1. What is a semi-trailer?
A Semi trailer is the most popular haulage vehicle on the roads in most countries.
The trailer has no front axle with the load being carried by the hauling truck or tractor. There is a single turning point making reversing, coupling and uncoupling much easier. The trailer is more maneuverable for an experienced driver. Useful for narrow urban streets, the confines of a construction site or a tight loading bay at the dockside.
Semi trailers come in a range of shapes, with probably the most common being the box semi trailer. This is a box frame with doors at the back, normally used to carry pallets of non-perishable goods, often for retail or commercial industries.
A flat bed trailer is often used to transport shipping containers, which clip onto the trailer, but can carry just about anything that can be strapped on. Popular for transporting large and oversize loads.
A tautliner, with curtain sides, provides the security and weather-proofing of a box trailer with the convenience of loading and unloading a flat bed trailer.
Dump trailers may tip up to allow the cargo to slide out. These are often used for transporting sand, gravel, building materials or agricultural products.
2. Should you buy or hire?
The purchase of a semi trailer for your organisation would involve an initial capital outlay. Constant and regular expenditure will also be necessary on items such as insurance, maintenance, breakdown cover and additional staff, or at least a driver.
If you expect regular usage then the purchase of a trailer makes business sense, if only because the vehicle will always be available when required. You will also have the peace of mind in knowing the maintenance history of your own trailer.
Buying a semi trailer may not be the best value for your business if you find the trailer being under-utilised. The expenditure will be constant, even though you are not using the vehicle as often as anticipated.
Semi trailer rental may be essential if, for example, you find that the requirements of a particular load exceeds your own haulage capacity (The cargo is too large or too heavy for your business-owned trucks and trailers).
Advantages of a rental package for your semi trailer include having the trailer, and so the associated expense, available only when required. Vehicle maintenance and servicing is the responsibility of the rental company. You may also be able to arrange for a driver to be supplied with the trailer rental, negating the need to employ your own.
3. Rental considerations
What should you consider when selecting a business to rent you a semi trailer?
Any Project Manager will tell you that the three main risks for any project, big or small are scope, schedule and budget. In the case of hiring a semi trailer, this means you should think about:
- Does it have the haulage capacity for our particular cargo?
- is the trailer available when we need it and will the load arrive on time. You will want to avoid, or minimise, deadtime with people waiting, unable to work, dependent on the cargo.
- All of the above, and the cost of the rental package.
A professional rental company will have a fleet of clean, well-serviced vehicles. This helps to ensure the reliability of the rental and the safety of the driver and others on site.
You should ensure that the rental company provides a roadside assistance/breakdown cover package.
Finally, you may also want to discuss one-way rentals, picking up or dropping off the trailer at an agreed location, if this saves you time and money.