Looking at different types of commodity trailers.

No two trailers are the same, and every operator has an idea of the “perfect” trailer for every haul. From belt trailers to shuffle floor trailers, belly dumps and more, there is a lot to research and consider when selecting the right trailer for your operation. To make the decision easier, we have outlined some of the pros and cons for five of the most commonly used trailers in the commodity trucking industry.

Bottom Dump Trailer (aka Belly Dump or Clam Dump)
Also known as belly dump or clam dump trailers, bottom dump trailers have a clamshell dump gate at the bottom of the trailer. Haulers unload these rigs by electronically opening the clamshell. The materials then are either laid precisely as the gate opens from left to right, or they are spread evenly across the rear of the trailer when the gate opens from front to rear.

Pros: On the construction site, bottom dump trailers are great for laying asphalt. The wheels never stop turning, allowing haulers to drive right through the dump zone and quickly unload a 21-yard load in just 25 feet. Other hauls can easily be handled and stockpiled using a loader or a dozer. Other common commodities bottom dump trailers haul include dirt and gravel.
Cons: While bottom dump trailers can be extremely versatile, there are some limitations on material size. Materials that average 1 to 2 feet in diameter will not be able to unload through the gate and cleanly flow out underneath the axles.

End Dump and Side Dump Trailers (aka Tipper Trailers)
End dump and side dump trailers unload hauls by lifting and tipping the trailer upward or to the side. Hydraulic rams lift the trailer up into an angled position, allowing the material to quickly flow out into a pile in the dump zone. These are often ideal for hauling waste and garbage.

Pros: Both end dump and side dump trailers offer the option of rapid unloading at the jobsite. End dumps can carry larger loads than the typical dump truck, as well as handle tougher materials like demolition debris. Side dumps offer additional stability, and their 50-degree dump angle allows material to unload fast and clean.
Cons: While unloading, tipper trailers have a high center of gravity, making them more likely to tip over. Drivers need to be more experienced to know when to dump and where.

Shuffle Floor Trailers
Also known as live bottom trailers, shuffle floor trailers are often used for bulk material and palletized cargo. These trailers feature a series of narrow floor slats on the floor, which are powered by a hydraulic system that allows the slats to move forward and backward either in unison or alternatively. This “walks” the load toward the end of the trailer for an effective unload.

Pros: These trailers can work well for unloading loose goods, such as wood, slaughterhouse waste and chipped tires. The driver can easily unload from the cab without any additional equipment.
Cons: The unload time can be slow and tedious for these trailers, and the slats/hydraulic system may require careful maintenance. Shuffle floor trailers are not ideal for heavy, tough loads like gravel and mining aggregate.

Hopper Trailer
Hopper trailers are used in agricultural applications, mostly for hauling grain. These trailers use two hoppers to unload the product, with one placed at the front of the trailer and another at the rear. The unload is controlled by sliding plates at the base of the hoppers, which is operated manually by a crank handle.

Pros: During harvest season, hopper trailers can be driven out into the fields and used right alongside combines and grain carts. After transporting the haul, these trailers can easily unload dry grain into an auger for long-term storage in grain bins and silos.
Cons: Hopper trailers are limited in the range of different products they can haul. Larger commodities may be impossible to flow through the hoppers.

Belt Trailers
Belt trailers use a hydraulically or electronically powered belt that carefully moves the product to the end of the trailer, quickly unloading in a pile. Drivers can unload an entire haul from the cab of the trailer. Depending on the type of load, some belt trailers have been designed to unload a haul in under four minutes.

Pros: Belt trailers are known for a quick, safe unload, and some brands can stand up to decades of wear and tear. They can haul a variety of commodities including recycling materials, potatoes, grain, feed, seed, mining aggregate and more. Belt trailers with a frameless design also offer a more aerodynamic and lightweight construction which improves truck performance and fuel economy.

Cons: When it comes to grain, a belt trailer will need a grain funnel to unload into an auger. Check with the manufacturer and ask if their belt trailers can be equipped with a variety of optional add-ons that can fit the needs of a haul type or operation.

The bottom line? Choose the trailer that works best for your operation. Find a brand and make that can get the job done, from dawn until dusk—and then some. | WA

For more information about Trinity Trailer (Boise, ID), including new and used trailers for sale and options, visit www.trinitytrailer.com.

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