Trailers: Flexible necessities
05/03/2012

Trailers add versatility as rental inventory

Trailers are among the most versatile pieces of equipment in a rental store’s inventory as they can be rented or used for delivery with the potential for a greater return on investment.

“Trailers add flexibility to a rental store. The company can rent the trailer empty for the customer to haul their own stuff or rent the trailer with a piece of rental equipment. Trailers have been in the rental industry since the beginning and I don’t see that changing,” says Clint Lancaster, technical director, National Association of Trailer Manufacturers (NATM), Topeka, Kan.

Some rental stores also are asking for and getting customized trailers to meet customer needs. For example, Axis Corp. in Bellefontaine, Ohio, has developed a self-propelled dump trailer that can go directly to where it is needed on a job site without being towed by a vehicle. Most trailer manufacturers also tout their specialized units designed to handle specific applications.

“Contractors are looking to get into long-term lease/rental arrangements with specialized equipment, so as much as we are trying to make our standard product offering more versatile, we also are seeing more rental companies having more customized and job-specific application trailer requests,” says Patrick Jennissen, marketing and sales director, Felling Trailers, Sauk Center, Minn.

The variety of trailers available today also has grown, with available products including everything from those with inclining platforms, pan-tilt and ramps to those without ramps, air suspension models and others that can drop to the ground or be raised to dock heights for loading and unloading.

Trailers are an essential part of a rental store’s inventory, whether or not the trailer is rented, Felling’s Jennissen says.

“It is all about billable hours and uptime. You cannot make money on a piece of equipment that you cannot get to the job site,” he says. “All delivery methods have their place, but trailers are the most cost-effective way to get equipment from point A to point B. This equals more money in a rental store’s pocket.”

For example, the same hydraulic tail trailers from Felling can load 50,000-lb. excavators as well as indoor forklifts. The company says it currently offers more than 205 different trailer models.

Advance Metalworking in Kewanee, Ill., offers an inclining platform trailer with models ranging from 6,000 to 16,000 lbs. in single- and dual-axle versions as well as an elevating platform trailer that can drop flat to the ground and be raised to dock heights with capacities ranging from 4,400 lbs. to 15,000 lbs.

“The latest trends are to operate trailers that have more than one use. This allows for in-house use as well as the renting of the trailers. It also provides a new revenue stream if the rental house wants to also sell trailers,” says Ron Williams, national sales manager and part-owner, NoRamp Trailers, Elkhart, Ind.

The advantages of using trailers, Williams says, is better fuel mileage in the long run and versatility, as a flatbed truck could be “overkill” for carrying smaller equipment.

Williams says the latest advances in trailer design include new technologies for safer loading and unloading of equipment, LED lighting for better visibility and options for specific uses.

NATM’s Lancaster adds that those types of advances are only the beginning as he expects things like anti-lock brakes and other technologies used in vehicles to be adapted to trailers over the next few years.

There also are several other trailer companies that target the equipment rental industry as a key customer segment and offer an extensive selection of multi-purpose and specific-use trailers.

In addition to Felling and NoRamp, the following list includes several other companies exhibiting at The Rental Show 2012 in New Orleans that offer trailers to the rental industry:

  • Anderson Manufacturing, Camilla, Ga., has a line of utility, equipment, car-hauler and dump trailers.
  • Best Trailer, Grass Valley, Calif., offers equipment trailers as well as utility pan, tilt bed, roller and car trailer models.
  • Croft Trailer Supply, Kansas City, Mo., has tilt, utility, enclosed, equipment, skid-steer and dump trailers as well as tow dollies and parts to repair, replace or build trailers.
  • Landoll, Maysville, Kan., offers hydraulic, traveling tail, detachable, bottom dump, dolly, utility and industrial tag trailers.
  • Redi Haul, Fairmont, Minn., lists pintle hitch flatbeds, skid loader, tilt bed, utility and hydraulic dump trailers among products it offers.
  • Region Welding of Missouri, Union, Mo., has flatbeds, enclosed trailers, dollies and a variety of dump trailers.
  • Rock Line Products, La Verne, Calif., manufactures the Air-Tow trailer line offering ground-level loading and air suspension.
  • Towmaster, Litchfield, Minn., has drop deck, drop deck tilt, hydraulic, deck-over, deck-over tilt, rigid gooseneck, detachable gooseneck and hydraulic tail trailers among others.
  • Trail EZE Trailers, Mitchell, S.D., offers custom-built equipment-hauling trailers with payload capacities from 10 to 75 tons, including hydraulic tail, slide axle, container frame, implement, lowboy, specialty and tag trailers.

Other trailer manufacturers and those that offer accessories and towable equipment can be found in the Management Sourcebook 2012 Buying Guide published by Rental Management in December 2011.

While trailers and towable equipment are key products for rental stores, NATM’s Lancaster said the problem is that trailers and towables tend to be the last to get maintenance and service.

As a result, Lancaster also worked with the American Rental Association (ARA) and ARA Insurance to develop the “Trailer Maintenance Guide” (see story on page 39) and recommends that every rental store with trailers establish a maintenance system for trailers and towable equipment.

Trailers also once accounted for more insurance claims than any other specific piece of equipment. Since then, the trailer industry has taken steps to improve the safety of its products and ARA Insurance has focused on a variety of risk management initiatives targeting trailer safety, which have been effective in reducing the number of trailer-related claims.

“The absolute minimum that a customer should expect is that the manufacturer is NATM compliant,” Jennissen says. “Felling has a quality assurance program in place that makes sure every trailer gets two inspections prior to going off the line. One is a structural and welding inspection and the second is a functional and aesthetic inspection. Upon customer request, we have a third check, which includes a DOT [Department of Transportation] inspection. We have five licensed DOT compliance inspectors on staff.”

