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Ignoring the Kingpin on Commercial Trailers

The Cost of Ignoring the Kingpin

The fifth wheel gets all the attention when fleets are doing connection maintenance and repairs. The kingpin is often overlooked, and this is a problem industry wide.

But what is the cost of ignoring the kingpin?

The cost of ignoring the kingpin is much higher than most fleet maintenance managers and technicians realize. The challenge is that the kingpin is part of the upper coupler assembly and changing out that assembly cannot only be a costly expense, but also a time-consuming project. The true cost of ignoring this issue is hard to calculate because there are multiple variables you must take into consideration.

The Fifth Wheel is Often Just the Symptom

To calculate the true cost of ignoring the kingpin, you must understand the widespread impact that failing to identify and fix the kingpin has on the entire fleet.

One damaged or excessively worn kingpin will wear and can damage the fifth wheels that it connects to. Those damaged fifth wheels can, in turn, damage other kingpins they connect with. Over time, the entire fleet can be subjected to excessive wear and damage. This creates a situation in which the wear rates become unmanageable. Multiple pieces of equipment may need repair exceeding the projected repair budgets and impacting the operational needs of the business. This will cause equipment to be pulled out of service and experience unplanned downtime.

Most fleets spend more money, time, and effort repairing damaged fifth wheels then they do on addressing the kingpins. This is not cost effective because if you don’t fix the kingpin and address the cycle of wear, wear rates will continue to increase. Fleets that focus on the fifth wheel are focusing on the symptom, not the entire problem. This results in a reactive approach and does not address the rising cost of their connection management issues.

The Long-Term Added Costs

Additionally, the longer a fleet ignores the kingpin, the more problems they will have.

Excessive Wear.  As more equipment in the fleet becomes closer to, or exceeds, the operational wear threshold, the variance across the fleet increases. For connection components to operate properly, you want them to have minimal variance. Think of a chain and a sprocket. If both the chain and the sprocket are new, they operate properly together. As they operate, they are both affected by wear. Replacing one component does not address the wear of the second component. No matter which component you change, you will not get the same life cycle you got from the original components because you have a variance in the equipment.  

Increased Damage. If you have one component that has excessive wear or damage and you pair it with a new component, the two components will wear to match each other. This creates a situation in which both components wear excessively or can damage each other as they wear into each other.

Secondary Damage. If one component is not within operation specification, it can lead to additional problems. If the kingpin or fifth wheel is excessively worn, the connection is subjected to additional stress as the components operate. As the tractor and trailer move, the load weight can create stress from the components clashing with each other. The movement or slope within the connection is felt during operation. This can lead to additional wear and damage to the structural components of the upper coupler and fifth wheel.

The Cost of Fixing the Kingpin

When you measure a kingpin with a kingpin gauge and the pin has wear beyond the OE specifications, you have a choice. You can replace the kingpin or refurbish the kingpin. We provide a service with a proactive approach to connection management and refurbishing kingpins.

Replacing the kingpin impacts the structural integrity of the trailer and extends the downtime. This will cost the fleet in two ways, the cost of repair and loss of revenue. This should be avoided if the bolster plate is in good shape and structurally sound. This process must be done with an engineered solution and performed by certified technicians. The cost of repair, on average, is going to be $1,500 to $2,500 and the downtime will be anywhere from a day to a week.

Replacing the upper coupler assembly can run $2,500- $10,000 depending on the type of equipment you have. These repairs can also take anywhere from a couple of days to a couple of weeks depending on the parts availability and shops current workload. 

The Pro-Active Solution

Connection management between a commercial truck and trailer is about two things:

Regular Fleet Evaluations. Identifying the wear on a kingpin early and repairing it quickly eliminates the added costs we’ve discussed in this article and can save thousands of dollars.

Pro-Active Repairs. Refurbishing costs of a kingpin on average is $1,200-1,500. The return-on-investment far exceeds the cost. The amount of money saved on fifth wheel repairs, downtime, and structural repairs downstream are thousands of dollars more than the cost of maintaining and repairing the kingpin. Don’t ignore the kingpin any longer.

Kingpin Specialists has an engineered solution that is performed by welders certified in the specific weld application needed to refurbish the kingpin. This method is a proven, tested, engineered process. We complete repairs on site. A typical refurbishment takes approximately 2 hours from start to finish. Once completed, the trailer can go back into service and overall downtime is minimal.

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 repairs@kingpinspecialists.com.

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