From pipelines to roads to skyscrapers and private homes, construction projects are booming across the country and the need to move equipment and supplies to these sites is greater than it has been in years.
And whether they own their own or hire out heavy transport companies, contractors, pavers, landscapers, and everyone in between will be using a trailer to fulfill their role and meet the needs for building services. They might move 100 tons or just one, once a month or every day, but they all need dependable, serviceable units that will be sturdy and safe for the task at hand.
Achieving the Requisite Three Pillars
Although they offer a wide range of units, “every trailer matters,” says Russ Losh, Northeast regional sales manager, Talbert Manufacturing.
“When we first talk to customers, we listen. And then we line up the experts on both our and the customer side. This might mean someone here in-house or at one of our dealer network sites across the country.
“But first we start by asking the customer basic questions—what are you moving, where is it going—and then we hone in on the model they need. For example, is it general construction versus paving, is it hauling for mining, or something else,” says Losh.
Troy Geisler, Talbert VP of sales and marketing, underscores the alignment of experts on both sides to come up with most appropriate model for the intended job the trailer will perform.
“We work without dealers and end-users which allows us to collectively wander down the best path possible toward solutions. One of the questions we ask is to help them forecast how their loads in the future may change, as what they may want now may be unsuited to service their needs in the future.”
Talbert offers a wide array of trailers, from a 10-ton tag-a-long to 13-axle custom trailers, and “an array of configurations to ensure optimal performance such as fixed, mechanical, and hydraulic neck, with many lengths and set ups,” he says.
Geisler adds that they have many deck designs, and “the most common ones include the flat, level deck, a raised center/dropside deck, and a beam deck.”
“Each of these has specialized uses and cost considerations and we also offer different rear bridge designs, including a modular design to add deck or have deck interchangeability. Plus we can vary the axle spacing and deck design to accommodate the hauling product.”
Losh adds that weight, location, and convenience are other key factors. For example, contractors don’t want to spend a lot of time moving their track and wheel equipment but they have height and weight considerations. So they may choose a dropside deck and hydraulic removable gooseneck, which is a good compromise.
“A flat deck is the most versatile,” says Gary Braasch who works on Talbert inside sales and, with his contact with customers and the ear of engineering specialists, can help create the perfect hauling solutions.
“You give up on the height and weight with a flat deck, but you can haul more things on it. This is the focus of our job—to go through all the intangibles with the customer and get them a trailer that will do the best job, for the most versatility. A beam deck might work for 10% of their work, a drop side for 80%, and a flat deck for 80% so it’s all about customization.”
The company operates on three pillars of business, Braasch adds. “First, safety; this is a trailer designed to safely move your haul from point A to B. Then, durability; these are built to last for many decades and last is value. Talbert trailers command a higher price and when you need to move to a newer or different model as business changes, your investment dollars can be recouped to support that.”
Jesse Wheaton at Lancaster, PA, Hiltz Logistics describes the unique extreme load demand that Talbert helped facilitate for the company.
“Hiltz is a two-sided company,” explains Wheaton, “that both serves the construction side to build propane plants and then transports the empty propane tanks to the site for the operations.
“The tanks are enormous at 91 feet long by 11 feet in diameter,” says Wheaton, “and that’s the smaller one! We also have a 134 foot long and 140 foot long, both with the 11-foot diameter. If you can imagine transporting these, it’s quite a logistical effort and we can only drive about 350 miles a day, so it can take weeks to get to a destination. You can’t stop to refuel, and you have to have clearance for these massive units, literally every step of the way. I’ve gone through Manhattan to Long Island, NY, as a night move, and they shut down all four lanes and we basically own the road.”
He adds that they are always accompanied by state police and other tandem vehicles flagging motorists with the “Wide Load” messages. “It’s a real curiosity and people are sometimes annoyed at a delay, but they’re mostly curious at what these huge things are, and with all the flashing lights, we look pretty special, like the ‘rock stars’ of road transport,” says Wheaton, adding that it is all done with special routing and permitting for the length of the trip intended.
To manage the challenges, Hiltz turned to Talbert to help create a trailer that would do the job delivering the large propane pressure vessels from Pennsylvania to their destination across North America. Braasch describes the process to develop the configuration they used.
“Russ helped them design this Hiltz customization which started as a six-axle originally. Then, as their needs grew, and they bought the transportation business in expansion, they had to deliver these huge tanks and needed a means to move them.”
As the tanks themselves were so long at over 100 feet, “the design worked around making the tank itself the trailer and supporting it at the front and rear,” says Braasch.
