Nothing Dumpy About New Dump Trucks and Trailers
Dump trucks are hardly the most glamorous machines on the job, so they are rarely in the forefront when it comes to showcasing hot new design and technology innovations. For anything new to have real value for vocational applications, it has to work reliably under often-harsh conditions. Nonetheless, new developments are making dump trucks and trailers tougher and smarter. Oh, and by the way, better looking.
Dump trucks are getting the kind of physical and technology upgrades long-haul truck fleets have enjoyed the past several years. Without sacrificing the real world toughness dump trucks require, manufacturers are now offering vehicles that are safer, more fuel-friendly, and able to communicate automatically in real time.
- Technology has gained wide acceptance among truckers, so manufacturers are incorporating it as a matter of course in vocational equipment as well
- Stringent anti-pollution and fuel consumption regulations have forced OEMs to re-design engines and bodies
- Today’s vocational models have a lot more in common with on-highway trucks, making it easier and more cost-effective to “morph” off-road vehicles
- Dump trucks are still trucks, no matter where they work, so owners and operators have essentially the same needs and face similar challenges to their highway-driving counterparts
Better dump truck safety is coming from tech-assisted collision mitigation systems, now standard on some models. Some trucks have onboard electronics that can hold speed to 5 mph during dumping or stop a truck altogether when a crane boom is extended. In many cases, audio and/or visual alarms alert drivers to potentially unsafe conditions or automatically-triggered precautions.
Technology is also improving safety through the use of cameras that broaden overall visibility from inside the cab and assist with maneuvering. Some dump trucks are now equipped with electronic tire pressure monitoring, which can boost fuel economy as well as safety. And telematics are now the norm, enabling operators and fleet managers to monitor truck performance in real time and capture data that supports preventive maintenance and business planning.
And then there are physical changes that have improved safety. More — and more ergonomically-situated — steps and hand-holds enable drivers to enter and exit the cab more easily and safely. This is particularly important for dump trucks, because many job types require drivers to climb in and out frequently.
The trailers that follow are getting an uplift, too
Eighty percent of new dump trailers manufactured in the US are now made of aluminum. It’s much lighter than steel and resists corrosion, so aluminum can help save money on fuel and wear and tear. That said, steel dump bodies and trailers still have their place. Aluminum is popular for hauling processed materials such as gravel, sand, crushed stone, or asphalt.
But manufacturers are still producing units made of steel for use in industries such as demolition and rock or trash hauling. But now they’re using hardened steel for added strength and durability. And, in some cases, the advent of thin-yet-very-strong steel is allowing OEMs to build trailers that are lighter than traditional steel and less expensive than aluminum.
Where steel is still the material of choice, OEMs are working to reduce inevitable corrosion by “designing out” creases and other places where moisture can accumulate.
Dumps are looking smoother, thanks to a change in wall construction. The traditional sheet-and-post style walls with exterior braces are out. Smooth-sided double walls with in-line interior posts are in, because they offer multiple advantages. The walls are stronger and more rigid, and the dents and bulges that are a natural result of loading and hauling heavy, sharp, or abrasive materials don’t show on the exterior.
The smooth sides are also more aerodynamic, helping improve tractor fuel consumption. And the more aerodynamic look is more stylish. That may not affect performance or operations costs, but how dump trucks and trailers look on the job and on the road does contribute to a contractor’s branding and reputation. In some models, trailer aerodynamics extends around the nose. This design isn’t new, exactly, but it’s growing in popularity because it further increases fuel savings.
Pulling it all together
What should you look for in tomorrow’s new-and-improved dump trucks and trailers? Industry watchers say one big trend is connectivity – tractor chassis and bodies and dumps with integrated technology that can further improve performance, economy, and safety.