DuraPlate is a structural composite material that
consists of two external steel skins thermally
bonded to a high-density polyethylene core.
Maintenance and repair
In general, there are no apparent diff erences
between traditional materials and lightweight
materials when it comes to maintenance. In
some cases, lightweight materials may require
less maintenance. For example, aluminum does
not rust whereas traditional steel does, especially
when exposed to elements such as road salt.
“In general, new materials are preferred to be
held to the same expectations for maintenance and
serviceability as traditional materials,” Navistar’s
Nachtman says. “Aluminum has the advantage, as
well, that it does not corrode like steel does, so that
can increase the longevity of the part, particularly
in some of the corrosive environments.”
Experts at Peterbilt confi rm that none of their
lightweight options require special maintenance,
and the same goes for Wabash’s trailers.
“Th ere are no major changes to the preventative
maintenance programs by design,” Wabash’s
Ehrlich says. “In many cases, existing methods
and materials used in lightweight materials will
be exactly the same as traditional materials.”
While maintenance remains about the same
compared to traditional materials, lightweight
materials have a reputation for being more costly
to repair, since they are typically more expensive
and require specialized equipment and training.
“To repair damage to aluminum body panels,
we do recommend shops pursue training and buy
the proper equipment necessary to become aluminum
repair capable,” Ford’s Stoehr says.
Stoehr advises shops may invest in the following
tools and equipment dedicated specifi cally to
aluminum repairs to avoid cross-contamination
» Wabash introduced a prototype DuraPlate
Cell Core trailer at TMC in February. DuraPlate
Cell Core is 350 lbs lighter than conventional
DuraPlate, but with comparable durability for
withstanding abusive freight environments.
Photo courtesy of Wabash
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with steel or other materials:
Aluminum MIG welding system
Aluminum hand and power tools
Aluminum dent extraction system
Aluminum Wet Mix air fi ltration system
Specialized SPR rivet gun
Work area separation/isolation system
Manufacturers are taking steps, however,
to try to protect customers from undue repair
costs. Designing vehicles with easily repairable
or replaceable parts cuts down on repair time, and
therefore repair cost.
“When we designed the all-new F-150, Super
Duty and Expedition, we didn’t just swap out
steel for aluminum,” Stoehr explains. “We
thoughtfully redesigned the vehicles to off er
our customers better performance and to make
them easier to repair in the event of an accident,
signifi cantly reducing time of repair and saving
costs. So, while high-strength
aluminum alloy is more expensive
than steel on a pound-forpound
basis, the innovative
design for accident repair will
signifi cantly reduce labor time
and costs as an off set.”
Stoehr notes some examples
of this on the F-150:
The apron tube can be
repaired without removing
The floorpan and rocker
panels can be sectioned
instead of completely replaced.
Th e B-pillar can be repaired without disturbing
When it comes to heavy duty vehicles, Navistar
avoids using alternative materials in some locations
on the vehicle to prevent excessive repair
costs for customers.
“If you look at a steel cab, for example — while
steel is a traditional material, it’s a lot easier, and
therefore lower cost, to repair than an aluminum
cab,” Navistar’s Nachtman says.
Trailer manufacturers seem to operate under
similar principles, using intelligent design to
ensure repair costs for lightweight materials are
similar to what they would be for traditional
“Wabash National uses advanced materials,
such as composites, to lightweight our
trailers, but we require those materials
also to be repairable,” Ehrlich says. “We
work with our service shops to train
them on new methods and materials.”
The future of
Vehicle and trailer lightweighting can
go a long way to boost a fl eet’s bottom
line. From light duty vehicles seeing
signifi cant fuel economy gains, to heavy
duty vehicles that can haul signifi cantly
more freight, the results of lightweighting
are overwhelmingly positive.
Manufacturers are also working on
developing new advancements in lightweighting
technology that may lead to
further improvements in fl eet effi ciency.
Moving forward, it is likely that vehicle
weights will be further reduced
as new lighter weight materials and
components are developed.
As current materials and technologies
become more widely used and less
cost-prohibitive, fl eets may benefi t from
the competition between manufacturers
to build the most effi cient vehicles.
All classes of vehicles can
benefit from lightweighting
in both fuel savings and
increased load capacity.
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