Features - Features

Specialized Trailers

By Chett Winchell

Have you ever wondered why there are so many makes and models of trailers and what those boxes mounted to the frame are? Why there are different sizes and what they are used for?

Specialized trailer equipment requires specialized accessories. For example, there are many varied types of trailers that require multiple forms of securement devices and PPE (personal protection equipment) usually consisting of head, eye, hand, body and foot protection--all depending on what is being hauled.

A dry van or reefer hauler may have regular load locks, butterfly load locks, load bars, e-track securement, straps, ramps, lift gates and extra dunnage. Some trailers carry extra pallets or over-pack barrels under the trailer body. In addition, depending on what area of the country you may be in, you'll see multiple trailers hooked together. There are turnpike doubles/triples that are Longer Combination Vehicles (LCV's) with two 48- or 53-foot trailers or triple 28-foot pups. In the upper Midwest there are "A" and "B" trains which consist of tractor trailer combination units with 11 to 13 axles. These are used mainly in steel coil hauling. The multiple axles are for load weight distribution. In the western states, you'll see Rocky Mountain doubles that consist of a long trailer pulling a pup.

A flatbed carries extra straps (2" and 4"), chains, binders, portable winches and dunnage, as well as a cheater bar. On these types of trailers you may see split axles; instead of trailer axles being together they may be separated for weight distribution. Sometimes companies mount equipment storage boxes in these spaces allowing for the tie down equipment to be stored away from the tractor. Some come equipped with a winch for pulling items onto the trailer. Different types of beds may be hydraulically powered to tilt or extend the length of the trailer. There are multiple types of specialized flatbeds. Some carry a forklift on the rear of the trailer for unloading at a customer location. Still other types of trailers carry heavy equipment that has a detachable gooseneck for loading and unloading.

Additionally, there may be hydraulic steer axles on longer, heavy haul trailers. These are sometimes built to only haul one load. The heavy haul trailers may have multiple axle units called jeeps to attach before and after the main trailer body to assist in weight distribution on oversize loads. On most of these types of loads, there are escort vehicles required for front and rear protection of the load.

A single or double drop trailer may have load leveler frames to give additional support to the load. These trailers sometimes come with an additional axle that is pinned into place and is flipped up to ride on top of a trailer bed when not being used.

There are pneumatic dry bulk trailers that discharge their load through the use of a PTO driven unit on the tractor and could be a bottom or rear discharge type of trailer. Some equipment related to these types of trailers includes rubber hammers, hoses, clamps, buckets and personal PPE.

There are many types of tanker trailers that carry liquid materials ranging from food products to industrial gasses and chemicals. Each has their own specialty equipment for loading and unloading procedures. These include hoses, clamps, buckets, seals and specified PPE from both the company and customer for the product being hauled.

There are specialty trailers that are used at hospitals called MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging). They are huge mobile x-ray machines that are shared between multiple hospitals. The personnel involved with these trailers may transport, set up, maintain and secure the equipment on a regularly scheduled cycle.

Other specialty equipment includes car haulers, boat haulers and custom haulers that move grain cutting equipment. Additionally, there are oilfield rigs, explosives haulers, just-in time haulers and a plethora of others to boot! Adjusting tie downs, climbing in, over, under and through equipment is extremely hazardous in all types of weather. Not only does the equipment have to be suited for the job, the driver needs to excel in his/her area of expertise.

There are trailers available for any type of freight. Some models are off the showroom floor and ready to use. Others require months of preparation for a single use. One thing to remember is that whatever trailer is on the road and whatever commodity is being hauled, there are trained professional drivers pulling them safely down the highway. If you're tired of hauling the same old freight, maybe you will become one of these specialized drivers.