A refrigerated trailer that weighs less, is more thermally efficient, and tough enough to double as a dry-freight van. That was the objective of a prototype trailer that Wabash National displayed at the recent Technology and Maintenance Council (TMC) annual meeting in Nashville.

Wabash uses new all-composite construction to meet those objectives. The composite design helps reduce the trailer’s empty weight by 1,500 to 2,000 pounds, according to Robert Lane, director of product and business development. 

“And if that same composite material is used to build the trailer’s floor, the floor weight rating can be raised to 24,000 pounds, compared with a typical 16,000 to 18,000 rating.” He says. “This provides the trailer with more backhaul flexibility. That makes this refrigerated trailer more versatile so it can operate with dry van-like capacity.”

Wabash says the all-composite 53-foot refrigerated trailer is designed to boost thermal efficiency by 20% while enabling the trailer to weigh 15% less than its aluminum, wood and steel predecessors.

The prototype composite refrigerated van utilizes proprietary molded structural composite technology similar to that used in aerospace, automotive, marine, and commercial construction applications. However, Wabash says this is the first time this particular technology is being used in trailer and truck body manufacturing.

“The growth in cold chain infrastructure and the significant investment being made in home food delivery services presented an emerging market opportunity,” noted Brent Yeagy, Wabash’s group president of commercial trailer product, in a statement. “Our close connection with BASF and their material expertise made this concept trailer possible.”

“The global cold chain market is growing in excess of 15% annually,” added Jim Reddy, new market development manager for the performance materials division at BASF. “With fuel economy and environmental forces continuing to grow, it was important that we work together to create a lighter and corrosion-free trailer.”

Composites are not new to the industry, but Wabash says it is bringing a different approach.

“By employing engineering science and technology, Wabash National led the industry to a new level of equipment performance with our DuraPlate dry van trailer,” says Brent Yeagy, president of Wabash’s Commercial Trailer Products group. “The way we’re using molded structural composites in our patent-pending engineering designs overcomes the structural deficiencies of previous composite designs in refrigerated transportation. We believe it has the potential to advance the cold chain market in the same way DuraPlate transformed dry van trailers.”

Wabash will be monitoring the performance of the trailers over the next 18 months as approximately 100 refrigerated trailers will be placed into field service.  Several fleets, including Combined Transport Logistics Group, K&B Transportation, and Werner Enterprises will operate them under a variety of conditions.   ♦