A semi-trailer is a trailer without a front axle. In the United States, the term is also used to refer to the combination of a truck and a semi-trailer, a tractor-trailer.
A large proportion of a semi-trailer's weight is supported by a tractor unit, or a detachable front-axle assembly known as a dolly, or the tail of another trailer. The other portion of the semi-trailer's weight is semi-supported (half-supported) by its own wheels, which only support the rear of the semi-trailer.A semi-trailer is normally equipped with landing gear (legs which can be lowered) to support it when it is uncoupled. Many semi-trailers have wheels that are capable of being totally dismounted and are also relocatable (repositionable) to better distribute load to bearing wheel weight factors. Semi-trailers are more popular for transport than full trailers, which have both front and rear axles. Ease of backing is cited as one of the semi's chief advantages. A road tractor coupled to a semi-trailer is often called a semi-trailer truck or "semi" in North America & Australia, and an articulated lorry or "artic" in the UK.
Semi-trailers with two trailer units are called B-doubles (Australian English) or tandem tractor-trailers,tandem rigs, or doubles (American English). Other terms used are "B-train" or (when there are three or more trailers) "road train". A double-trailer combination is possible with the use of a dolly, or "converter dolly" (Australian and American English), essentially one to three additional axles placed under the front of a second semi-trailer. The first semi-trailer is connected to the power unit using the tractor's fifth wheel coupling while the converter dolly, already attached to the second semi-trailer, is connected to the first semi-trailer with a drawbar. In Australian English, the tractor unit is called a "prime-mover", and the combination of a prime-mover and trailer is known as a "semi-trailer", "semi" or single.
Invented by August Fruehauf in 1914
Road tractors and semi-trailers carry a large part of the transport. With 1,170,117 million tonne-kilometers transported this way in the European Union, including the UK, road tractors and semi-trailers are 77.6% of the total tonne-kilometers transported in 2015, according to Eurostat.
In road haulage, semi-trailers predominate over full trailers because of their flexibility. The trailers can be coupled and uncoupled quickly, allowing them to be shunted for loading and to be trucked between depots. If a power unit fails, another tractor can replace it without disturbing the cargo.
Compared with a full trailer, a semi-trailer attached to a tractor unit is easier to reverse, since it has only one turning point (the coupling), whereas a full trailer has two turning points (the coupling and the drawbar attachment). Special tractors are known as shunt trucks or shuttle trucks can easily maneuver semi-trailers at a depot or loading and unloading ferries. These tractors may lift the coupling so the trailer legs clear the ground.
A rigid truck and full trailer are articulated inside the cargo area length, so a semi-trailer can have a longer continuous cargo area. Because of this, a semi-trailer can haul longer objects, (logs, pipe, beams, railway track). This depends on the legislation; in some European countries, a full trailer can be as long as a semi-trailer. However, since a rigid truck is longer than a semi-tractor, this increases the overall length of the combination, making it less maneuverable.
For heavy haulage or for increased manoeuvrability, some semi-trailers are fitted with rear-wheel steering, controlled electro-hydraulically. The wheels on all or some of the rear axles may be turned through different angles to enable tighter cornering, or through the same angle (so-called 'crab' steering) to move the rear of the trailer laterally. A good example of this is the seven axle King tank transporter where the first two axles steer with the tractor, the third is fixed and the rear four axles steer in the other direction all proportionally controlled to ensure that the wheels of both vehicles all follow in the same tracks.
The two types of couplings are fifth wheel coupling and automatic. In some applications, no separable coupling is fitted, and the trailer is bolted to the tractor unit, using a bearing, and rocker feet as are used under a fifth wheel skid plate.
The towing vehicle has a wide coupling plate known as a fifth wheel coupling bolted onto its chassis on which the semi-trailer rests and pivots. As the tractor reverses under the trailer, a kingpin under the front of the trailer slides into a slot in the skid plate, and the jaws of the fifth wheel close onto it. The driver has to raise the trailer legs manually, and couple the airbrake lines and electrical cables. Some low-set trailers such as lowboys/low-loaders and car transporters have electrically-powered landing gear due to the necessarily low clearance prohibiting conventional landing gear.
