A Guide to Truck Trailers: Service and Repair, Different Types and Regulations
If you own and manage a fleet or run a logistics company, then you’ll know how important it is to keep your vehicles well maintained. We rely on these vehicles for the vital movement of goods and they’re an essential part of the supply chain for a wide range of items, from food to medicine, fuel, clothing, building materials and more.
If you work in the haulage or logistics industry then you have an obligation to ensure your fleet is in a safe, roadworthy condition and remains compliant with any regulations. Maintenance and repairs are necessary for any vehicle from time to time and even more so they’re under a lot of heavy use. With this in mind, we’ve put together a comprehensive guide to help you look after your truck trailers. From general maintenance, to the different types of trailer and any legal regulations and requirements, read on to find out more.
What is a truck trailer?
Put simply, a trailer is an unpowered vehicle towed by a powered vehicle, so a truck trailer makes up the main part of a truck or lorry and they’re used to house and transport goods and materials. There are several different types of truck trailer available and we will discuss some of the most common in more detail, below.
This model is one of the most popular and widely used trailer types, partly due to their excellent versatility. Flatbeds allow users to load freights from the tip, sides or rear, making them a highly useful and central part of the trucking industry. Flatbeds can carry loads of up to 48,000 pounds and have a maximum length of 48-53 ft. They’re commonly used to transport large construction equipment or items that cannot be placed in semi trucks.
Also commonly known as dry van trailers, these trailers protect goods from the weather or harsh conditions on the roads. Freights are loaded onto the trailer from the rear, often using a loading dock, although some goods can be loaded via the sides too. These trailers protect items from the elements but they are not temperature controlled, making them unsuitable for perishable goods. Enclosed trailers can haul up to 45,000 pounds of cargo weight, which translates to around 26 standard pallets of goods.
These trailers are temperature controlled and generally used to transport chilled or frozen goods. The main benefit of using a refrigerated trailer is that you can control the temperature inside, no matter what the weather is like outside. This allows companies to transport perishable or temperature-sensitive goods in the height of summer or freezing winter weather. The trailers are commonly powered by a diesel generator and they’re built to be airtight to stabilise the temperature inside.
Side kit trailers
These trailers come with a series of panels (made from plywood or fibreglass) which allow it to transform from a flatbed to a covered trailer. They’re often used to carry goods which can’t be packaged or stored in crates and it also protects items from outside elements.
Low loader trailers
Lowboys are another common type of unpowered trailer used to haul freight and they’re generally designed to transport taller goods and items. Lowboys are often used for cases where the goods exceed the legal height that a flatbed trailer can carry, and their deck is extremely low in comparison with other trailer types. Low loader trailers can carry legal loads of up to 12ft tall, which other trailers can not.
Step deck trailers
Also known as a drop deck, these trailers are another version of a flatbed trailer, with a bottom and top deck. Although they share similarities with a flatbed model, this type is specifically designed to transport freights that cannot be carried on a standard flatbed trailer. This is usually due to height restrictions and step decks can carry loads up to 10ft tall, with a total maximum weight of 48,000 pounds.
There are several rules and regulations for trailers and it’s important to know the UK law on towing before you hit the road. These regulations are laid out in the Road Vehicles (Construction and Use) Regulations 1986 which you can see in full here, but we’ve summarised some of the most important points below.
For towing vehicles weighing in excess of 3.5 tonnes, the maximum width and length that a trailer can be is 2.55 metres and 12 metres respectively. If the gross weight of the vehicle is 3.5 tonnes or less, then the trailer can be a maximum of 2.3 metres in width and 7 metres in length. In either case, the total length of the vehicle and trailer must not exceed 18 or 18.75 metres, depending on the type of trailer and towing vehicle.
UK law does not state any specified relationship between the weight of the truck and the weight of the trailer, however this only applies to towing vehicles that weigh under 3,500kg. The maximum laden weight of a goods trailer depends on two different variables; the stated gross weight of the towing vehicle and the vehicle manufacturer’s recommended maximum permissible trailer weight.
In all cases, the maximum trailer weight and the maximum gross weight of the trailer and towing vehicle should not be exceeded. In some cases the maximum trailer weight may be higher than the gross total weight (when combined with the towing vehicle), so adjustments must be made accordingly.
There are some detailed breaking requirements laid out in Regulations 15 and 16 of the
The Road Vehicles (Construction & Use) Regulations 1986, and these are vital to ensure the safety of everyone on the road. These regulations require any trailer with a maximum laden weight of 750kg or above to be braked and allow an inertia (overrun) type braking system to be used up to a maximum permissible laden weight of 3500kg.
If the laden trailer weight is above 1500kg, the trailer must be fitted with a device to stop it automatically in the event of separation (not failure) of the main coupling. This is normally achieved by a breakaway cable attached to the parking brake mechanism, which can then detach the trailer from the towing vehicle. These are just a few examples of the complicated brake regulations, so it’s important to read up on the specific rules for your trailer type.
How to maintain your trailer
When it comes to vehicle maintenance, it’s often the powered front part that gets most of the attention, but it’s vital to look after your trailers too. Regular trailer maintenance will ensure you stay safe on the road and it will ensure your trailers are in peak operating condition for as long as possible.
Good trailer maintenance should include:
- Checking the air pressure in your tyres
- Inspect the suspension for signs of wear and tear, heat cracks or anything caught that could be interfering with the suspension’s movement. You’ll also need to make sure the suspension is at the correct ride height.
- Your trailer needs the correct lubrication to ensure it’s functioning at its best and you may need to inspect the undercarriage of the trailer to ensure all components have enough grease.
- Check the brakes and ensure they’re at the right angle.
- Ensure trailer lights are working.
- Check the interior for damage, such as holes in the roof or broken aluminium cross members.
- Inspect tiedown straps, chains, ratchets and winches for rust and look for holes, tears, cuts, snags, loose stitching or embedded particles in the straps and securing hardware.
If you’re looking for complete truck trailer services and maintenance support, get in touch with the experts at Transcare. We understand how important it is to look after your fleet, so come to us if you’re in need of fleet servicing, trailer repairs, truck diagnostics, general maintenance, body and accident repair, air conditioning services and much more.
We’re proud to be the largest repair agent in Derbyshire, and with over two decades of experience, you can be sure that your vehicles are in safe hands. If you’re looking for ‘truck repair near me’ or want more information about any of our customised solutions or comprehensive services, give us a call today or visit our website.