“There’s More to a Kingpin than Most People Realize”

Kingpin Specialists CEO Rich Lefebvre was interviewed on The Heavy-Duty Parts Report and he shared some insights about connection management.

Lowering your cost-per-mile starts with buying high-quality parts and it ends with using high-quality services and having stringent maintenance standards.

Yet many people seem to forget about the kingpin.

“The kingpin is probably one of the most overlooked parts of the connection, yet it’s probably the most important part. It’s the only part keeping the trailer connected to the tractor,” explained Lefebvre.

Unless it’s making a lot of noise, the kingpin is just something that people don’t think about. People don’t give a lot of thought to the kingpin until it’s laying on the ground, usually when it’s pulling away from a dock. At this point this is considered a catastrophic failure and the cost in unscheduled downtime and repairs is immense. 

How Much Movement is Normal?

Usually there is a little bit of movement between the kingpin and the fifth wheel. When things wear beyond the accepted tolerances you will have drivers complain about a constant bang. Once this happens, the connection has suffered excessive wear and needs to be dealt with immediately.

To avoid excessive wear, it is critical that you create a maintenance program where the kingpin is regularly inspected, and wear is tracked so that it can be repaired long before this happens.

How Kingpins Get Wear and Damage

Depending on the vocation of the fleet and the environment they operate in, the wear characteristics can vary a great deal. How much wear each unit is going to have is dependent on a lot of different factors.

“The environment that the fleet works in, and the configuration of the trailers plays a big part in how much and how quickly the connection wears,” explained Lefebvre.

For example, a fleet that runs a 48-foot trailer with a 28-foot tow behind operating in the Rocky Mountains will have a different wear rate than a single 53-foot trailer being pulled in the inner city.

Listen to the Entire Interview

Mistakes Fleets Often Make

“If you try and do maintenance only on the fifth wheels it’s almost like a cancer, especially in a drop-and-hook configuration. The fifth wheel gets married up with a worn kingpin or a damaged kingpin and it takes that damage,” explained Lefebvre.

Once a fifth wheel has been damaged by a worn or damaged kingpin it transfers that wear or damage to the next kingpin. Overtime, the wear and damage spreads throughout the entire fleet, the variance begins to grow, and the entire fleet sees an accelerated rate of wear and damage.

The Process of Repairing a Kingpin

You can summarize Kingpin Specialists service with two steps; first we find where the damage is happening and then we create a custom plan to get it back under control, which will ensure the fleet gets the most life out of the fifth wheels and kingpins.

“Basically, when a customer reaches out to us with an issue, we get the unit number. But you also want to look at a manifest or an asset list, something that’s going to list the year the trailer was manufactured, who the manufacturer is, the length of the trailer, and any special equipment the trailer may have. You’ve got to have a baseline. From there we’ll book to go in and look at the fleet and we try and look at what could possibly be the issue… Somebody new will come in and they’ll run across an issue, or they will have a complaint and when they start digging into it, they realize that there’s a lot bigger problem than they realize because it was just neglected for so long,” said Lefebvre.

When Kingpin Specialists does an evaluation, we often find that many trailers in the same year or series are experiencing wear and damage and need immediate attention. It is always our aim to make the repairs as cost-effective and efficient as possible for the fleet to minimize downtime.

“Kingpin Specialists will do multiple units at a time. If we have four trailers set side-by-side for one tech, that’s a comfortable day’s work. He’s probably going to finish all four of those in six to seven hours, depending on the amount of wear. Then he will go down the line and ensure that the thickness of the bolster plate is sufficient. He sets up, does his welding, moves to the next one, welds that, moves to the next one, welds the fourth one, and then begins turning them all down in sequence,” described Lefebvre.

Tracking the Kingpin Repair

“Basically, when we’re finished, the pin is stamped with an identification number that traces back to the batch of welding rods, the welding technician that did the welding, the truck that was used, the welding machine that was used, the lathe that was used,” described Lefebvre. 

This is part of Kingpin Specialists’ quality control system to ensure that any kingpin that has been repaired can be tracked by the fleet and for warranty purposes.

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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