A Semi-Truck and Trailer That is Being Unloaded

A Kingpin Problem Solved – A True Story

Fleets of commercial trucks and trailers are looking to maximize uptime and lower their total cost of operation. Solving a fleetwide connection management problem is very difficult for the fleet, but it is all that we do at Kingpin Specialists. Our nationwide service allows us to address problems with the kingpins regardless of where the trailers are located and how widespread the problem has become.

Fleets are rarely equipped to deal with connection management issues on their own. Beyond the engineered solution and certified welders with specialty training that is required to repair kingpins properly, there is also the liability issue that fleets face when dealing with connection management problems.

Solving a Kingpin Problem

Recently we had a fleet approach us with a connection management problem. The kingpins had a lot of wear and damage, and the problem was spreading across the entire fleet. They didn’t know what to do about it and asked us for help.

We explained that one of the most important steps to solving the wear problem between a kingpin and a fifth wheel is to reduce the variance across the fleet. This is accomplished by repairing the higher worn trailers first and then instituting a maintenance program that keeps wear levels manageable by reducing the variance over time.

Every fleet wears a bit differently because of a variety of factors including but not limited to the age of the equipment, the vocation of the fleet, and the environment that the fleet operates in. Therefore we customize a repair plan based on the needs of the individual fleet, which is what we did in this case.

Minimizing the Disruption to Operations

One of the issues the fleet had was that they really had no downtime where the repairs could be done without impacting the fleet’s operations. Our techs can complete 4-5 trailers a day and we can bring in multiple technicians over the weekends to streamline repairs and meet the operational needs of the fleet.

We explained that “by utilizing our experts you can go from a fleetwide problem to a fleetwide solution with a long-term maintenance plan to avoid the same issue in as little as a weekend.” While this isn’t a perfect solution it did minimize the impact on the operations of the fleet and so they approved the repairs.

Laying Out the Plan to Repair the Kingpins

We would like to share an excerpt from an email that we sent to the fleet providing them with the plan to solve their connection management problem and minimize the impact on the fleet’s operations:

“As discussed, the average wear on the kingpins for drop and hook refrigerated trailers in the foodservice industry can run from .010” to .015” a year.  The kingpins typically will wear out between the 8th and 12th years of their service life. As the fleet ages and more trailers get closer to the compliance limit, the wear rate can increase dramatically.

We have seen fleets with wear rates averaging up to .030” a year. At that high wear rate, the kingpins can become out of compliance in less than 5-years. Therefore we recommend a proactive approach.  When we get a fleet on a maintenance plan, we evaluate the wear patterns and customize a recommended repair schedule based on the fleet’s dynamics. This helps keep the fleet’s wear rate stable, limits the variance across the fleet, and helps identifies equipment issues that normally would have continued to impact the fleet

Looking at the current measurements we would recommend repairs on the 25 trailers that were identified with critical wear rates. Then re-evaluate the remaining trailers next year and over the next 3-years move towards the maintenance plan with refurbishments done at the fleets recommend repair point.

If you do decide to move forward with the 25 trailers, we could schedule a weekend to do most of the work. Once we know the scope of the project, we can put a plan in place. Typically there are a couple of trailers that don’t make it back to the site on the weekend even with advanced planning. 

We would bring in two technicians and could start on a Friday afternoon with 4 trailers staged next to each other. As the targeted trailers come back to the site, we would work with your spotters to stage 4 or more trailers for our technicians to get started with on Saturday morning. 

Saturday morning we would work with your spotters to stage any additional target trailers that came in overnight and as trailer repairs are completed those trailers can go immediately back into service. The first trailer would take around 2-hours to complete and then about every hour after that the next trailer will be completed. Sunday we would continue repairs on the staged trailers and add any new target trailers that came in over Saturday night.

Depending on the number of target trailers that did not return to the site over the weekend we would keep one technician to continue repairs on those trailers during the week or schedule a return trip when those trailers could be held for repair. A single technician can complete 4-5 trailers a day. With two technicians we can complete 10 to 12 trailers a day if the trailers are available.”

Time to Call the Kingpin Specialists

Without understanding the scope of the connection management issues affecting a fleet, it is impossible to quantify the real long-term costs. It is also difficult to make any meaningful progress in fixing the ongoing connection management issues.

Most inhouse technicians do not have an engineered solution at their disposal, lack the experience and training required to repair kingpins effectively, and even misunderstand the relationship between the fifth wheel and kingpin.

If you are responsible for fleet maintenance on commercial vehicles, why not take the first step and have Kingpin Specialists perform an inspection and report on the condition of your fleet?

Call us at 1-888-221-7774 or email us at

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