Many years ago, automatic couplings predominated,[ citation needed ] but have not been used now for around 50 years. Automatic couplings were generally used for payloads of 12 short tons (10.7 long tons; 10.9 t) or less, e.g. on the Scammell Mechanical Horse.The Scammell coupler was initially very popular and fitted to many other makes of truck
No coupling plate is used on the tractor; a turntable is permanently fixed to the underside of the trailer. This locks to the chassis of the tractor. When the tractor reverses under the trailer, its legs rise and the brake and electrical connections are made automatically. Almost the entire coupling and uncoupling procedure is operated by the driver from inside the cab, except that he or she has to descend to release (or apply) the trailer parking brake. [ citation needed ]
Different types of semi-trailers are designed to haul different cargoes.
Common widths are 8 ft (2.44 m), and 2.6 metres (102.36 in). Generally speaking, most North American type trailers use two axles with dual-tire hubs totaling 8 wheels, while most European type trailers use three axles with single-tire hubs totaling 6 wheels, with one of the axles being able to be lifted for lighter loads and saving on tire, brake, and axle wear. Nearly all sufficiently tall modern trailers are equipped with a rear underride guard to prevent cars from passing beyond the rear edge of the trailer, and most also have side underride guards for the same reason. There are also other smaller differences with regards to kingpin depth, lighting, door locks, et cetera, though most purpose-built tractor trucks can carry most types of trailer regardless of which continent it was built on and the differences therein.
A tank trailer is a semi-trailer specifically designed to carry liquids, fluids and gases.
A semi-tractor-trailer truck is the combination of a tractor unit and one, or more, semi-trailers to carry freight. A semi-trailer attaches to the tractor with a type of hitch called a fifth-wheel.
A road train, land train or long combination vehicle is a trucking vehicle used to move road freight more efficiently than semi-trailer trucks. It consists of two or more trailers or semi-trailers hauled by a prime mover. Long combination vehicles are combinations of multiple trailers on tractor trucks as compared to standard 5 axle semi trailer-trucks with one trailer.
An axle or axletree is a central shaft for a rotating wheel or gear. On wheeled vehicles, the axle may be fixed to the wheels, rotating with them, or fixed to the vehicle, with the wheels rotating around the axle. In the former case, bearings or bushings are provided at the mounting points where the axle is supported. In the latter case, a bearing or bushing sits inside a central hole in the wheel to allow the wheel or gear to rotate around the axle. Sometimes, especially on bicycles, the latter type axle is referred to as a spindle.
A trailer is an unpowered vehicle towed by a powered vehicle. It is commonly used for the transport of goods and materials.
A dump truck, known also as a dumper truck or tipper truck, is used for transporting dumps for construction as well as coal. A typical dump truck is equipped with an open-box bed, which is hinged at the rear and equipped with hydraulic rams to lift the front, allowing the material in the bed to be deposited ("dumped") on the ground behind the truck at the site of delivery. In the UK, Australia, South Africa and India the term applies to off-road construction plant only, and the road vehicle is known as a tipper lorry, tip-truck, tip-trailer, tipper truck, or tipper.
The Mighty Antar was a heavy-duty 6×4 tractor unit built by Thornycroft from the late 1940s onwards. For some decades it was the standard tank transporter of the British Army and was also used by other nations. It was powered by a shortened V8 land version of the V12 Merlin Aircraft engine modified to run on diesel and known as the Rolls-Royce Meteorite.
Scammell Lorries Limited was a British manufacturer of trucks, particularly specialist and military off-highway vehicles, between 1921 and 1988.
Six-wheel drive is an all-wheel drive drivetrain configuration of three axles with at least two wheels on each axle capable of being driven simultaneously by the vehicle's engine. Unlike four-wheel drive drivetrains, the configuration is largely confined to heavy-duty off-road and military vehicles, such as all-terrain vehicles, armored vehicles, and prime movers.
