Schmitz Cargobull has a radical new trailer chassis design, replacing conventional I-beam main chassis rails with a Z-beam rail. It takes five minutes to form a pair of main rails by cold-rolling flat strips of steel into a Z profile, 60% quicker than making I-beams by welding top and bottom flanges to a vertical web.
The new chassis beams are also stronger and cheaper to make. Schmitz says both advances are needed, pointing to gross weights above the 40 tonnes of its domestic German market and stiff price competition among trailer builders. The firm’s fledgling manufacturing joint venture with Dongfeng in China was also a catalyst.
Overloading is commonplace in China and prices there are low, so Schmitz needed to find a way of building tougher but cheaper trailers. It spent €30m (£25m) on a new chassis production hall in Altenberge, Germany, and there is a similar line in Wuhan, China. Schmitz started making the new chassis, dubbed Modulos, in Germany last week. The Chinese plant starts production next month, ramping up annual volume there to 20,000 trailers in 2018.
Z-beams have a thicker web than Schmitz I-beams: 7mm rather than 4mm for a standard curtainsider. Beam depth remains at 400mm, with a 120mm neck for a 15-tonne rating. Extra strength is added forward of the landing legs by bolting one of several reinforcing neck modules to the Z-beams. Schmitz has also changed the way it mounts running gear. Instead of welding spring hanger-brackets to the bottom flanges of the main rails, the brackets are bolted through the rail’s web, reckoned to give a more stable connection. Otherwise the Modulos chassis is similar to the current one, with bolted and galvanised construction. Schmitz claims build precision is better as the absence of welding eliminates risk of heat deformation. Chassis weight is claimed to be on a par.
The first trailers with Modulos Z-beam chassis are standard curtainsiders, now called Genios, and by the end of the year 75% of Schmitz output will feature Modulos chassis. The design extends next year to mega trailers with 90mm and 65mm necks, plus coil-carriers.
The new modular design enables 280 different welded beams to be rationalised into 20 Z-beams, rolled with different steel thickness and dimensions.
Schmitz is implementing a 3% list price increase this month to offset rises in material costs, principally aluminium.
- This article first appeared in the 7 August edition of Commercial Motor. Why not subscribe today for the latest used truck and trailer deals?
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