As we enter 2022 with optimism, we are faced with the reality that trailer parts shortages are still going to be an issue because of the supply chain disruption caused by the pandemic.
When coupling this effect along with trailer parts shortages that already existed pre-pandemic, acquiring parts and scheduling needed repairs have become even more challenging. Service managers and owner-operators are faced with finding new ways to keep their equipment maintained and operating safely on the highway.
Extending Service Life on Older Equipment
Older equipment that was scheduled to be retired from service is now being retrofitted and repaired to bridge service needs created from the insufficient availability of new equipment. As companies work to repair these trailers, they are faced with inflated prices and limited supply options, especially with the ongoing trailer parts shortages.
The retrofitting of the older equipment has placed an increased workload on maintenance teams, as the previous repairs that would have been made to equipment were based on its expected service life. Now that the equipment is going to remain in service, many of the components that were at the end of life/manufacturer threshold and deemed nonessential repairs need to be re-evaluated.
Expanding Your Maintenance Program to Combat Trailer Parts Shortages
To combat the added workload of maintenance needs from trailer parts shortages and staffing shortages, companies are subcontracting out routine and specialized work. This helps reduce the workload on staff while creating clear accountability for the repairs. Companies are also having to expand the service aspects to accommodate for the longer service life.
For example, a refrigerated trailer’s kingpin has an expected service life of around 10-15 years with a maximum wear tolerance of .125”. If the trailer’s expected service life was 10 years and as it entered its 10th year with wear nearing the tolerance threshold, repairs may have been avoided as the trailer was set to retire. Now that the trailer is being utilized for continued service because of the shortage of new equipment and trailer parts shortages, the kingpin wear needs to be addressed.
Connection management relates to managing the wear between the tractor’s fifth wheel and the trailer’s kingpin. In most cases, the fifth wheel is the only part of the connection assembly that has serviceable parts. The jaws of the fifth wheel can be replaced as they wear to ensure a secure and nominal connection.
Unfortunately, this only addresses half of the connection components. As the kingpin wear gets closer to the maximum tolerance of .125” it can aggressively wear the fifth wheel jaws. When either of these connection components is near or past the MFG tolerances, wear rates can become unmanageable and expected service life of the components is reduced.
Refurbishing the kingpin is a proven way to reduce overall wear rates and extend the service life of the connection components. The closer you can keep the connection components to a nominal structure (like new dimensions) the better you can manage your wear. If the upper coupler, sometimes called the grid, is structurally sound then the kingpin can be refurbished. Ideally, kingpin refurbishment should be done proactively to minimize wear rates and reduce secondary wear that can occur on the fifth wheel and upper coupler assembly.
Kingpin refurbishment is achieved through an engineered process that results in restoring the kingpin to new pin standards without invasively cutting into the structure of the trailer. When the bolster plate and framing are structurally sound, refurbishment is an ideal solution to maintain compliance and keep the fleet’s connection wear rate manageable.
The refurbishment process of rebuilding the kingpin’s operational dimensions is achieved using a spiral weld wrap, then machining the kingpin back to operational standards. Using a fully insured and certified company ensures structurally sound, safe results.
Kingpin refurbishment is typically a 2-hour process from start to finish. The kingpin is repaired directly on the trailer and it can go back into service immediately after the repairs have been completed.
If you choose this route, ensure that the company/technician has the proper certifications and knowledge to certify that the finished product meets or exceeds the standards of the OEM part.
With YouTube videos and parts supply issues, we have seen an increasing trend for individuals and repair companies to attempt this type of repair without the proper equipment and training. This has resulted in an increase of sub-standard repairs that do not meet compliance.
It should only be done by a company/technician who has been trained and certified through an engineered process established on the metallurgical composition, hardness, grain flow, and MFG operational specifications.
Kingpin refurbishment should not be done on a trailer with a structurally compromised upper coupler (including cracks in the bolster plate). Unlike other repair methods, the refurbishment path allows for a preventative maintenance option that can help keep the wear rate manageable on the fleet and decreases excessive wear on all connection components in the fleet.
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 in-house 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 firstname.lastname@example.org.