February 27, 2017 11:00 PM, EST

Wabash Displays Composite Refrigerated Trailer Ahead of Initial In-Service Testing

Richard Giromini by Joseph Terry/Transport Topics

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Wabash National Corp. displayed a prototype refrigerated trailer made with molded composite structural foam and carbon elements that is significantly lighter and more thermally efficient — compared with the standard industry versions — plus has a stronger floor that expands the kinds of loads that can be hauled.

Wabash CEO Richard Giromini said the innovation and technology in the trailer are not incremental improvements “but are one of those leapfrog moments ... 10 years ago, no one would have thought that a molded structural composite thermal trailer would even be possible.”

The intention was to create a trailer that is 20% lighter than the conventional trailer and improves thermal efficiencies up to 25%, Robert Lane, Wabash vice president of product engineering, told Transport Topics during the Technology & Maintenance Council annual meeting here. TMC is a division of American Trucking Associations. 

“To be able to take away the steel from the structure [to minimize corrosion] and build a floor that is stronger, that is a big step,” he said, adding that the price of carbon today is almost a trade-out for steel in some applications, and it will continue to go down.

Wabash engineered the trailer so it could be loaded like a dry van, with the same dock heights and door clearance, he said. Its floor rating would be increased to 24,000 pounds, same as a dry van’s.

The stronger floor opens up backhaul opportunities for customers, which was one of the developmental objectives.

Plus, although there is no metal structure in the wall, he said, the trailer walls are twice as puncture-resistant as a standard industry thermal liner skin, based on Wabash's in-house tests.

Refrigerated hauler K&B Transportation, of South Sioux City, Nebraska, will be the first to operate and test the trailer over the next 18 months, beginning after the TMC annual meeting, Wabash said.

“While they weren’t there when we started the idea, they have been for quite a while [since], and they really are our key launch partner,” Lane said.