There's More to a Kingpin Than Most People Realize, featured on The Heavy-Duty Parts Report Podcast

There’s More to a Kingpin Than People Realize

Learn why there is more to a kingpin than most people realize and what the kingpin specialists recommend to help ensure your fleet’s trailers stay on the road.

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

But honestly, when was the last time you thought about your kingpin? Unless it’s making noise or laying on the ground when pulling away from a dock, the kingpin is usually ignored. Regularly maintaining your fleet’s kingpins is a great way to avoid costly replacements and unexpected downtime.

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Why the Kingpin Is Often Ignored

The kingpin is probably the most important part of the connection assembly. It’s the only part keeping the trailer connected to the tractor. Some movement between the kingpin and the fifth wheel is normal – they are designed to have a little bit of play. But when they start getting excessively worn the driver will notice a banging noise. That is when things have been allowed to go too far and this is having an impact on more than just the one unit.

Every Fleet Has Unique Kingpin Wear

Each segment of the industry has different wear characteristics, so how much wear each unit experiences is dependent on many different factors. The environment a vehicle operates in is one big factor. Another is the trailer configuration.

In certain areas of the country, there are some less common configurations – 48′ trailers with a 28′ trailer, or triple 28′ trailers are some examples. When the configuration changes, the wear characteristics change as well. However, this isn’t common knowledge in the trucking industry, so fleet managers often assume that kingpin inspections and maintenance intervals are the same regardless of the equipment configuration. This is not so and it is costing fleets more than they realize.

How Kingpins Get Damaged

Here at Kingpin Specialists, our goal is to help fleets get the most life out of their trailers. We are always striving to help fleets find the sweet spot where they get the most value for the life of the kingpin, the jaws of the fifth wheel, and ensure that they get optimum wear characteristics from both pieces of equipment.

If the fleet only maintains the fifth wheel, wear can spread like cancer, especially in a drop and hook configuration. When the fifth wheel gets married up with a worn or damaged kingpin, the fifth wheel takes that damage. As it hooks onto the next kingpin, it transfers the damage from that fifth wheel to the next kingpin.

One type of fleet that experiences a lot of this spreading damage is in grocery and food service. These trailers will be hooked up and disconnected four or five times per day, so excess wear or damage will spread quickly through the fleet. The bigger the variance in wear patterns, the quicker the entire fleet will begin to wear at an accelerated pace. Kingpin Specialists goal is to address the root cause of the issue.

A Cost-Effective Solution for Fleets

Kingpin refurbishment is often a more cost-effective solution than replacement, especially for refrigerated trailers in a drop and hook configuration, but only if the structure of the bolster assembly is sound. A kingpin replacement on one reefer trailer can cost up to $12,000!

There are also special applications, like flatbeds and dump trailers, where it’s important to get the kingpin back up to standard without a week of downtime. When you hire Kingpin Specialists to refurbish your kingpin, your trailers don’t even need to leave your site – we come to you. Kingpin refurbishment truly is an ideal solution for fleets who want to lower their total cost of operation.

How Kingpin Specialists Fix Your Kingpins

When a fleet has a trailer that needs a kingpin repair to get back in service, they should call the Kingpin Specialists immediately. There are a few steps we take when working with a new client.

  1. Get information from the client. We take down the unit number of the trailer that needs servicing, as well as the trailer length, manufacturer, the year, and any special equipment we need to know about. We use this information to get a baseline understanding of the trailer and the fleet as a whole.
  2. Diagnose the issue. We book an appointment with the client to perform a fleet evaluation and assess their equipment. We find that many fleets have neglected servicing their connection components, so we evaluate the entire fleet to find the scope of the issue.
  3. Schedule repairs. The most cost-effective way for us to repair kingpins is to do multiple units at a time. One of our certified welders can repair four or five kingpins in a day if the trailers are staged together. We also consider the fleet’s needs, so we’ll make sure to get the trailers back in service on schedule.
  4. Make the repairs. One of our certified welders will check the thickness of the bolster plates to make sure there’s enough material left, weld the kingpins of the trailers, then turn them down in sequence, while being efficient with prep and cool down times.

