That stiffness is critical, as the fifth wheel must be able to absorb the dynamic forces coming from the trailer and from the road, while ensuring the tractor trailer remains safely coupled.
“In a rollover event, the trailer rotates and pulls the tractor with it,” Mutnuri explains. “[JOST] tests for that. By using this particular carbon fiber bar, it has more than twice the rated vertical load in those types of situations. So, there’s a safety improvement to that.”
While safety is the primary function of this new component, the switch from an all-metal fifth wheel to one with a CFRP interior provides several secondary benefits. When combined with JOST’s stationary mounting brackets, this new system is the lightest in its class, according to the truck manufacturer. The CFRP beam helps shave 70 pounds off the overall weight, while increasing the vertical load capacity by more than 20%. The component is rated to carry 55,000 pounds, just like a traditional all-metal component.
Any opportunity to reduce the weight of the overall vehicle allows for the transport of additional goods within the federal 80,000-pound gross vehicle weight limits. In addition, Mutnuri points out, the superior strength-to-weight ratio carbon fiber offers when compared to steel leads to higher fuel efficiency. Improved fuel efficiency and higher load capacity can contribute to a lower carbon footprint over the vehicle’s lifetime.
JOST is preparing to put this new fifth wheel into more than 500 rigs in its initial production batch. “We anticipate increasing the production exponentially in next few years,” says Mutnuri.
Megan Headley is a freelance writer in Fredericksburg, Va. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.