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TRAILERS: CRUCIAL TO SHUTTLE VEHICLES | a list of the success factors

Once you have read this article, you will know what criteria trailers need to satisfy in order to be used in automated shuttle vehicles.

A trailer is vital to an automatic loading and unloading system for shuttle vehicles, and it is those trailers I want to talk about in this knowledge document.

Why do we use trailers for shuttle vehicles? The simple answer is because these vehicles have the largest volume permitted on the public highway, thereby enabling you to shuttle as much volume back and forth as possible in as short a time as possible. But the current trailers have actually been designed for goods transport across greater distances. The load placed on a short-distance shuttle is very high. It is similar to using a luxury car day in day out to move heavy items. It’s possible, but it certainly won’t do the car any good, resulting in rapid wear and tear.

Conclusion: trailers are actually not all that suitable for shuttle vehicles, but in spite of that, they are still the most cost-efficient solution we have.


The best trailers for shuttle vehicles

If we’ve learnt one thing in the 25 years plus of our company’s existence, that’s that one trailer isn’t the same as another. In order to withstand the heavy work that awaits them as a shuttle service as effectively as possible, trailers need to satisfy a number of basic requirements, a list of which can be found below.

  • A chassis welded all round
    The most important part of the trailer is the chassis, and it’s best if it has been welded all round, as this allows the rollers, whose job it is to aid with positioning, to be fitted properly.
  • Steered rear axle
    Shuttle vehicles, by their very nature, involve lots of turning and turning around, which is why a steered rear axle is recommended. The additional costs of this axle are soon recouped because the tyres are prone to considerably less wear and tear.
  • As large an internal width as possible
    Even though rollers have been fitted to the underside of the chassis, there is position tolerance at all times when docking on. If you regularly attach overhanging pallets to it, it will be obvious that you will need as much internal space as possible to receive the load in one go. An additional observation in this regard is: if the trailer doesn’t need to go on the public highway and shuttles on its own land, you don’t need to obey statutory requirements and that provides plenty of freedom.
  • Smoothly finished walls
    An excellent half-millimetre edge can already form a blockage and cause damage to the load, so it should even be possible to conceal sensors in the walls.

Additional recommendations

provided that this is in accordance with the basic specifications for a shuttle vehicle trailer. We also wish to make a number of additional recommendations.

Additional air tank
If a chain system has been incorporated, it is recommended that you fit an additional air tank underneath the trailer to supply the chain system’s air hoses.

24-volt connection possible for larger shuttle distance
The supply to the loading and unloading system is often a 400-volt connection, i.e. a plug-and-socket connection with the building. If the shuttle distance is large enough, a 24-volt connection may also be selected, provided that the tractor unit has suitable batteries and a large enough dynamo to adequately recharge the batteries over the shuttle distance.

Normal door versus roller door
A point that causes pain in the trailer specification is the door. A normal rear door provides rigidity and strength to the structure, and that’s necessary due to the large amount of turning and turning around. However, roller doors have many other added benefits. With an automatic roller door, there is 50% less need for the driver to get out. With a normal door, he drives to the terminal, gets out to open the door and then drives as closely to the terminal as possible. When driving away again, he follows the process in reverse. If he has a roller door, he parks the trailer close to the terminal and during the loading process, the door opens automatically.

It’s a shame that a roller door doesn’t provide any stability to the structure. What’s even more annoying is that it is heavily burdened by any movement made by the structure. Just like the trailers, the available roller doors have been designed for normal distribution work, so they are used a maximum of five times a day. For very frequent shuttle work, that can easily be twenty times as much. The doors aren’t actually suitable for this, which should be obvious. We are therefore seeing lots of maintenance being carried out as a result. We are yet to find a really good solution in the market, but we have encountered better and worse roller doors. A stronger roller door will last considerably longer and require less maintenance.

Total supplier

We prefer to work as a total supplier in shuttle vehicles. We supply pallet transportation systems for connecting the production line to the loading terminal, as well as supplying the unloading tunnel with a connector to the warehouse system if necessary. But in order to make it entirely complete, we also provide the mobile loading and unloading system including a trailer that fits properly. With our knowledge and experience, we know what type of trailer and which partners are most suitable.

If you have any questions or comments about this article or about trailers in shuttle vehicles, please get in touch. We will be happy to discuss this further with you.

E-mail: maas@a-service.nl
telephone: +31 (0)541 521206.

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