Commercial Truck and Trailers

Wear and Damage to Kingpins and Fifth Wheels Unavoidable but Manageable

Anytime you have metal in contact with metal wear and damage can occur. The fifth wheel of the truck and the kingpin of the trailer are both composed of high-strength steel. The more the connection between the truck and trailer is stressed, the higher the wear rate. Wear is unavoidable but it is manageable!

Most shops don’t have welders that are certified to complete a structural repair on a trailer therefore they ignore the kingpin and focus on the fifth wheel.

“This solves 50% of the problem, which is like solving 0% of the problem,” explained Rich Lefebvre, President of Kingpin Specialists. If the KINGPIN is damaged or worn excessively it will not function properly and cause damage to the new or repaired fifth wheel when connected.

The Cost of Ignoring the Kingpin

A typical fleet in the food-service sector without a kingpin maintenance plan will average a failure rate of 25% to 30%. This means 25-30 trailers out of every 100 trailers are out of operational specifications and can be causing excessive wear or damage to the fifth wheel they connect with. Those fifth wheels, in turn, can damaged other kingpins.

“The problem if ignored starts to exponentially raise the total cost of operation for the fleet. Fifth wheel replacements on the trucks and eventual structural repairs on the trailer will cost tens of thousands of dollars in additional repairs over a 3-year period,” said Lefebvre.

Partial Plate Replacement and Structural Trailer Repairs

Technicians who are not certified welders will try to repair a damaged kingpin, but they immediately run into a problem. There is virtually no space for them to work and they have to weld through an opening that can be less than one foot squared.

“One alternative method for replacing a bad kingpin is using a partial plate. Technicians will rip the old kingpin out of the trailer and replace it with a fabricated plate and pin. This replacement, if not done with an engineered and tested process, alters the structural composition and integrity of the trailer. ” Lefebvre warns.

Structural trailer repairs are very costly. When the situation with a kingpin is ignored or if the repairs are not done correctly, as with partial plate or cutting in a new pin, it will eventually require a structural repair. This on average can cost around $10,000 per trailer, when you are managing a fleet of 100 plus trailers, it can get quite expensive very quickly.

Managing Wear on Kingpins and Fifth Wheels

To properly manage wear on kingpins and fifth wheels for commercial trucks and trailers the most important step that must be taken is establishing a system where routine inspections occur.  By performing routine inspections, regularly damaged or worn kingpins and fifth wheels can be identified and addressed before they do unnecessary damage to the rest of the fleet.

Once a damaged kingpin has been identified, the next step is to have the Upper Coupler assembly inspected.  If the structure integrity is intact and the bolster plate is within operational standards, the kingpin can be refurbished by a certified professional. By refurbishing the kingpin back to its original manufactures specifications and keeping the entire fleet operating within operational specifications, you reduce the variances in equipment. This will reduce the fleets overall wear rate.

At Kingpin Specialists, each kingpin that has been refurbished is stamped with an ID number that is completely unique to that kingpin, and a repair sticker is prominently placed at the front of the trailer with all the tracking data so that anyone at the fleet can visually and rapidly identify which trailers have been repaired and which ones have not.

By tracking wear rates and proactively repairing equipment you can:

  • Keep wear rates manageable
  • Predict future repair needs
  • Reduce equipment downtimes
  • Save huge sums of money

Fleets that want to keep their operational cost as low as possible understand the value of preventative maintenance. By adopting our connection management strategy, they can reduce their fleets overall wear rate. This is essential to manage the unavoidable wear and damage that occurs during normal operation to an acceptable level which reduces overall repair costs and downtime.

We Provide Nationwide Service

If you would like to take the first step and have Kingpin Specialists perform an inspection call us at 1-888-221-7774 or email us at

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