A dolly is an unpowered vehicle designed for connection to a tractor unit, truck or prime mover vehicle with strong traction power.
The M19 Tank Transporter was a heavy tank transporter system used in World War II and into the 1950s. It consisted of a 12-ton 6x4 M20 Diamond T Model 980 truck and companion 12-wheel M9 trailer.
A tractor unit is a characteristically heavy-duty towing engine that provides motive power for hauling a towed or trailered-load. These fall into two categories: heavy- and medium-duty military and commercial rear-wheel-drive semi-tractors used for hauling semi-trailers, and very heavy-duty typically off-road-capable, often 6×6, military and commercial tractor units, including ballast tractors.
The fifth-wheel coupling provides the link between a semi-trailer and the towing truck, tractor unit, leading trailer or dolly. The coupling consists of a kingpin, a 2-or-3 1⁄2-inch-diameter vertical steel pin protruding from the bottom of the front of the semi-trailer, and a horseshoe-shaped coupling device called a fifth wheel on the rear of the towing vehicle. As the connected truck turns, the downward-facing surface of the semi-trailer rotates against the upward-facing surface of the fixed fifth wheel, which does not rotate. To reduce friction, grease is applied to the surface of the fifth wheel. The configuration is sometimes called a turn-table in Australia and New Zealand, especially if it is a rotating ball-race-bearing type. The advantage of this type of coupling is towing stability.
A flatbed truck is a type of truck which can be either articulated or rigid. As the name suggests, its bodywork is just an entirely flat, level 'bed' with no sides or roof. This allows for quick and easy loading of goods, and consequently they are used to transport heavy loads that are not delicate or vulnerable to rain, and also for abnormal loads that require more space than is available on a closed body.
An articulated hauler, articulated dump truck (ADT), or sometimes a dump hauler, is a very large heavy duty type of dump truck used to transport loads over rough terrain, and occasionally on public roads. The vehicle usually has all-wheel drive and consists of two basic units: the front section, generally called the tractor, and the rear section that contains the dump body, called the hauler or trailer section. Steering is made by pivoting the front in relation to the back by hydraulic rams. This way, all wheels follow the same path, making it an excellent off-road vehicle.
A specialized set of jargon describe the tools, equipment, and employment sectors used in the trucking industry in the United States. Some terms may be used within other English-speaking countries, or within the freight industry in general. For example, shore power is a term borrowed from shipping terminology, in which electrical power is transferred from shore to ship, instead of the ship relying upon idling its engines. Drawing power from land lines is more efficient than engine idling and eliminates localized air pollution. Another borrowed term is "landing gear", which refers to the legs which support the front end of a semi-trailer when it is not connected to a semi-truck. Some nicknames are obvious wordplay, such as "portable parking lot", in reference to a truck that carries automobiles.
A tank transporter is a combination of a heavy tractor unit and a mating full trailer or semi-trailer, used for transporting tanks and other AFVs. Some also function as tank recovery vehicles, the tractors of which may be armored for protection in combat conditions.
A lowboy is a semi-trailer with two drops in deck height: one right after the gooseneck and one right before the wheels. This allows the deck to be extremely low compared with other trailers. It offers the ability to carry legal loads up to 12 ft (3.66 m) tall, which other trailers cannot. Lowboys are used to haul heavy equipment such as bulldozers, industrial equipment etc.
A car carrier trailer, also known as a car-carrying trailer, car hauler, or auto transport trailer, is a type of trailer or semi-trailer designed to efficiently transport passenger vehicles via truck.
The Mack M123 (G792) was a 10-ton 6x6 semi-tractor introduced in 1955; the Mack M125 was a heavy cargo truck version of the M123. The M123 was used to tow tank transporter trailers while the M125 towed field artillery pieces.
The M809 Series 5-ton 6x6 truck (G908) was a family of heavy tactical trucks built for the United States Armed Forces. The basic cargo version was designed to transport a 5-ton (4,500 kg), 14 ft (4.3 m) long load over all terrain in all weather. In on-road service the load weight was doubled. Built by AM General, they evolved into the M939 Series.