Most industries transport finished products in large containers and hence the need for container trailers. Containers remain one of the safest ways of transporting fragile and sensitive goods.
The packaging requirements in terms of height and weight vary across countries. Hence, container trailers have different structures to accommodate different capacities of containers.
In this post, we have discussed everything you to know about container trailers. The main lessons covered in the post include:
- The three major types of container trailers
- The advantages of each type of container trailer
- How to choose a container trailer according to your demand
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Types of container trailers
Container trailers are mostly designed in three major types that include a flatbed model, a chassis model, and a container side lifter trailer. In this post, we shall cover the flatbed and chassis models.
We shall introduce and discuss the side lifter trailer in another post. Here now is the discussion of the first two types of container trailers.
Table of Contents
- 1. Flatbed Container Trailer
- 2. Container Chassis trailer
- 3. Goose-neck models
- 4. Container Tilt/Tipping trailers
- 5. The Container Lock
- 6. Advantages of The Different Trailer Types
- 7. How to Choose the Right Trailer
1. Flatbed Container Trailer
The most common types of flatbed trailers have two beams that are longitudinally spaced from each other. The beams are connected using cross sills or multiple transverse beams, which are firmly welded on the longitudinal beams.
The frame of flatbed trailers provides a rigid and strong structure that holds the wheels, landing gear, floor or bed, kingpin and the suspension system.
The stability of these components depends on the strength of the frame. Hence, most models of trailers have frames made of aluminum or steel beams.
Trailers made of aluminum have a different weight capacity from those made of steel. The prices differ too based on the material. Aluminum trailers are preferred because they are lightweight.
However, the trailers are expensive compared with the heavier steel trailers. The minimum weight of steel flatbed trailer is 10,000 pounds while the minimum weight of aluminum flatbed trailers is 8,500 pounds.
The difference in weight means that companies can ship more goods with aluminum trailers while observing the legal requirements on the maximum weight of trailers.
Countries set different limits on the total weight of trailers that includes the weight of the load, tractor, and trailer. Both steel and aluminum container trailers can transport loads that exceed the legal weight limits.
As mentioned earlier, aluminum flatbed trailers can transporter heavier loads than trailer with a steel frame. The benefit of this is that transport companies reduced labor costs, wear and tear, and fuel consumption.
The saved costs compensate for the high initial cost of buying the trailer. Flatbed container trailers with aluminum frame are generally more efficient in transport operations.
1.1 The Flatbed Container Trailer Specifications
The design of the 20ft / 40ft flatbed container trailer has been made in consideration with the legal industry requirements for container trailers.
For this reason, the initial push was for a lightweight flatbed trailer that can haul different payloads of up to about 36,000Kg.
This particular design has a weight advantage of about 1100Kg and 1800Kg over traditional steel and aluminum trailers respectively.
This allows an extra load of the same weight per trip. This extra payload can offer a good extra profit before the life span of the trailer lapses. Essentially, it helps the user have maximum benefit from such an investment.
The trailer’s lightweight structure is due to a comparatively thin bottom plate attached to a strong and lightweight cellular stiffening framework made from several intersecting partitions that form several polygonal cells,
and multiple carefully spaced stiffened slats attached to the upper part of the stiffening framework in order to anchor the flatbed floor.
The layered framework is set so that the upper plate serves as a stressed outer skin that helps in the distribution of the loan evenly over the slats.
Ultimately, this helps in the distribution of the load in a uniform manner over the cellular stiffening framework.
This is good for the efficient distribution of the load uniformly over the base plate and anchor members where the base plate acts as a stressed outer skin.
What you have in the end is a structure that is light due to the well-distributed load forces through an integrated stressed-member system.
Despite the light construction, this framework is able to carry loads up to and above the most common weight standard limits. Ideally, a light weight container trailer provides more load capacity.
In line with one aspect of the fabrication, the intersecting partitions are offered with interlocking slots to enhance assembly.
Again, slots are provided on the upper edge of the choice partitions to allow the receipt of slats that transfer the load forces from the floor of the trailer to the cellular stiffening structure.
2. Container Chassis trailer
One of the challenges of using containers in transportation is that the containers come in different size. Hence, some containers require special vehicles for transportation because of their dimensions.
Companies require a transport solution that can adopt to different sizes and types of containers. In addition, many states have implemented bridging laws, which define the distance between the rear and front wheels of heavy-duty vehicles.
Container chassis trailer are designed to overcome these challenges.
2.1 Why the Container Chassis Trailer?
The need for a truck chassis capable of taking high weight containers without loading and offloading issues prompted such a design. This is what you will be going for if you have such needs.
Again, the container chassis trailer provides you with the option of taking high weight container while at the same time giving you options to make adjustments to desirable maneuverability.
This type of trailer is a simple yet strong and is capable to serve you even in rugged topography.
One defining characteristic of the chassis trailer is the fact that it can transport different sizes of containers such as the 45ft, 40ft and the 20ft long containers.