Geisler adds that in order to move the loads down the road, “they utilize a custom Talbert three-axle jeep that is hooked onto their truck.”
“The tanks that are considered a self-supporting load are secured to both the jeep and their Talbert six-axle steering dolly. The dolly is outfitted with a center turntable with oscillating connections, and this enables the driver to safely and dependably maneuver the load down the road.”
Wheaton confirms the solution. “For us, the number one consideration is engineering on a loaded deck; the height and strength is an absolute must to get the least weight and scale out the huge load. This puts more pressure on the engineering to do it right, which Talbert did perfectly for us,” he says.
“I drive these myself so I know all the nuances of what is needed and how this all must work seamlessly. You can’t be too careful; it’s a very methodical process checking and rechecking every detail. There’s so much risk and liability, so the last thing you need to worry about is your trailer performance, and with Talbert backing me every foot of the way, I have every confidence on every trip.”
A trailer by any other name is not an Interstate trailer, and Amanda Dodd, spokesperson for the Mansfield, TX, manufacturer, says, “Some of the basic differences are in how we build them.”
“One of the main factors I see in major manufacturing when building a construction equipment trailer is they don’t use pierce-beam construction.”
Dodd explains that their steel main beams “go on a plasma cutter and [are] pierced in the shape of the I-beams and this provides much more strength and, moreover, there is continuity of the strength of the whole piece.”
“Most manufacturers use cold form A-frame construction which means that the front part connects to the main deck and some might use a weld instead of continuous cold forming.”
She adds that some of their customers had switched to their brand as a result of buying a trailer that was snapping apart at the tongue at the weld point. “It’s a big investment, but wouldn’t you rather buy a trailer every 20 years instead of a less expensive new one every year?”
She then says that once the beams have been through the plasma cutter they go into a press that bends it into the required shape for the model being formed.
“Our engineers will look at a specific load challenge a customer brings and they will do a line drawing for the customer scoping out their truck and axle weight and analyze the numbers. So the customer not only knows what they are getting, they will be assured it is the right model for their needs.”
When it comes to construction equipment hauling Dodd says they’ve done some very interesting custom designs. She relates how a fleet manager came to the company who purchased a detachable lowboy with an 11–12 foot hydraulic ramp and full width to accommodate every piece of equipment needed for city paving from 25–50 tons.
“This was a very large trailer and it has a gentle slope with a winch where it attaches to the truck so you maximize usable deck space, giving you added versatility.”
The Interstate lineup includes tag-a-long trailers, tilt bed and goosenecks, and lowboys, with several series of choices within each category to fit every construction need from landscaping to heavy machinery transport.
Dodd reports that the tilts have 20,000 to 60,000 pounds carrying capacity and the DT models are dual tire over deck with a difference, but the DLA tilt that goes from 30,000 to 60,000 has air brakes and the DT model is equipped with electric brakes.
For hauling “big dozers and big excavators, the LBG line in our lowboy gooseneck trailer line can handle 50,000- to 100,000-pound payloads. And demand definitely does trend. For a while, we saw a big demand in the LBG line and now there’s a huge trend for tilt and small trailers in our DT and DLA lines.
“One thing we’re finding now is that industry-wide, we are seeing equipment getting bigger and weighing more. So, what worked for your hauling 10 years ago doesn’t work today. A lot of people have been purchasing higher capacity trailers to comply with regulations and meet the demands of the new weights and sizes.”
Citing their customization efforts, Dodd says that one company needed a specific color that matched their machinery fleet color, which was a bright orange. “So now, while they are working on the Dallas Fort Worth project, you can really see the pavers and the trailers at work, they really stand out.”
“Another custom job we did was for a city to haul its antique fire truck in parades and we also had to add removable safety rails. So, our engineers are always kept busy with all kinds of special requests.”
Dodd says that Interstate has 250 dealers nationwide and they can either call direct for referral to a local dealer or talk to the sales home office. Depending on what is in stock “or how busy we are, it might be 12 to 16 weeks to get a trailer order filled.”
“But I can honestly say that for sure, one of the best things about this company is the service after the sale. Having availability of parts, knowledgeable technicians for phone service calls is crucial. When you need something, you don’t want to wait; you can’t have business come to a standstill because your trailer is off the road. At our company, this service is important and not an afterthought of the sales transaction.”
The Hurdles of Heavy Hauling
“The customer that buys our trailer is the customer that is looking for very high quality and specific options. And we deliver on both,” says Nathan Uphus, sales manager of Sauk Centre, MN-based Felling Trailers Inc.