Quick Response, Quality Control

When we’ve finished a kingpin repair, the pin is stamped with the identification #. We use this number for our benchmark internal quality control and insurance requirements, which allow us to remedy any issues to repaired equipment regardless of which set of variables are used to complete repairs.

This may seem a little over the top, but we take quality control very seriously. Experience has taught us we cannot control all variables, but thorough tracking of work completed ensures when we have an issue, we are able to track all repairs completed and remedy the issue quickly.

Our warranty is the same as new trailer manufacturers on their kingpins. We also offer extended warranties for companies with a maintenance program in place with Kingpin Specialists. We can foresee their future wear rates by tracking past, and this helps the fleet to maximize uptime.

An Engineered Solution for Refurbishing Kingpins

At Kingpin Specialists, we’ve spent over 25-years improving our method for refurbishing kingpins back to OEM specifications. Our founder, Rich Lefebvre, has extensive experience in exotic metals and welding across numerous industries. This led him to develop a patented portable lathe that can repair kingpins on-site, instead of needing to bring them into a shop.

The machine allowed us to grow Kingpin Specialists to service national accounts throughout the US and Canada using a DOT-recognized procedure that gets trailers back in service, safely. We are always testing, tracking, and improving our engineering and procedures to keep up with industry developments.

With our decades of experience, we have vast amounts of historical data to fine-tune our procedures and track our results. Engineering our solution was essential from the beginning and remains the most important part of our future.

Current supply chain issues are showing some extremely concerning trends in the availability of Class 8 compliant kingpins. This is leading to suppliers offering substandard kingpins from overseas that do not meet American standards.

When these kingpins need to be refurbished, the base metal composition is not correct and this will lead to more complete replacements at much higher costs. It is important that trailers are manufactured with the right parts so that future maintenance and repairs on the kingpin can be performed.

You can rely on Kingpin Specialists engineered solution and we can provide guidance and lab-tested results to verify that your trailers have the right kingpins for your application and that when they are needing repairs are refurbished to OEM specifications.

The Role of Certified Welders

Our welders at Kingpin Specialists are trained and certified in our patented proprietary processes for kingpin repair. Our name says it all, we only work on kingpins. We have a nationwide network of experts communicating with each other.

When new fifth wheels are introduced to the market, or different wear patterns emerge, they know what to do, and if something unexpected shows up in the market they can rely on our engineers and learn from each other. Therefore we are uniquely positioned to help fleets maintain their kingpins.

Reduce Liability with Kingpin Specialists

Things have changed in the last 25-years in the trucking industry. These days, liability is everything. Kingpin Specialists understands that.

Any time you are dealing with what connects your truck and trailer the risks are high. Our customers demand the highest quality and need to know the engineering, certification, and technicians performing the work have reduced their liability to the least possible level.

If something ever does happen, they also want to know we carry insurance on the work being performed. Having mobile welding insurance doesn’t mean they are insured to work on the single weakest point on your rig.

We have over 25-years of specialized kingpin maintenance and repairs, so you can be sure your trailers are in the best hands. We’re committed to making sure that the truck makes it home with the trailer, every time.

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 trailer mechanics are under a lot of pressure to get a trailer inspected, repaired, and back to work. Kingpins are on the list of things to check, but we have found that often they are not being inspected correctly.

We understand that for example, on a refrigerated unit if you are faced with a 6-week turnaround on repairs at a cost of $12k, there is pressure to just check the box that the kingpin was visually inspected and move.

But this exposes the fleet to liability and wear and damage being spread throughout the fleet rising the long-term total cost of operation. Kingpins need to be inspected correctly and when wear and damage are discovered refurbished to OEM specifications with an engineered solution to protect the fleet.

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?

Contact us today for a free fleet evaluation.

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