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Utility Fleet Solutions Case Studies

Paint vs. Galvanizing

MGS supplies trailers with both finishes. 8

Here are some things to consider when deciding whether to use paint or hot dipped galvanizing:

  • Durability — Hot dipped galvanizing is one of the most durable finishes that can be applied to a steel trailer. The trailer frame is dipped into a tank of molten zinc. This allows zinc to adhere to areas that paint cannot be easily applied (for example: on the inside surfaces of tubing). Since the zinc bonds to the metal in a way very similar to the way solder bonds to copper and brass, this finish actually becomes part of the trailer. Even scratches in the cured surface will "heal" by sharing of zinc. If the trailer has a large area where the zinc is removed, the rust will be contained to that area and is not allowed to spread. Generally, this coating is expected to last for a minimum of 15-20 years. If you live in an area where snow and salt are present, galvanizing will give you the most protection with the least amount of maintenance. Painted finishes generally have a 7-10 year life expectancy under similar conditions.
  • Visual Appearance — MGS can supply many different colors in our wet coat system. We utilize a polyurethane paint that produces a high quality, durable finish. Your equipment's appearance when on the road or on site representing your company is always a consideration. Galvanizing only comes in a shiny silver mottled finish that quickly turns to a chalky gray when properly weathered. Making welding repairs to a galvanized trailer is also difficult since all of the zinc needs to be removed from the surfaces prior to welding. Once the trailer is repaired, there is no way to "re-galvanize" the repaired area. If you live in an area where rust is not a major factor in the lifecycle of your units, then our wet coat polyurethane system can satisfy your needs.
  • Cost — Galvanizing is bought by the pound. Depending on the weight and complexity of your trailer, the cost of galvanizing may not be that much more than paint. It is not always appropriate to think that galvanizing will cost more than paint although this is generally the case.
  • Design — Hot dipped galvanizing of a trailer has a huge impact on its design. Since the process involves high temperatures and molten metal, considerations for metal thickness, joint design, deck construction, weld practice, venting and proper zinc flow all factor into final design. If galvanizing is your choice, It is very important to pick a vendor that is experienced in designing trailers for the galvanizing process. Our painted trailers are designed with longevity in mind. We use a phosphate wash to prepare the metal for paint and then apply an epoxy primer to the entire unit. Our seams are caulked or continuously welded where appropriate. After inspection, we top coat with polyurethane. We paint our main weld assemblies on a lift to ensure proper paint coverage under the trailer. After flashing, the parts are baked to ensure the paint is sufficiently cured for our assemblers.

In the end...to paint or to galvanize? Only you can answer which best suits your needs.

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Tongue Load

Before discussing tongue load, it is important that you understand some commonly used terms.

  • Gross Vehicle Weight Rating (GVWR) - GVWR is the most that the trailer and its cargo can weigh. The GVWR is set by the trailer manufacturer.
  • Gross Axle Weight Rating (GAWR) - GAWR is the maximum load (including the trailer) that the axle assemblies can safely support. Axle assembly includes the axle, springs, tires and wheels. It is rated to the weakest component in the assembly. If, for example, a trailer is equipped with a 12,000 lb. axle and two 6,000 lb. springs but uses two 5,000 lb. rated tire and wheel assemblies, the GAWR of the trailer would be the weakest link (tires and wheels) 10,000 lbs.
  • Unladen Weight, Empty Weight or Curb Weight - Refers to the weight of the entire trailer without any cargo.
  • Loaded Weight - The weight of the trailer and its cargo.

The current industry standard for tongue load is 10-15% of the GAWR. If your trailer has a GAWR of 10,000 lbs., then your GVWR would be rated between 11,000 lbs. and 11,500 lbs. In this case, this means that up to 1,500 lbs. load from your trailer will be transferred to the hitch of the tow vehicle. Remember that tongue load is proportional to the trailer and its load. On a cargo or equipment trailer it is important to distribute or position the load on the trailer so that the tongue load weighed at the towing eye is 10% to 15% of the loaded weight of the trailer.

Exceeding the tongue load can cause substandard trailer handling characteristics such as swaying or wheel lock up under braking. Either of these conditions can cause the operator to lose control. It can also cause the rear axle of the tow vehicle to be overloaded which could result in failure of any of the rear axle components or improper tow height which will cause the aforementioned instabilities.

Generally, a trailer with low tongue weight will exhibit more pronounced poor handling characteristics such as swinging and wheel lockup during breaking. It is also possible to overload the trailer axles while still staying within the GVWR of the trailer. This could result in damage to the trailer's running gear.

Another factor that influences tow-ability is hitch height. The standard acceptable hitch height based on whether or not the trailer is level. The acceptable range is level to +2" hitch height. If the hitch is too high or too low it affects the weight distribution of the trailer causing the trailer to behave as if it is either tongue light (hitch more than 2" above level) or tongue heavy (hitch below level).

Every new trailer carries a tire and loading label (on MGS trailers near the V.I.N. plate) that gives information on the maximum load that your trailer can carry. You must determine the proper placement of the cargo or equipment in order to achieve the correct tongue load.

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