Molded structural composites have been used in aerospace, automotive, marine, and commercial construction for some time, and have previously been used by Wabash National in its refrigerated truck body. Yeagy says this is the first time the technology is being used in the trailer industry.
Wabash National’s new trailer is manufactured with all-composite sides and top. The trailer’s unique composite floor structure is 4.5 inches thick, while a conventional refrigerated van’s floor is typically 7.75 inches thick. The floor is also available as a composite structure/aluminum surface hybrid.
The more newsworthy detail, Yeagy emphasizes, is that this innovative floor boasts a whopping 50 percent increase in floor rating, which is how much fork lift load it can support.
“A standard reefer van floor is rated at 16,000 pounds and dry vans (those carrying dry goods, not refrigerated) are rated at 20,000 pounds,” Yeagy relates. “This new floor has a 24,000-pounds rating.
“The key take home message is that the composite floor offers a 50 percent increase in floor rating, with a much thinner structure,” Yeagy continues. “The benefits of these innovations to the transportation industry are improved thermal efficiency, reduced fuel costs, increased payload and cargo capacity, optimized utilization, and enhanced durability.”
Introduced as a prototype in February 2016, the all-composite refrigerated trailer is now in a limited production run of some 100 units slated to be completed by about September 2018.
Much of the production is being handled at Wabash National’s composites manufacturing facility in Little Falls, Minn.
“With its hybrid floor, our new refrigerated van can be used for both refrigerated and dry loads,” Yeagy points out. “That feature promises to improve profits for shippers as a result of increased backhaul opportunities, which is the ability to carry goods on a return trip.”
Robert Lane, MBA, Wabash National’s vice president of product engineering for Commercial Trailer Products, concurs that with the composite trailer being up to 2,000 pounds lighter than more commonplace refrigerated trailers, while owning the enviable 24,000-pound floor rating, refrigerated carriers can now double as a dry van when necessary.
“We achieved the weight savings by removing metal from the walls and floors,” Lane explains. “The box is a one-piece composite structure made of glass, resin, and foam. There is no metal anywhere in the box structure itself, however the rails are still made of metal and the customer can specify an aluminum floor surface.
“The company’s goal was to offer a fully-loaded refrigerated trailer, including the refrigeration unit, that weighs less than today’s dry van,” he continues. “As a result of the increased puncture resistance, carriers will be able to transport loads that are a bit more abusive than what is typically hauled in a standard refrigerated trailer.”
Thus far, four transportation companies have placed orders for the new composite trailers: K&B Transportation, Sioux City, Iowa; Werner Enterprises, Omaha, Neb.; Leonard’s Express, Farmington, N.Y.; and Combined Transport, Inc., Medford, Ore.
K&B Transportation accepted delivery of Wabash National’s first MSCT refrigerated van in April 2017. Brock Ackerman, owner of the company, believes that the reefer’s smooth interior wall promises to offer a real food safety advantage for food haulers like himself. “With the smooth wall, there will be limited areas where bacteria can get into and hide within the trailer,” he says. “That’s a big plus, especially in light of the FSMA transportation requirements.”
“With the continuing growth in cold chain infrastructure and the significant investment being made in home food delivery services, we’re very optimistic about the new trailer’s future, and we believe it has great potential to significantly benefit the food transportation industry,” Yeagy elaborates.
Telematics and Transport
If you’re up on the buzzwords flying around in the fast-paced world where food transportation meets communications, you already know that telematics is the branch of information technology that deals with the long-distance transmission of computerized information.