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Air Ride Trailer Suspension vs. Spring Ride Trailer Suspension: Is Either Truly Better?

Posted by Mckinney Trailer Rentals on Aug 14, 2023 7:55:29 AM

trailer suspension systemThe suspension system of a trailer plays a vital role in handling road bumps and maintaining tire contact with the pavement. A well-maintained suspension not only improves the driver's control of the vehicle but also safeguards the freight by minimizing shock and vibration. When it comes to trailer suspension, performance is paramount, but the choice of the suspension system can make a significant difference. 

The two types of suspension systems in trailers are air ride and spring ride suspension. Each type has its benefits and drawbacks, creating somewhat of an ongoing debate in the trucking industry about whether air ride trailers or spring ride trailers are better.

There are strong opinions and compelling arguments on both sides, but it’s not necessarily a matter of which system wins outright. Both air ride and spring ride proponents are correct in their own ways based on their unique use cases. Here's how to choose which trailers are right for you between air ride trailers and spring ride trailers.

Air Ride Trailer Benefits

A Smoother Ride With Added Protection

An air ride trailer uses an air-based suspension system with valves, air lines and woven rubber-like air spring bags. One key advantage of air ride trailers is their ability to adapt quickly to the rig's load and road conditions, providing an overall smoother ride. This makes them an ideal choice for transporting fragile cargo that requires careful handling to avoid damage and breakage. The air suspension system effectively absorbs those bumps and thumps on the road, reducing the risk of cargo shift and damage during transit. Air ride trailers are often used to transport items such as electronics, pharmaceuticals, and delicate equipment.

Easier Trailer Detachment

Air ride systems facilitate easier trailer detachment. By using a dump valve, air can be released from the suspension, lowering the rig and allowing for seamless separation. This feature saves time and effort, making it particularly useful in applications where frequent trailer detachment is required, such as in the delivery of goods to various locations.

Air Ride Trailer Challenges

Suspension System Installation

The installation of an air ride suspension system can be challenging and time-consuming, involving various components such as air compressors, reservoirs, valves, and air bags. The cost of a semi-trailer with air ride suspension can average about $1500 - $2000 more than a standard spring ride trailer, depending on the trailer type and specification.

Prone to Breakdowns and Mechanical Issues

Due to the complexity of the system, air ride trailers can be prone to breakdowns and mechanical issues. Common issues include clogged hoses and leaks, which can result in higher maintenance costs compared to spring ride trailers. Regular inspection and maintenance can help identify and address potential problems promptly to ensure optimal performance and reliability.

Spring Ride Trailer Benefits

Reliability With Cost Efficiency

Spring ride trailers employ a suspension system that uses semi-elliptic leaf springs. These springs, made up of flexible steel strips, act as a single unit attached to the trailer's frame above the axle. Spring ride trailers allow for lower maintenance costs and a longer life cycle. Especially in the initial years of ownership, spring ride trailers require minimal upkeep. The leaf springs provide reliable and robust suspension capable of withstanding heavy loads and harsh road conditions. This durability leads to cost savings on replacement expenses and makes spring ride trailers a suitable choice for industries that prioritize longevity and cost efficiency.

Lighter Weight

Another benefit of spring ride trailers is their lighter weight compared to air ride trailers. The absence of additional air suspension components reduces the overall weight of the trailer. This weight reduction can lead to improved fuel efficiency, allowing for potential cost savings over the long haul. The lighter weight also increases the payload capacity, enabling the transportation of larger loads within legal weight limits.

Spring Ride Trailer Challenges

Increased Vibration

There are a few drawbacks to consider for spring ride trailers. When the trailer isn't fully loaded, spring ride trailers can make for a rougher ride due to limited suspension during travel. This can result in increased vibration and potential cargo shift.

Exposed Suspension System Parts

Exposed spring suspension system parts are susceptible to rust, corrosion and wear over time, particularly in regions that have harsh weather conditions. Regular maintenance and inspections are necessary to address any issues promptly and maintain the system's reliability.

Comparing Air Ride and Spring Ride Trailers Side by Side

To better understand the differences between air ride and spring ride trailers, let's compare them side by side:

Criteria Air Ride Trailers Spring Ride Trailers
Ride Smoothness Smoother ride Potentially rougher ride
Cargo Protection Suitable for fragile cargo Goods must be durable
Maintenance Costs Higher maintenance costs Lower maintenance costs
Trailer Weight Slightly heavier Lighter (potential fuel savings)
Resale Value Usually higher resale value Potentially lower resale value

A simple rule of thumb is to consider the goods being transported and the desired ride quality when choosing between air ride and spring ride trailers.

When to Choose Air Ride Trailers

If you frequently transport fragile goods that require careful handling and protection against vibrations, an air ride trailer is ideal. The air-based suspension system offers enhanced shock absorption, reducing the risk of damage and breakage during transit.

In applications that involve frequent trailer detachment, air ride trailers provide added convenience. The dump valve allows for quick and easy separation from the trailer, saving time and effort in logistics operations. If your operations require efficient trailer detachment and flexibility, air ride trailers can be valuable assets.

When to Choose Spring Ride Trailers

If you transport durable goods that don't require the same level of cushioning and protection as fragile cargo, a spring ride trailer can meet your requirements while keeping maintenance costs low. Spring ride trailers are commonly used in industries such as construction, agriculture and general freight transportation. The simplicity of the leaf spring suspension system reduces the risk of mechanical failures and simplifies maintenance procedures.

Additionally, the lighter weight of spring ride trailers provides advantages in terms of fuel efficiency and payload capacity. If you aim to optimize fuel consumption and maximize the amount of freight carried, spring ride trailers offer a practical solution.

Buy, Rent or Lease the Exact Trailers You Need

Once again, if you're prioritizing a smoother ride and added protection for fragile cargo, air ride trailers may be the preferred option. If you seek cost efficiency and reliability for transporting durable goods, spring ride trailers can be a solid choice.

Mckinney offers both suspension options in different types of trailers, including dry van trailers and refrigerated trailers and more. We understand the importance of your business investment in trailers and will work with you to confirm your requirements, meet your specifications and exceed your expectations. All of our trailers are meticulously maintained to ensure optimal performance and safety. Learn more and request a quote today.

Topics: Trailer Suspension Systems

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