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Wabash trailer could eliminate flatbeds for steel transportation

Keywords: Tags  Wabash National, DuraPlate XD-35, Brent Nussbaum, steel transportation, Corinna Petry


A truck trailer manufacturer has developed a new model that will hold metal coils weighing up to 17 tons, keep the product completely dry and allow it to be unloaded inside a facility without the driver having to do much more than open the rear door.

Wabash National Corp., a Lafayette, Ind.-based truck trailer manufacturer, has introduced the DuraPlate XD-35 trailer to the broader market after Nussbaum Transportation of Normal, Ill., spent a year testing it and found it to be a cost-effective solution for customers with special handling needs.

The XD-35, which has the capacity to carry a 35,000-pound coil or multiple smaller coils strapped down to D-rings recessed in its floor, evolved from a previous model that could handle 28,000-pound loads, according to Wabash National’s new-business development director, Robert Lane.

Although the new model is still produced from the same high-strength steel, aluminum and composites as the previous model, the construction of the new model was altered to allow for heavier loads. “It’s the way we construct the floor and the cross-members attached to the trailer that allow us to offer a 35,000-pound rating,” Lane said.

Wabash National actually tested the trailer up to 45,000 pounds, which means shippers or receivers can drive a forklift directly onto the trailer to load or unload coils, he said. “These were tested for over a year, and we have had no issues or complaints about floors withstanding the weight. It takes semitrailer hauling to a new level.”

Brent Nussbaum, the carrier’s chief executive officer, said he asked Wabash National to design a trailer that would help his company better serve Electrolux U.S.A.’s manufacturing plant in St. Cloud, Minn. “For a little over a year now, we have been handling inbound steel coils for Electrolux (using the DuraPlate XD-35). We haul large coils that typically would have been hauled on flatbed equipment,” he said.

With flatbed trailers, the load would have to be tarped and the trailers backed up inside; the driver then had to untarp and unload, taking time away from the plant’s loaders and tying up docks.

Additionally, coils carried on flatbed trailers would frequently rust after absorbing moisture, even when covered, and Electrolux would reject the material, Nussbaum said. The new trailer “allows us to keep the product totally dry from the (mill) pick-up to the (plant). With this trailer, we back into a regular freight dock and use forklifts to take the coil off,” he said. “In a year’s time, we have had not a single issue with moisture. And when our driver is done unloading the coils, he pulls around to the other side of the plant and loads the truck with finished products. Appliances are shipped out and there is no deadheading (empty loads).”

Nussbaum said the new trailer allows both the carrier and customer to save time and money while making service more reliable. “Electrolux had all these coils coming in but the cost of flatbed (hauling) was inconsistent because it went with the market. And you had (coil carriers) deadheading out of plant and dry van carriers deadheading into the plant. The dry van cost (was also) inconsistent,” he said.

Nussbaum said he has asked how much money has been saved by using the new trailer, and although the company “is not sharing those numbers, Electrolux is thrilled to death with these trailers. (Their use) keeps inbound raw material (freight) cost consistent as well as outbound finished (freight) costs.”

The success of the trailer was a long process that ended exceedingly well, Nussbaum said. “We came to Wabash about two years ago. Product design, development, testing and certification took nearly one year. We started to use (the DuraPlate XD-35) in October 2010. We spent a year working out any bugs to make sure the trailer performed as advertised. It has worked flawlessly.”

Nussbaum Transportation now owns 25 of the new trailers, all for the Electrolux business, but could purchase more if it signs up a dedicated customer with regular freight runs.

“If you saw a DuraPlate trailer going down the highway, it looks no different,” Nussbaum said. “But if you crawl underneath, you see the undercarriage was built to withstand more weight. The floor rating on it is 40 to 50 percent higher than on a regular van.”

Once at the delivery site, “you can have a heavy forklift enter the trailer. It’s much quicker-loading. With a flatbed, you need a craneÑwhich is also fastÑbut by the time a driver gets the truck inside, removes all the straps and tarps, and retarps it on the way out, that takes up time and space inside the plant.”

Although Nussbaum Transportation is the first customer for the XD-35, the new trailer will roll out to other carriers throughout North America, and the total cost “is going to be less expensive than a flatbed,” Lane said.

Firms, have told AMM they have experienced a shortage of flatbed trailers and flatbed drivers since the recession, and have seen costs rise as a result.


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