Five Trailer Sizing Tips for Excavators

Published: 10/10, 2022

Selecting the right excavator isn’t a decision to be taken lightly. Research is required to find the machine that fits an operation’s needs. It’s a long process, but the end result is, hopefully, a machine that will safely increase productivity for years to come.Selecting a trailer to transport an excavator is an equally important decision with just as many variables to consider. Here are five tips to keep in mind when sizing a trailer for an excavator.


1.  Equipment Weight and Dimensions

The first step in sizing a trailer for any hauling job is determining the weight and dimensions of the load. Start by determining the length, height, width and weight of the machine. Be sure to keep in mind that the information on the spec sheet might not include the dimensions and weight with added accessories. When making initial calculations, ensure a suitable truck to handle hauling the excavator before moving on to the trailer. A 3-axle tractor and a 4-axle tractor will have different hauling capabilities.

Excavators have some special considerations. Certain machines have adjustable widths for Operation or Transportation mode. Be sure to figure out which mode will be used during transport as it may take time to make the necessary adjustments to convert between the two. For safety reasons, one half of the track width must be on the deck, excluding the outriggers. While the standard 8.5-ft (2.6m) trailer might work on paper in Transport mode, one must be honest in how trailers will actually be loaded from job to job. Be sure to keep this in mind.

 The boom is another piece that requires special consideration. Operators need to consider which boom is required, as there are various available lengths, where the boom will sit on the trailer and how it will be cradled. A low-enough position of the boom is critical for keeping the load within height restrictions. Some top-tier manufacturers offer customizations such as a rear bridge design that eliminates interference with boom placement and makes transportation safer and easier. After determining the weight and dimensions, it’s time to look at trailer deck designs. Manufacturers usually offer three deck configurations — flat, raised center and beam. Determining which one will be the best fit is a question for the professionals, as there are pros and cons to each. Custom trailer manufacturers have the experience and knowledge to determine what style would be best overall. While the primary focus might be on the excavator, a trailer often hauls a variety of types of equipment. Backhaul equipment should also be included in calculations. An expert can determine the best trailer to meet all hauling needs. Here’s a brief overview on deck designs to get started.

 Flat — This is the standard deck design. It offers the most versatility for moving more than just excavators. However, it also has the highest deck height and might not be ideal for taller excavators. 

 Raised Center (RC) — This deck offers a lower deck height than a flat deck. Not all excavators will fit nicely over the raised center, though, and extra blocking might be required to make sure the equipment sits safely on the trailer. This reduces efficiency when loading and unloading.

 Beam — Equipment straddles a central beam with this deck design, meaning it has the lowest ground clearance of the three. The main drawback is the lack of deck for accessories or smaller components.


2. Trailer Capacity Rating

While knowing the overall weight of the excavator is imperative, it is also important to know where that weight is concentrated. An excavator might have a 10-ft (3m) track, but all of the weight might be in the 8-foot span between the front idler and the final drive.

 Note that the length of deck calculated in the capacity rating varies between manufacturers. One trailer might need the entire deck length for that 50 tons, while another handles that same weight in half the deck length. So, if the majority of the excavator’s weight is concentrated in 8 or 10 ft (2.4 or 3m), a trailer with a half deck load concentration rating offers the best solution. Failing to pay attention to how the capacity rating is calculated can lead to overloading the trailer, which can result in stress fractures and ultimately trailer failure.


3. Loading Configurations

Today’s trailers offer a variety of loading configurations. While tag-a-long trailers that unload off the back are an accepted option for small excavators in tight spaces, safety can be a concern. Driving an excavator over the back of the trailer is no easy feat and requires a careful and experienced driver to prevent damaging the trailer and minimize the risk of tipping the excavator. Removable goosenecks reduce the safety risk by eliminating the need to drive up and over the trailer axles. This configuration saves time, hassle and expense while also extending the life of the trailer. However, keep in mind that a removeable gooseneck requires ample space for loading and unloading.


4. Regulations

Knowing where a trailer is headed is as important as knowing what it’s hauling; this especially true when hauls extent across international borders.Established, densely populated areas, such as those found across the European Union, present many difficulties for heavy-haul operators. Roads and bridges originally designed to carry lighter vehicles – some dating all the way back to horse and carriage days – present many challenges for hauling modern equipment. Though they have been maintained and reinforced for modern transportation needs, they are not necessarily designed for the weight and size of the extra-large loads required for certain hauls. Even those built more recently might have the weight capacity, but not the space to safely maneuver large equipment around tight corners. Correctly sizing a trailer that allows the most capacity with the smallest profile will increase an operator’s options.

 And, while not directly related to sizing a trailer, operators also need to be aware of the regional and language borders when hauling internationally. Each country has their own size and weight regulations. It is important to check regulations and secure the required permits for each region of operation. This might require communication in several languages, which can increase difficulty and frustrations. In the end, a very long haul might require significant route planning to ensure sufficient maneuverability and weight allowances, dozens of permits for each region traversed and a team member that speaks the local language. Being prepared beforehand will limit downtime on the road. On the other end of the spectrum, operators face difficult road and infrastructure conditions and minimal government oversight in less developed regions. In these cases, operators must use their best judgement to ensure safety for themselves and those around them. Furthermore, the government may hold them accountable for any damages or mishaps. This might mean investing in a trailer with an industry-leading safety factor that will be able to take the stress caused by rough roads or one that offers heavier axles that are stronger and will minimize maintenance. Working with experienced manufacturers and organizations like the Specialized Carriers and Rigging Association and their international counterparts will ensure a wealth of knowledge and expertise when it comes to making sure trailers and loads are safe and compliant for each area of operation.


5. Trailer Construction

Not all trailers are created equal. It’s important to consider the quality of a trailer, not just the price tag. Working with a custom manufacturer offers the best results when it comes to safety, value and peace of mind. A trusted manufacturer will work to understand the client, not just the load. They will consider not just the excavator, but everything the client needs to haul, the territories of operation and the specific challenges they face. The manufacturer will use that information to design a trailer that offers maximum flexibility, versatility and strength.

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