Also on the safety front, Williams touts how NoRamp Trailers eliminated ramps and tilt-bed approach angles with its ground-loading technology. “This avoids equipment damage and our method also allows for the changing of flat tires without using a jack, saving time and injuries,” Williams says.    — Wayne Walley


Making trailers safer

One of key missions of the National Association of Trailer Manufacturers (NATM) is to actively address industry safety issues at various levels.

“We addressed wheel-off issues a few years ago in an industry-wide project that resulted in a 350-page e-book on ‘Understanding the Wheel Fastening System’ and contained about 200 pages of engineering studies and reports. From this an ANSI Recommended Practice was developed for manufacturers called ‘Process Controls for Assembly of Wheels on Trailers,’” says Clint Lancaster, NATM’s technical director.

“Also, as part of that program, a shop poster was developed illustrating the proper wheel mounting and wheel nut tightening procedure. Currently the industry is working on developing an industry standard for trailer brake testing and performance criteria. Trailer brakes and their performance have not been addressed by the federal government except for commercial trailers. Consumer trailer braking is the responsibility of the individual states and the requirements are all different, from some states not requiring any brakes on trailers to other states requiring brakes on trailers as small as 1,000 GVWR [gross vehicle weight rating],” Lancaster says.

“This causes issues for trailer manufacturers that ship trailers to different states and the same trailer may be used for commercial or consumer use without the manufacturer knowing which. This can be an issue for the rental stores as well. NATM is working with the Recreational Vehicle Association and the Boat Trailer Association to address this issue. The intention is to publish the test procedure and performance criteria through the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE), which is one of our standards writing bodies,” he says.

NATM also is working to address issues at the plant, dealer and with consumers. “Our Compliance Verification Program for our members is now mandatory. We visit every plant of our manufacturing members and verify their compliance to federal and industry safety standards,” Lancaster says.

“It is important to trailer buyers to look for the NATM Compliance Decal. Also, in 2012, we just rolled out a new program, ‘Dealers Committed to Compliance.’ This program recognizes trailer dealers that only sell compliant trailers. There are a lot of trailers that are built illegally and unsafely, and without federal oversight, which there is none. They are sold by dealers that want to have an inexpensive sale. In addition to the NATM Compliance Decal on trailers, I would recommend rental stores also look for reputable dealers and ask if they are ‘Dealers Committed to Compliance.’ These are efforts to help the community recognize qualified manufacturers and dealers.”

NATM also has published the “Trailer Handbook: A Guide to Understanding Trailers and Towing Safety” to help educate trailer users, which Lancaster says could be used by rental stores to train new employees or as a point-of-sale item for customers.


ARA and ARA Insurance offer trailer resources

Proper maintenance — as well as knowing how to correctly load and secure equipment — is essential for rental stores that have trailers in their fleet. Whether a store is a construction, general tool or party and event rental operation, the American Rental Association (ARA) and ARA Insurance offers a variety of resources to help keep trailers running smoothly and safely.

  • ARA Professional Driver Education Program. This nine-module, rental-specific, online program for drivers, yard personnel and others working in a construction and general tool operation offers tips and advice for best practices and real-life video examples of situations, including:
    • l Loading equipment onto a trailer.
    • l Securing that load, including recognizing the designated attachment points on trailers and understanding Department of Transportation (DOT) regulations governing proper load securement.
    • l Unloading equipment.
    • l On-the-road safety while equipment is on the trailer.
    • l Picking up that equipment from the customer’s site.

Those who complete the program and pass the final comprehensive exam will receive a certificate of completion, uniform patch, hard-hat sticker and wallet card.

Supervisors also receive a Coaching Guide, complete with a six-page Driver Review Form, to help conduct hands-on assessment of employees enrolled in the program.

This program is offered to ARA members at a tieredb pricing structure. ARA Insurance customers also receive an additional 10 percent savings off the price of each employee enrolled. When employees complete the program, insured members become eligible for auto insurance premium discounts at policy renewal.

  • Managing Risk: Trailer Maintenance System Guide. This manual offers a broad overview of trailer maintenance and outlines a maintenance schedule, reviews maintenance instructions and includes forms, a glossary and other resources to help create a comprehensive trailer maintenance program. The guide comes with two trailer maintenance folders that include forms needed to implement such a program.
  • Winning with Towable Safety. This training program for employees provides instruction via DVD and covers trailer maintenance and safety, including hitches, couplers, safety chains, loading, and lights and brakes.
  • Tow vehicle capacity poster. ARA Insurance developed this poster to help insured members explain to renters that the weight of the rented equipment, trailer and accessories cannot exceed a vehicle’s rated towing capacity. It also notifies renters that the rental store reserves the right to refuse rentals due to safety concerns. For a poster, contact ARA Insurance at 800-821-6580 or visit ARAinsure.com.
  • Trailer hitch gauge. About half of all ARA Insurance claims that involve trailers or towable equipment are due to the towable detaching from the towing vehicle and most of those accidents are caused by misidentification of the coupler to the hitch ball size. That is why ARA Insurance developed a trailer hitch gauge that helps insured rental store employees determine whether a renter’s hitch ball is 17/8, 2 or 25/16 in. in diameter. For a hitch gauge, contact ARA Insurance.

For more information or to purchase these products, go to ARArental.org, click on the “Shop ARA” section and then select “ARA Risk Management.”

ARA Insurance customers automatically will receive discounts and can obtain ARA Insurance products by logging on to ReSource via ARAinsure.com or by calling the risk management department at 800-821-6580.    — Connie Lannan