronger, lighter and more durable than their competitors. But what really separates them from the pack? In this issue we asked four trailer manufacturers what’s special about their trailers and how you’ll benefit. Sharpen your pencils.


Towmaster marketing exec Shane Zeppelin tells us his trailers are sometimes slammed for being too heavy. “That’s because we put a lot of steel in them.” But it’s the way the Towmaster frame is designed that is truly unique, Zeppelin says—built of cold form or bent steel beams “so that the tongue and the frame are all one piece.” No cutting of I-beams and welding two pieces back together, just a single piece for greater strength and durability. “That’s the heart of our trailers.”

A designer and manufacturer of 3,500 lb. to 120,000 lb. flatbed trailers, Towmaster provides a range of trailer decks: tilting decks, ramped decks, low and over-decks. Towmaster’s pride and joy, however, is its Torflex or rubber ride axle. Where spring suspensions will sometimes bounce on the highway, rubber ride axles provide self-contained shock absorption. The tires last longer, Zeppelin adds, “and you don’t have to mess with shackles, lubrication, etc… These things will virtually last forever.”

Spring suspensions have their place, however. On their bigger, heavier haulers Towmaster swears by the Hutchens 9700, an industry standard suspension series for single, tandem and multi-axle configurations. Axle spacings are from 42 in. to 121 in.; the suspension accommodates round, square or rectangular axles, with capacities of 22,400 lb. up to 25,000 lb. per axle.


Murray Trailers prides itself on being the leader in the 16-tire expandable heavy equipment trailer. They’re also the lightest in that category anywhere in the world, says president and CEO Doug Murray, but without sacrificing strength. What differentiates his company from others is a suspension system that it began developing years ago that distributes weight to the frame in six places. This is in contrast to a walking beam system designed by other manufacturers that distributes weight to only two places.

“Distributing weight at more locations gives us the ability to load equipment over the rear of the trailer without damaging it,” says Murray. Murray Trailers designs its camber—the arch in mid trailer—right into the trailer instead of building it after the trailer is manufactured. This makes it stronger and prevents the arch from de-crowning or going negative camber (i.e. the load dropping below the trailer’s horizontal line).

“Of course, it’s important that the webs are put together prior to that to make sure they’re exactly the same on each side,” he says. Murray also fabricates its own I-beams, from bar stock instead of plate. “Bar stock is a better product; it’s all heat treated and rolled with nice edges on it.”


As far as Trail King’s director of sales Barry Freifeld is concerned, frame, axles and suspension don’t change all that much from one manufacturer to another. What does vary is the way they’re put together. A case in point: Trail King’s hydraulic detachable gooseneck trailer (HDG). “Our claim to fame is that we can hook our trailer up in less than a minute where others it could take them up to 15 minutes to reconnect.”

The magic behind all this is a self-aligning pin and a wide, V-shaped channel that reconnects and securely locks the truck and gooseneck to the trailer. This is much better than hooks or “clamshell” assemblies, says Freifeld, “especially when you’re trying to pick up equipment on a job site and one side of the trailer falls down in to the mud.” If it’s not perfectly aligned, you’re stuck. “Then you’re trying to block and tackle to try and get this thing into position so that the neck will hook up.”

Thirty-nine engineers work for Trail King—making it the largest trailer engineering team in the world, says Freifeld. Every beam and frame on its larger trailers is designed and manufactured on-site—no manufacturing vendors allowed. Whether it’s a 55-ton or 70-ton trailer “the I-beams are different, the neck is different, the camber is different; everything is tailor-designed to that trailer.”

Each trailer is also designed with a specific maximum load characteristic over a specific space. This means you can put that load anywhere, from the front of the trailer to the rear of the trailer, and it will scale out. “Trail King will give you that weight characteristic anywhere along the length of the trailer. That’s a huge difference between what we do and our competitors do.”


Standard items on a Manac low bed trailer are an adjustable gooseneck (which increases ground clearance), outriggers made of high strength steel for greater load width, and fabricated cross members between main frames for increased storage space. But what turns Denis LaRochelle’s crank is the use of 150,000 psi AR450 European steel in Manac’s steel end dumps. This is a far cry from the lighter aluminum and 100,000 psi A514 steel customers typically see in their end dumps. AR450 is thinner (lighter), stronger and more dent resistant during demolition jobs.

In its aluminum trailer series Manac has moved away from sheet and post construction in favour of an extruded, double core panel clipped and welded together—especially important, says LaRochelle, in eastern snowbound markets. “It’s extremely cold, so guys want aluminum and air space in between the panels so that gravel and other materials don’t freeze as hard as they would in a steel construction box.”