Mike Colaccino of SAF-Holland offers two worthwhile operational solutions provided by good technology: "Check fifth wheels properly and manage diminishing pay loads smartly."
The increased trailer skirt usage in truckload or long-haul fleets has given rise to the difficulty in ensuring fifth wheels are engaged before a trip’s start. SAF-Holland’s national service manager, Rob Nissen, points out the company’s fifth wheel model FW35 features a lock adjustment yoke shaft that sticks out the front of the fifth wheel casting. This yoke shaft also functions effectively as one of three visual verifications of a proper trailer coupling.
“We advise truck operators to perform three visual checks:
1) Check the adjustment nut on the yoke shaft on the front of the fifth wheel to assure it’s flush against the casting with no gap;
2) Check to ensure there’s no gap between the trailer’s upper coupler plate and the face of the fifth wheel; and
3) Check the lock jaws to make sure they’re completely closed around the kingpin. When you pull the release handle, the yoke shaft will extend 4 to 6 in. outward from the fifth wheel.
“When it’s properly coupled, the nut on the yoke shaft will retract and set firmly against the shaft’s washer and rubber grommet and the front skirt of the fifth wheel,” said Nissen.
On some trailers with skirts, there’s barely enough space between the landing gear and the tractor’s rear, so the driver has to crawl the full length to verify engagement.
The second issue dealt with tangible benefits from tag- or pusher-type axles. The major suspension manufacturer’s relatively new CBX40 tandem axle sliding trailer suspension with Auto-PosiLift was developed for varying load fleet operations like multi-stop beverage distribution, less-than-truckload (LTL), fleets backhauling empty and food service. The unit’s PosiLift feature, with an ECU and air valve system, creates a lift axle with automatic operation that complies with DOT regulations.
The benefits are real, said Randy Flanagan, SAF-Holland’s director of sales and marketing, Americas Trailer Systems. “Aside from less toll costs due to less applied axles, there have been significant fuel savings, reduced tire wear and less bearing usage,” he said. “Most importantly, it gives truck operators a full 4 in. of lift, and ground clearance.” The new system allows for a different tire rotation sequence.
The ECU is pre-programmed to sense the air spring pressure, and as the trailer load weight diminishes or increases, the system automatically raises or lowers the front axle of the tandem slider suspension without driver interaction.
SAF-Holland selected Meritor WABCO’s trailer ABS with InfoLink for the intelligence to monitor and control trailer lift axle options such as this suspension’s automatic lift axle feature with the ability to raise and lower the lift axle without the driver’s control. The position of the lift axle is determined by InfoLink’s pressure sensors, which are placed in the suspension air bags. The system then calculates the trailer’s weight based on the pressure in the fixed air bags. Based on this calculated load, the front axle is lowered when the weight justifies its use and is raised automatically when the axle is not necessary for the given load.
The SAF CBX40 with Auto-PosiLift features use a unique electronic control unit with built-in functionality supplied by Meritor WABCO. A sensor in the system’s air spring supply line reads air spring pressure and determines whether to automatically raise the front axle or leave it in the down position.
With the power on and trailer parking brakes released, the Auto-PosiLift system is programmed to automatically lift the front axle in a trailer tandem a minimum maximum of 4 in. when it senses that only one axle is necessary to carry the load.
With the tractor power off, the trailer parking brakes engaged or in the event of a loss of power, the system automatically deploys the front axle to the down position. The position of the front axle remains constant when the vehicle is in motion.
The position of the axle is controlled to the optimal position when the tractor is on and the emergency brakes are released. /