2.2 Key Advantages of the Chassis Trailer
- It is a cheap and affordable construction
- It is a light and solidly firm structure
- It uses fewer material and yet carries heavy cargo
- It is built from high strength structural material making it a rigid construction, good for its application
- The chassis trailer for your container is available in different models. You can choose what matches your needs because the functions are the same.
- It is commonly used for container transportation
2.3 Common Chassis
This is a fixed structure commonly used in the transportation of containers. It is mainly of a steel construction where containers are loaded and offloaded using overhead cranes.
It has a landing gear that is used to enhance stability during loading and offloading operations.
It can be used for loading and transporting 20ft, 40ft and 45ft container. With well-marked positions, you can load your container and move it to your desired destination with ease.
It is simple to use and most importantly, affordable. However, the need for external accessories could possibly delay the operations.
2.4 Load Positioning Chassis
- Trailer has a long chassis that is supported to one end through a movable bogie unit or a slider with an attached sliding bolster unit
- It comes with retractable roller mechanisms on the said bogie unit and the bolster unit urged against the trailer chassis. This allows easy placement of a unit at a suitable position along the trailer chassis
- It also comes with a releasable coupling in between bolster and the slider to allow the bolster to travel along the chassis through the slider
Protocols are defined for moving a container from a first position centered along the chassis and a second position flush with the back of the chassis.
In a recommended embodiment, the front chassis portion is lifted with respect to the back portion. This way, the bolster slides along a surface that is lower than the front region.
As the bolster goes to its back most position, the chassis can have room for a larger container.
2.5 Extended Chassis
Function is like the load positioning chassis, but it can extend from the rear, so that the trailer is shorter as is the case with the common model.
The conventional models of container chassis can be adjusted to handle containers of different sizes. The position of the wheels of this model of trailer can also be adjusted to comply with the legal requirements.
The basic requirement in most when using container chassis trailers is that the chassis should have a greater length that the container or load.
The main advantage of this structure is that you can transport a sealed container from one state to another. You will not be required to unpack and reload the container trailer when crossing borders.
The load must be position of the center of the floor or bed to keep the trailer balanced. It is easier to load a container that occupies nearly the full length of the floor or bed.
Longer chassis trailers also lead to unnecessary traffic congestion in cities. Despite the challenges associated with these trailers, the vehicles offer unique solutions to companies that handle different types of loads.
3. Goose-neck models
Both flatbed and chassis trailers have gooseneck models. One of the advantages of buying gooseneck models over other models is that gooseneck trailers are more stable and safer than other trailers.
The rear axle supports the largest percentage of the weight of the load in a gooseneck model. This means that the trailer does not depend on the frame to support the load and this keeps it stable.
Gooseneck trailers carry heavier weights and are easier to maneuver on the road than other trailers. The structure of gooseneck models of container trailer is illustrated in the pictures below.
In some countries, the gooseneck flatbed trailer is referred to as a drop deck trailer. The main advantage of drop deck trailers is that they can transport containers or loads that exceed the legal height limit.
Loading drop deck trailers is also easy and efficient compared to other models of trailers.
4. Container Tilt/Tipping trailers
The container tilt or tipping trailers have a different structure than other container trailers. This model of trailers has an apparatus that simplifies the process of loading a container on the trailer bed.
The trailer consists of upper and lower frames, which are attached using a pivot device.
Ideally, the container tipping trailer is for easy unloading or loading the container in the place without crane. It has a hydraulic cylinder to raise the upper platform.
4.1 Common Container Tipper
Ideally, this is a simple construction of a trailer.
The offloading process allows the container to fall steadily by gravity. When the container is unlocked and let loose from the top of the trailer, it is allowed to fall off freely backwards.
This is facilitated as the trailer tilts downwards. Once the container touches the ground on the back end, the truck moves forward and that way, the container will continue to slide slowly.
Essentially, the common container tipper is just like a tipper trailer, but without the tipping bucket.
4.2 Container Tilt Trailer with Loading Apparatus
This type is more expensive, but at the same time more convenient to use. It can be used for loading and transporting containers. Most importantly, it is safer to use when unloading a container more than any other.
The upper frame has a roller located at a distance from the pivot device that attaches it to the lower frame. The roller can rotate around the point at which it is mounted on the upper frame.
With this design, the roller can move along the upper frame pivotally with respect to the other lower frame. The tipping trailer has an extension arm as well, which is longitudinally contractible.
This simplifies the process of loading a container on the trailer. The extension arms can also extend outwardly and facilitate the unloading process.
The pivotal drive of the upper frame leads to a change in the distance between the cable securement point and the roller with regard to the lower frame
and the variation in the distance between the roller and the cable securement point with regard to the structure of the container hence
attaining the lift and movement of the container without the need for any external power or a winch device to alter the cable distance.
In the recommended configuration,
the lower frame is also pivotally attached in relation to the truck body to enhance a dumping operation attained through pivotal movement about the hinging point of the lower frame instead of that of the upper frame.
This movement is normally used for dumping operations.
Otherwise, when the lower frame member is fit in relation to the truck body, then the pivotal movement of the upper frame member bout the axis of the hinging point will attain the loading and/or offloading position as desired.
