Semi-trailers are vital for the shipment of goods throughout North America. Among the many that are hauled across the nation, there are several different types of trailers that complete different types of jobs. These styles include:
Flatbed Trailer – an open air trailer that has a bed at a consistent height
Lowboy Trailer – a flatbed trailer that drops low to the ground, to ship oversized, tall freight
Drop Trailer – a flatbed trailer with two bed heights used to ship oversized freight and equipment
Refrigerated – these trailers haul anything from -22 to 80 degrees Fahrenheit and are used for food and pharmaceutical products
Removable Gooseneck (RGN) Trailer – similar to a lowboy trailer, the RGN can drop the bed to form a ramp, used for shipping heavy machinery and it can handle increased weight
Dry Vans – one of the most common types of trailer, they are fully enclosed protecting goods inside from damage, theft, and weather.
Tank – delivering bulk products such as food products, oil, chemicals, cement & plastics.
Although they differ in both style and use, these semi-trailers are often plagued by similar maintenance issues. Check out a few of the common issues semi-trailers face as they’re hauled across the nation:
Common Semi-Trailer Issues
1. Faulty Brake Lines & Pads
A common issue when hooking up your trailer is a missing or damaged gladhand connector. This causes air to leak out of the seal, preventing air from moving down the line and reaching the piston at each wheel.
If the gladhand is connected with a tight fitting seal, the brakes may engage but without the same force on each wheel. This could be caused by not enough air pressure being retained in the reserve tank. Without adequate air pressure, the piston that pushes the brake pad against the drum cannot be moved.
Additionally, condensation can build up in either the reserve tank or the brake line and, especially when hauling during the cold winter months, you can end up running the risk of ice forming within the brake line. This ice will then block the air from reaching the brake pad and cause significant issues. The low winter temperatures can also cause the pad to freeze to the drum.
2. Tire Failures
Tire failures account for one half of truck breakdowns. Without proper preventative trailer tire maintenance, the result can be a tire blowout. Trailers with under inflated tires, misaligned axles, or low tread tires, cause more strain on the tires themselves and can result in an increased risk of a tire blowout.
The risk is increased during the summer months when warm temperatures can cause the tire air to expand, and hot pavement causes more friction on the tire. During the winter, the risk of poor traction increases especially when tire treads are not maintained and tire pressures can drop beyond desired pressures.
3. Poor Aerodynamics
Poor aerodynamics of a trailer can cause increased air drag. This effectively puts more stress on the tractor engine, the brake lines, and the tires. This increase of stress on key components can also lead to a breakdown. With fuel being one of the highest expenses for trucking companies, assessing a fleet’s aerodynamics can lead to higher profits.
4. Electrical Issues
Electrical issues can occur on both the tractor and the trailer. If basic preventative maintenance is ignored, electrical shorts can happen, causing any number of issues from safety light failure to broken refrigeration compressors.
Although electrical issues are not as potentially life threatening as some of the other common issues, they are still enough to put your trailer out of service. Additional attention needs to be given during the summer, as these issues are usually increased due to the added heat and stress on the existing electrical wiring. Also, because of the importance of lights and electrical connections, issues with these areas can lead to added downtime and an increase in your CSA score.
Preventative Trailer Maintenance
While there are several common issues that happen to semi-trailers, one way to avoid them is by practicing regular preventative maintenance. To make sure this maintenance plan is adhered by on a regular basis, it’s best to create a proper pre-trip checklist. Here are a few important items to add to your checklist when developing your semi-trailer preventative maintenance plan.
Make sure to regularly check your semi-trailer tire pressures along with inspecting the tires for cracks in the sidewalls and any excessive wear in the treads. For the wheel, more specifically, regularly check the tightness of lug nuts.
Another vital item to add to your checklist is to inspect the brake lines and pads for any cracks or signs of corrosion. Also, ensure the gladhands are sealed and the brakes respond when the brake pedal is pressed. Having faulty semi-trailer brakes is a truck driver’s worst nightmare.
One of the most important items to check on is that the trailer’s lights are fully operational. Ensure the brake, tail and signal lights are all in working order. Having trailer lights that don’t work is an incredibly dangerous safety hazard, especially when driving during the early morning or late night hours.
Nowadays, many operations of a semi-trailer run via electrical connection. Whether this system affects your trailer’s lighting, refrigeration or any other feature, it’s important to double check that you have proper electrical connections between the tractor and trailer. If using a reefer trailer, run pretrips, open the doors and visually check for corrosions.
Fluids & Lubrication
Regarding your trailer’s fluids and lubrication, it’s important to remember that the fifth wheel must be properly lubricated in order to avoid excessive wear and tear. When addressing your engine fluids, check for any leaking that is happening underneath the trailer. One specific area to watch out for includes the trailer’s refrigeration compressors. Faulty compressors can result in a non-operational refrigeration unit and consequently damage the product in the trailer. Verifying the refrigeration unit is properly charged and cleaning both the condenser and evaporator helps to ensure a properly running system.
Inspecting your trailer’s suspension is the final area to look over. It’s important to look over your trailer to see if there are any cracked leaves, missing or damaged bolts and bushings, and leaks in the shock absorbers.
High Quality Semi-Trailer Maintenance Services
While making sure you perform adequate preventive maintenance on your truck is important, it’s equally important to do the same for your trailer. Creating and following a maintenance schedule is important if you’re wanting to keep your trailer on the road and free from breakdowns. Whether you’re hauling your trailer throughout the state or throughout the entire country, it’s a great idea to have your maintenance checklist already created so you can track the service you’ve completed along with what may need to be addressed soon.
If you’re currently located in the greater Twin Cities, MN area and you’re needing parts, service, or maintenance work completed on your trailer or your entire fleet of trailers, contact our professional semi-trailer maintenance shop today! The crew at North American Trailer is a trusted resource as we have over 35 years of experience. You can trust us to help keep your trailer safe and on the road. Call us today!