He adds that the company “offers models as well as options that others do not” and that “our warranty is one of the best in the business, which is a limited lifetime structural warranty and a three-year paint warranty.”
After 45 years in the business, Uphus says they have developed relationships that continue. “We do a lot of business with municipalities and have a huge presence in the rental market. When we have natural disasters there is a big need for short term clean up for debris removal—cleaning out of homes for example—and our dealer network in every state and throughout Canada meets those needs.”
When a customer comes to Felling, he says they first ask “all the appropriate questions” to ensure nothing is overlooked.
“We ask them specific questions regarding the load case as well as what they’ll be using to pull the trailer. Then we design a trailer around that. Most of these units are one-of-a-kind design builds, and we can fulfill the perfect transport solution for heavy hauling customers having unique needs.”
Uphus cites a customer in Memphis who has “all types of paving and excavation equipment who had a special need.”
“They haul all types of equipment but some of these are very awkwardly shaped. A shuttle buggy, for example, is this tall containment vehicle that shadows the asphalt removal of a road-milling machine. After the asphalt is removed by the road mill it is conveyed right into this buggy that is tandem to the mill. This process keeps the milling going and they don’t have to shut down since when the buggy is full it conveys the load directly to a dump truck, so it is a seamless operation in road work.”
For this particular load case, the Felling X-Force model XF-110-3 HDG-L, a 55-ton detachable gooseneck with a 19.5-inch loaded deck height served the purpose.
Felling also serves the commercial transport industry and their X-Force hydraulic detachable gooseneck is dubbed “one of the industry’s most user friendly detachables” through its key features that make it easy for the user/operator to transport.
These include a five-position ride height cam block as well as their air operated vertical lock pin gooseneck latching system with secondary lock handle. The X-Force also has low profile drop center cross members in the rear trunnion making it, “the trailer of choice for tire and track transport machinery.”
Uphus says, “The X-Force model is available in multiple deck height configurations and capacities ranging from 35 to 60 ton and is carefully engineered to accommodate permittable transport.
“You have to follow federal guidelines, but once you get off a federal highway, then you are subject to the state highway laws.”
Felling also offers an air ramp option that eliminates operators having to manually raise and lower ramps and is available from the 20,000-pound tag trailer to the 100,000-pound hydraulic detachables. Basically, “Any air-brake equipped trailer can be optioned with air ramps without adding an extra power source to do the job,” explains Uphus.
With two manufacturing facilities in Minnesota, and the attendant long winters with snow and ice, the concept of rusting steel is an all-too familiar headache for Felling and equipment owners alike.
To help prevent corrosion and deter rust, Uphus reports they offer the best paint finish in the industry, which consists of steel grit blasting then applying polyurethane primer and paint via state-of-the-art electrostatic equipment in a fully controlled environment.
“An option gaining more popularity is our hot dip galvanizing, which can extend the life of the trailer by decades—perfect for harsh climates and rough working conditions.”
As track and tire equipment loads take a toll on any trailer deck, Uphus says they use a lot of locally sourced white oak, plus Brazilian apitong, as an option on any model.
“Your equipment loading and unloading takes a real toll on the deck. The nice thing about wood decking is you just replace it whenever necessary.”
Uphus explains they partner with an organization that acts as a cooperative for companies offering services to municipalities. Through this not-for-profit organization, “cities and towns can be assured the offering of services have undergone scrutiny, and the prices are fixed, which reduces their purchasing stress and increases buyers satisfaction.”
“Throughout every stage of our manufacturing and at every station we have a quality control checkpoint. The heavy haul buyer can be confident that their trailer will be tough, durable, and moreover, get the job done safely.”
“The first thing we do is go through a handful of questions when a customer comes to us,” says Chris Pokornowski, national sales manager for Litchfield, MN-based Towmaster Trailers.
“We need to find out what they are carrying, when do you need it, what’s the heaviest load you might be carrying, and is it one trailer taking multiple machines. Finally, we ask them are you going to use this every day, once a week or month, or what do they anticipate in use. All of this then helps us decide which level of product to recommend and why it will best serve their needs.”
Pokornowski says that the decision then comes down to suggesting a unit from their main lines of trailers, including small tags, Economy, or the Premium Towmaster line. Or it might be some combination of these as, “We can offer all the bells and whistles that you could ever want.”
“It just makes more sense to help the customer find the right trailer than have multiple trailers. For one thing, you use less fuel, you’re taking fewer trips, and this increases cost efficiency on the job.