5. The Container Lock
Another important part of these trailers is the container lock. This is a chassis lock that is used for locking a trailer chassis to your container body. It is provided with a locking cavity in it.
This includes a handle, a wall means with a striker angle slot that is defined, a sleeve fixed to the handle and extending via the striker angle slot,
a striker angle plate fitted to the sleeve and formed in a manner to fit into the striker angle slot in at leats two rotatable separate positions,
a shaft extension usually carried at one end together with the sleeve and the again extending at the opposite end into the container cavity,
a slip joint linking up with the sleeve to the shaft extension and a safe locking plate with an elongated shape carried through the shaft extension.
- The idea behind the building of this invention was to provide a chassis lock that has an easy operation and most importantly, a positive lock between a container body and the trailer chassis.
- This invention was also targeting to build a lock that is easy to maintain and assemble from time to time.
- Essentially, this chassis lock has not so many parts but rather just a few to ensure reliability and operations that would require no or low maintenance
- The idea still was to present a solution of a container lock that can lock itself into a desired position using gravitational force to positively secure the action.
6. Advantages of The Different Trailer Types
All these trailer types are designed for different application and use. As a result, each has its own advantages over the rest in order to fit the application for which it was designed for. Here are some of the major advantages of each one of them:
6.1 Flatbed Container Trailer
- Flatbed trailer is multipurpose. It is not only used for container transportation but is adapted to do other functions as well. This way, you can use it for whatever use you want to because a flatbed is easily customizable.
- Light weight yet strong structure. The cellular structure has a useful advantage of providing you with a strong lightweight structure that is capable of efficiently transmitting load forces from the floor structure to the trailer base upon which the suspension system, the kingpin, the wheels and the landing gear are attached.
- The trailer design and structure conforms largely with the legal limit for trailer weights. This is deemed of great value addition to the trucking industry. The trailer has about 4000-pound weight advantage compared to traditional steel frame trailers and about 2500-pound weight advantage when compared with aluminum frame type. This directly translates into enhanced payload capacity as the trailer can carry loads of up to the required legal weight maximum limits around the globe.
- Affordability due to a simple and straightforward construction.
6.2 Container Chassis Trailer
- The container chassis trailer is an economically feasible and practical trailer to use. This is an invention that offers a truck chassis for loading and offloading high weight containers without much effort.
- It has a simple structure. It comprises a simple truck chassis but of a rugged construction.
- The gooseneck models can lower the center of gravity hence increasing the trailers stability. Essentially, they are safer to work with in terms of stability.
- This trailer is adjustable to meet your desired maneuverability conditions for loading and offloading. Adjustments to axle spacing can also be made based on your needs.
6.3 Container Tilt/Tipping Trailers
Why the Tipping Trailer? Obviously, every trailer solves provides a unique solution and here are basically some of the main ones to consider:
- This trailer offers an enhanced apparatus for loading and offloading containers with regards to a trailer body while at the same time minimizing the initial capita cost outlays
- Even with the inclusion of all these capabilities, the maintenance costs are highly minimized
- The loading and offloading of the container structure takes place with a cable system in place that does not need a winch device. As a result, the powering system will not be needed.
- The powering of movement for this trailer is offered through hydraulic cylinders that are not complicated during operation and maintenance
- The container chassis trailer offers operations possibilities in different inclinations. Loading and offloading of a container can be done at desired inclination. The upper frame is pivotably adjustable via an angle of about 135 degrees.
7. How to Choose the Right Trailer
Your choice among these types of trailers first depends on your preferences based on the type of job you need done. Generally, the choice is usually made based the following:
- Weight Capacity Requirements
All these trailers can carry a considerable amount of weight. However, the 2 axles / 3 axles container chassis trailer is of much help when weight considerations are to be made. Its construction has primarily been made to provide a chassis that can help you carry high weight containers. Most importantly, this can be adjusted to meet your desired conditions of maneuverability, loading, offloading and axle spacing.
- Number of Axles
Based on the amount of cargo to carry, trailer considerations can be made looking at the number of axles for each trailer. They could be 2 axles or 3 axles. Don’t expect one with more than 3 axles because a container’s max weight capacity is 30 tons. For instance, the flatbed trailer structure has a capability of supporting a number of wheel axle assemblies at different positions along the trailer length.
If you use the trailer to transport not only container, but also some other cargo, it is better to choose the flatbed trailer type. The container chassis is only used for container. Should your work require loading and offloading at certain inclined positions, then the container tilt trailer would be the best choice for you.
Cost is also an important factor to consider in your choice of a trailer. If all you need is a simple trailer for a simple application, it wouldn’t be wise to choose the container tilt trailer. The container tilt type trailer has a higher price than the rest. This is primarily due to its advanced lifting system. A flatbed or a container chassis will do.
This is an ultimate trailer guide to help you understand different trailers and their operation-ability. Each is designed to serve a certain function and based on your needs and preferences, you can make any of them your choice. This information will guide you into making the right choice of a trailer for your application.