trailer Ports seeking the right trailer need to consider a wide range of requirements: strength, longevity, safety, value for money, ease of use and speed are high on the agenda

Longevity, strength and value are key trailer requirements for marine terminal operations. John Bensalhia looks at some of the notable products and innovations to make the grade this year.

As the old maxim goes, “You get what you pay for.” Steff en Kohleisen, Sales, Seaports and Container Terminals, Seacom AG, is discussing the longevity of port trailers and their components. “If you want a port trailer to last a long time, you have to invest in high quality components: steel quality, sufficient dimensions of I-beams, heavy-duty axles and bearings, quality-brand tyres, and high-quality paint.”

Clearly, marine terminals seeking the right trailer need to consider a wide range of requirements. Strength, longevity, safety, value for money, ease of use and speed are all identified as primary requirements. Accordingly, trailer manufacturers are providing solutions for diverse unit loads.


Recent trailer design trends have accommodated the latest requirements with facilitating fast turnaround high on the list. With this in mind, terminals are opting for solutions like the cornerless chassis.

“Over the past few years, cornerless chassis have become more and more popular, as this design allows the quickest turnaround time,” says Kohleisen,

He explains that drivers can pull away from the crane as soon as the spreader has lifted off, since containers do not need to be secured. “Gravity stoppers prevent smaller containers from shifting during transport. Terminal trailers are typically rated for speeds up to 25 km/hr.

Self-locating guides are also identified as a performance enhancing asset – as featured, for example, on CIMC’s 45ft Port Terminal Skeleton Trailer. Designed to carry one container up to 45ft, this skeleton trailer includes a clearly marked self-locating guide in order to hasten the level of container loading onto the chassis.


When investing in a trailer, operating conditions are also important to consider. Freezing conditions can prove to be a challenge for equipment, so finding a trailer that can withstand elements such as snow, ice, and rain is essential.

In June 2020, it was announced that the Port of Montreal’s Viau and Maisonneuve terminals would be taking delivery of new Buiscar trailers. The units were selected on account of their ability to withstand the -30 degree Celsius climate of a harsh Montreal Winter season. The design of the Buiscar trailer features high tensile, hot rolled steel main beams for the base, with a load capacity of 70 tons and the ability to move containers of up to 45ft in length.

Another reported benefit of the Buiscar platform configuration’s main beam wide design is that it features integrated collapsible twist-locks which enable any loaded containers to be secured in various positions. A recent skeletal trailer of this kind was constructed for an Antwerp-based customer in July 2020, with the capability of handling 20ft and 40ft containers with a 65 ton load capacity.

In April 2020, four skeletal trailers were provided for an Icelandic-based customer. The trailers are employed at a terminal that conveys containers and bulk cargo between various modes of transport including ships, trucks and trains. The trailers accommodate containers between 20ft and 45ft with a load capacity of up to 65t.

In July 2020, China’s Shandong TITAN Vehicle Co., Ltd delivered to Tanzania a 40ft container port terminal semi-trailer design that comprised a truck chassis for both loading and unloading heavy containers with ease. The semi-trailer is made from high tensile-strength steel to ensure longevity, while the main beam of the trailer is strengthened via TITAN’s automatic arc-submerging welding procedures (a flexible product that can be adjusted to specific moving conditions for both loading and unloading).


In terms of safety, port trailers need to be extremely rigid and heavy duty. Kohleisen explains that compared to regular road trailers (which are being carefully loaded, then driven for several hours before being unloaded again), port trailers are constantly loaded with heavy containers with significant impact forces.

“Often, containers are being placed on a chassis with a substantial impact, and when loaded with a twin-spreader, two containers with a combined weight of 65 tons, plus the weight of the spreader, must be supported. This means that container guides, main frame beams, axles and rocker beams must be extremely rigid. Leaf suspensions or air suspensions, which are widely used in the transport industry, are not suitable for port operation,” Kohleisen underlines.

Trailer strength is also essential to facilitate efficient cargo handling. To avert wear and tear of both the cargo unit and the trailer, modern trailer designs are made with extra strength. The CIMC Tri-Axle 40ft Flatbed Trailer with Side Wall includes a reinforced tray box that is designed to prevent the risk of deformation when the trailer is fully loaded. Capable of holding either 1 x 40ft container or 2 x 20ft containers, the Tri-Axle trailer while of a heavy duty design it is, thanks to the cornerless chassis, still relatively easy to manoeuvre.


Electric vehicle and trailer combinations have already been devised, tested and used as a means of saving energy and using a trailer in conjunction with a fully electric tractor points the way forward for to meeting modern-day environmental requirements.

One manufacturer embracing this concept is Gaussin. Earlier this year, Gaussin confirmed an order with New Zealand-based CentrePort for seven fully electric terminal tractors and seven TT terminal trailers.

The container handling tractors are powered by Lithium Metal Polymer (LMP) batteries, which reduce emissions and noise pollution levels to zero and are claimed to simultaneously boost levels of safety, driver comfort and productivity.

The effectiveness of this alternative technology trailer/ tractor combination was verified in March 2020. Global freight and logistics company, UPS, tested six Gaussin electric vehicles for performance and strength when moving semitrailers and containers.

The Trailer and Swap Body Mover combination is said to have a number of advantages. As well as zero emission levels, the battery-swap technology used means that when one battery goes flat, it can simply be swapped for a fully charged one. This, it is said, offers a key benefit for port operators because tractor and trailer cargo handling can be performed on a constant basis, 24/7.

The UPS test results further confirmed that autonomous tractor/trailer driving can deliver significant economies. And with added strength, resistance to damage and flexibility, port operators seeking an optimised design look to have moved a step closer to this.

Tyres two key considerations

A fundamental aspect of the trailer is the tyre. In order to ensure maximum protection of trailer tyres, terminal operators must ensure two important elements, as Kohleisen outlines.

“Ports need to ensure that they buy quality. Good quality tyres are essential for safe operation of the terminal chassis. Seacom only uses quality brand tyres on its trailers and are not offering cheap no-name tyres. On dual axle chassis, regular road tyres can be used, but for single axle chassis we use special terminal tyres or industrial tyres with a high load rating (PR24).”

However, even the best quality tyres will not last for long if the tyre is under inflated, which can quickly become a safety issue. “On a fully laden chassis, a tyre failure can result in a roll-over of the chassis,” explains Kohleisen. “It is, therefore, essential to check the tyre pressure daily. Seacom’s design features a heavy-duty rocker beam with stub axles, where both tyres are mounted in twin configuration, thus both tyres are easily accessible from the outside of the chassis.”

The Continental Trailer Tyre is designed with maximum wear volume for high mileage and a long lifespan. As well as a high loading capacity and low rolling resistance, the tyre design allows for low vibration (adding extra comfort for the driver) and greater reliability for ports, owing to less tread edges compared to a profiled pattern.

A wide variety of tyres from Emerald Tyres caters for many kinds of cargo trailer. These include tyres for bomb carts, flat deck trailers and ro-ro trailers. The tyres are made with a heavy duty compound that increases safety, strength, efficiency and value for port operators. A further degree of flexibility is afforded in a choice of sizes for different port trailer requirements.


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