“We cater to the heavy construction and rental industry so whether customers are heavy haul operators or construction company owners, they can all be confident that with Towmaster’s ‘one piece cold-formed mainframe’ every trailer will hold up to the demands of heavy payload transport.”
Pokornowski explains the cold form process: “We form the beam to create the tongue of the trailer by putting it in a press to get the shape, rather than using heat to create a rigid neck.”
He adds that the process of “forming rather than welding gives better strength. And, our cross members are also a heavier grade than is typical, and they are placed closer together which provides a uniform support of the payload weight,” he explains.
He says that the quality from using a T-1 material for flanges and Grade 80 web is used by most of the industry, “But we engineer ours by using more of these components, so it is stronger and heavier.”
For heavy haul, “You can drive big machines up onto the main deck while detached, then you just back up to the trailer. There is a pin system that will match up the pins to lock them in place and then the hydraulic cylinders lift the bed and you are ready to go.”
He describes how one customer needed to transport a paver, a roller and a mini excavator and were planning to use two trailers, but Pokornowski says, “We took a shot at getting it all on one trailer.”
“They came in and together we designed a lowboy with the proper engineering so they would be permitted and would take all the equipment at one time. They, of course, were very happy with not having to pay anyone to do these loads and could combine their transport. However, if someone asks to put too much payload on one trailer, we can’t comply with that because we will only build something that can be legally hauled.”
The most common deck-over models are designed for 20 tons and the lowboy lines for 35–60 tons. He adds, “We have options galore for lowboy customers to choose from, including deck heights and widths, trailer lengths, and custom accessories.”
Pokornowski says he finds that one of the main culprits that compromises any towing effort is less the trailer “than its being towed by an undersized truck.”
“This is why we always ask what are you using to transport the loads. When companies may be expanding and adding service and equipment, they don’t always consider whether their truck is adequate for the job.”
While the majority of Towmaster trailers are destined for road construction, he says there is a significant portion slated for rental markets. Pokornowski adds that since their acquisition by Monroe Truck Equipment, the company is experiencing growth in both the commercial truck build and transport market.
“They build the bodies and commercial truck upfitting for snow and ice snowplows; we have a growing municipal customer list.”
He adds that since 2008, the trend in trailers is increasingly toward customization and that people come to them and say, “Here’s what we need—can you make it work?”
“Which is always great to hear, and underscores the trust people have in us. We have also expanded our dealer network to meet the latest surge in construction.”
But while this is good news, he adds the increased demand presents another challenge.
Explaining that in the spring, when the building market starts to get back into action after the slower winter, operator owners are thinking about getting a new trailer, “but this is really almost too late.”
“Now with construction in a record year, we would say, ‘plan ahead.’ It takes months to generate inventory for our dealers, and with the extra capacity from Monroe, we can increase our output. Nonetheless, when customers need to get to work they don’t want to wait four months, so we are urging customers to order early and put your order in before you need it.”
The Towmaster brand is known for being reliable and easy to own, and Pokornowski says they stand behind the quality.
“We offer 10-year frame and structure warranty and on the lowboys a five-year frame warranty. Plus we have a three-year paint warranty and a five-year warranty on our heavy-duty adjustable suspension. However, our warranty claims are very low, which we attribute to our engineering that is designed to address any potential overloads, so if there is an overload, there won’t be a failure. And no failure means no claims.”
A Century of Innovation
With a “great history that goes back over 100 years, Rogers trailers have been a real pioneer in the industry,” says John Conner, trailer sales manager for Harrisburg, PA-based Stephenson Equipment, whose doors opened in Prospect Park, PA, in 1926.
He reports that their business was the first-ever dealer for Rogers Trailers whose Tag-Along trailer launched the brand almost a century ago.
“Even thought the phrase Tag-Along was a registered trademark, like so many other products that defined the market at their entry, everyone uses ‘tag-a-long’ as a description for this type of trailer. But Rogers was the first in the marketplace, and we were the first to sell them,” explains Conner.
Rogers trailers are sold globally in 60 countries, “mostly through contracted distributors, but at Stephenson Equipment, we are somewhat unique in that we take the Rogers production stock and then build a customized product.”
“While we cater primarily to construction contractors and heavy haulers to a degree, the majority of these units are proprietary to each individuals needs and wants. I can say that there are very few trailers that are exactly the same.”
Conner’s current challenge is an unusual payload for railway building. He says a machine the customer is using “is on rail gear and it goes on the rail track.”
“It’s unusually long and the issue is getting the machine from the trailer, then onto the rails, then back on the trailer.”
Loading it on and off has to be done where the rail tracks are flush with grade and filled in with roadway.
