Fleet Maintenance - 10

VEHICLES

The role of

composites

in heavy duty trucks

As speculation grows over the
potential increased use of composite
materials in tractor-trailers, what do
fleets need to know with respect to
repairing these unique materials?
By Gregg Wartgow

[ BODY & CAB ]

C

omposites have long been used in the construction of heavy duty trucks and trailers. The primary benefits of using such materials are clear:
reduce weight and thereby improve fuel economy
and cargo-carrying capacity.
"Composite materials are used in many locations on heavy duty trucks," says Jim Nachtman,
director of heavy duty marketing for Navistar,
a holding company whose brands include
International trucks. "Examples include hoods,
bumpers, skirts, cab extenders, and roof air fairings, as well as many interior components such
as cabinets and the instrument panel. Engine
components such as the International A26 engine
valve cover, oil filter cap, and fuel filter cap are
composite as well."
In addition to weight savings, Nachtman says
composites provide benefits including lower
replacement parts cost and enhanced flexibility
for certain applications such as bumpers. Given
all of these benefits, some wonder if the use of
composites could be expanded in the coming years.
"Look at the Boeing 787 airplane," says Rich
Schiavoni, head of Academy Training for Wurth
USA, a supplier of vehicle services, parts, and
products. "It is primarily composite, so it is
certainly possible. A carbon fiber chassis on
a heavy duty truck? I'm not sure. I don't know

10 Fleet Maintenance | March 2020

how much carbon fiber flexes, but I would think
that everything bolted to the chassis and above,
excluding the drivetrain, could go away from steel.
The same goes for trailers. What holds the weight
needs to be extremely strong, but what keeps the
weight in has more options."
Some who have been entrenched in the heavy
duty collision repair industry aren't so sure the
use of composites will increase.
"I don't think we'll ever see composites with a
frame, at least not in my lifetime, and I'm 60 [years
old]," says John Spoto, national heavy duty commercial manager for the automotive aftermarket division of 3M, a maker of abrasives, adhesives, and
coatings for auto body repair. "Just look at what
has happened on the auto[motive] side. The auto
side isn't even there yet." Spoto is also an instructor
for I-CAR, the Inter-Industry Conference on Auto
Collision Repair.
Despite the justifiable nay-saying, an Iowabased bus manufacturer is proving that composites can play a more pivotal role in the construction
of large vehicles.
"A company called Proterra is using composites to make electric buses," says Michael Hoke,
president of Abaris Training, a Nevada-based
organization that has been providing advanced
composite training since 1983. "One of our instruc-

tors taught a damage repair class in Toronto the
first week of January because Proterra has a fleet
of buses there. We've actually done quite a few of
these classes for Proterra over the past few years."
Proterra is using both carbon fiber and fiberglass in its electric buses - materials that are used
based on design and loading requirements.
"One of the primary advantages of composite
construction is the ability to vary the makeup
of materials throughout the vehicle," says Mike
Finnern, Proterra's vice president of customer
service. "This allows for a design optimized for
strength, weight, and durability."
According to Finnern, the utilization of composite materials has allowed Proterra to remove 4,000
lbs of weight compared to a traditional metal bus
frame and chassis.
"The primary advantage for an electric bus
is that it can now store more energy (batteries)
onboard to extend its range," Finnern points out.
Abaris Training has also been engaged by a
leading manufacturer of semi-trailers.
"We've had some personnel from Wabash
National come through our training facility,"
Hoke says. "Wabash is using composites in refrigerated trailers because composites can be good
insulators."
Wabash National is using a unique molded structural composite (MSC) technology, an
advanced material consisting of a high-efficiency
foam core that is encapsulated in a polymer-reinforced shell and protective gel coat. Robert Lane,
vice president of product innovation, says MSC not
only reduces weight and eliminates corrosion, but
also provides twice the puncture resistance while
improving thermal efficiency by up to 25 percent
in 53' van applications. Wabash is also using MSC
in its truck bodies.

Material selection and
the fleet's ROI
Regardless of what type of material a manufacturer chooses to use - composite, steel, aluminum, or
 Continued Page 12



Fleet Maintenance

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Fleet Maintenance

Uptime: Get Involved
The Role of Composites in Heavy Duty Trucking
Best Practices to Establish a Total Vehicle Alignment Program
Document Management in the Digital Age
Smoke Out Cabin Leaks
Four Keys to a Successful Extended Drain Interval Program
Management: Be Aware of Maintenance Scheduling Challenges in the Shop
Training: What Does Trucking Have to Do With STEM?
Fleet Parts & Components
Tools & Equipment
Classifieds
Guest Editorial: The Ripple Effect of Unplanned Downtime
Fleet Maintenance - 1
Fleet Maintenance - 2
Fleet Maintenance - 3
Fleet Maintenance - 4
Fleet Maintenance - 5
Fleet Maintenance - 6
Fleet Maintenance - 7
Fleet Maintenance - Uptime: Get Involved
Fleet Maintenance - 9
Fleet Maintenance - The Role of Composites in Heavy Duty Trucking
Fleet Maintenance - 11
Fleet Maintenance - 12
Fleet Maintenance - 13
Fleet Maintenance - 14
Fleet Maintenance - 15
Fleet Maintenance - Best Practices to Establish a Total Vehicle Alignment Program
Fleet Maintenance - 17
Fleet Maintenance - 18
Fleet Maintenance - A1
Fleet Maintenance - A2
Fleet Maintenance - A3
Fleet Maintenance - A4
Fleet Maintenance - 19
Fleet Maintenance - 20
Fleet Maintenance - 21
Fleet Maintenance - Document Management in the Digital Age
Fleet Maintenance - 23
Fleet Maintenance - 24
Fleet Maintenance - 25
Fleet Maintenance - 26
Fleet Maintenance - 27
Fleet Maintenance - Smoke Out Cabin Leaks
Fleet Maintenance - 29
Fleet Maintenance - Four Keys to a Successful Extended Drain Interval Program
Fleet Maintenance - 31
Fleet Maintenance - 32
Fleet Maintenance - 33
Fleet Maintenance - Management: Be Aware of Maintenance Scheduling Challenges in the Shop
Fleet Maintenance - Training: What Does Trucking Have to Do With STEM?
Fleet Maintenance - Fleet Parts & Components
Fleet Maintenance - 37
Fleet Maintenance - 38
Fleet Maintenance - 39
Fleet Maintenance - 40
Fleet Maintenance - 41
Fleet Maintenance - Tools & Equipment
Fleet Maintenance - 43
Fleet Maintenance - 44
Fleet Maintenance - 45
Fleet Maintenance - 46
Fleet Maintenance - 47
Fleet Maintenance - 48
Fleet Maintenance - Classifieds
Fleet Maintenance - Guest Editorial: The Ripple Effect of Unplanned Downtime
Fleet Maintenance - 51
Fleet Maintenance - 52
Fleet Maintenance - B1
Fleet Maintenance - B2
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