“So, what happens is the trailer has to line up on the tracks, and the gooseneck is disconnected from the trailer. Then the machine has a gear that will propel it off the trailer and onto the railway. We installed a winch and special ramps that allow the front of the trailer to connect to the tracks. It provides a long and continuous slope so that the machine can seamlessly navigate the transition from the rails to the trailer. It’s a very long, very specialized trailer and presents a lot of challenges,” explains Conner.
Before anything is done in the manufacturing, Conner says this trailer, “which typically takes 4 to 6 months to build this” requires tremendous planning and engineering.
“After extensive consulting with the customer, the engineering is done up front, and blueprints are drawn, all the issues are addressed and solutions approved before anything happens. Then once it goes to the shop they begin cutting steel for all the bits and pieces required. These are all cut out and then the main piece, the structural mainframe, begins with I-beam welding.
“Essentially all the pieces of the puzzle are laid out and then they start assembling the trailer in three main sections: the gooseneck, the mainframe, and rear assembly frame.
“Many times there are extra axles that are independent and pinned onto trailers to add length in the back; some have removable rear assemblies, and some can interchange the main deck insert for flexibility. We have a proprietary designed I-beam deck, flat platform deck, and a dropside deck with reduced height in the sides to lower the overall height of the machinery.”
Conner says these are a few examples of the approach to customer needs with no ingenuity spared. And customers agree, like Phil Marchello of New Jersey-based Petillo Construction, whose dilemma was hauling a tractor and a pan scraper.
“We do site preparation for warehouses and commercial uses and the 65-ton trailers are in pretty steady use. One particular challenge we had was moving two pieces as one, and John came up with a perfect solution,” explains Marchello.
Conner relates that, “What we did was design a five-axle trailer that had the length, slope, and dimensions to fit this combination of tractor, pull pan on the trailer. The way the bed is made and the rear assembly is configured addresses the problem.”
Marchello says this allows them to “move our farm-type Cat, which is different than the track type vehicle. Moreover, if I have a question on anything I can call Conner. Aside from being well versed in the permitting aspect, he is always involved in the process—from the design beginning to delivery at the end.”
“It’s not an overstatement to say these Rogers trailers are the Rolls Royce of trailers—they have the workmanship, the strength and durability, and they function well,” reports Marchello.
“We’ve had three trailers from Rogers over 10 years, and with every equipment size increase, they have helped manage our transport needs perfectly,” he affirms.
“I can’t recommend them too highly, and to me, I love them; the bigger the better,” says Marchello.
From Wires to Wheels
Another recent customer needed to move large crawler cranes and track drills, as explained by Joe Merse of Linde-Griffith Construction, also in New Jersey.
Merse says he has been the equipment manager for the last 25 of his 35-year tenure with the company, and since the company experienced expansion, “We decided to start to move our own equipment and I began to learn about trailers and trucks.”
“Transporting big 150-ton cranes that are 200,000 pounds and 21 feet wide down the middle of Manhattan is not to be taken lightly and the only trailer built for this is a Rogers,” says Merse. He explains that Conner came down from Stephenson and met with the construction company to develop a plan. “He asked us what we were hauling, how much would it weigh, where were we going and so forth. It was a very profitable exchange to meet our needs.”
The solution for Linde-Griffith involved the design and building of a 100-ton capacity dropside trailer.
Rogers also offers these trailers with a gooseneck dolly. “The gooseneck dolly provided the additional axles required to move these large loads,” Conner says. He recounts that the I-beam is slightly cambered and, “they are built so tough that when we put on a huge load, it didn’t deflect, it didn’t budge an inch. Everything from the way they wire it to the steel they use is just top notch.”
Merse says they are heavily into directional drilling as a deep foundation company. “We do the pile driving for bridges and micropiles under buildings in the middle of urban areas, and we are now doing the tallest building in New Jersey for a Japanese company. When we work in New York, the City would move the street lights out of the way with this massive crane so we can get through to the job. I sometimes say we keep New York growing, and the Rogers trailer gets us there.”
Conner says that there are a lot of competitors but when Roger competes, “we focus on performance and durability.”
“Lower price to gain market share is not what we are about. We have a seven-year structural warranty and we design for a 30-year service life. That means that they’re going to last forever. Our superior standard allows you to carry capacity loads in a concentrated rating at highway speeds.”
Merse adds that he can transport 200,000 pounds down the road with complete confidence.
“Stephenson Equipment is the best and Conner is a knowledgable trailer guy, not just a salesman. He’ll cross every t to make sure I am happy and safe.”