Designing Trailers With Drivers Top of Mind

A man wearing a blue shirt and a camouflaged baseball cap climbs into the cab of a semi truck

A fleet’s equipment choices are about more than simply moving freight efficiently. It’s just as much about taking care of the drivers—the men and women who are on the front lines making deliveries every day. In a world where driver retention and recruitment difficulties are compounded by outside factors like the economy and COVID, fleets need to take advantage of every tool at their disposal aimed at keeping their top-of-the-line drivers satisfied while running routes.

As is the case in any job, drivers want to be heard and have their top concerns—often safety and security-related—addressed. Sometimes, finding solutions to ongoing issues means tapping into new, innovative ideas.

For example, FleetPulse, Great Dane’s smart trailer telematics system, might seem at first glance to be a technician’s tool, but the mobile app and user-friendly online dashboard were also designed to be a boon for drivers. Alerts like lights out detection or real-time ATIS status, for instance, can potentially save drivers from having to deal with a major headache down the road.

“FleetPulse was born out of feedback from drivers and fleets to make the pre-trip inspection easier for the driver,” says Dennis Skaradzinski, chief engineer at Great Dane. “As smart trailers evolve with more sensors, advanced warning for specific maintenance, and predicted potential downtime, it will allow drivers to drive more productively.”

Great Dane takes a look at some of the other ways the company has approached trailer design with a focus on drivers.

Illuminating Solutions

Spec’ing high-quality lighting both inside and outside the trailer is all about maximizing safety, security, and productivity for the driver. With this in mind, Great Dane offers LED work lights above side and rear trailer doors, as well as LED lighting inside the trailer.

For such a small detail, the benefits of spec’ing LED lighting over traditional incandescent bulbs are vast. For the fleet, LEDs use a small percentage of power compared to the power needed to illuminate incandescent bulbs. They also don’t produce as much heat and they last considerably longer.

The driver will literally see major benefits when working under LED lights. “These lights improve visibility inside the trailer by significantly increasing light output from a traditional dome lamp, translating into better productivity and a safer overall environment,” says Christian Lee, Great Dane vice president of engineering.

“Improved interior lighting improves safety for workers placing and picking cargo,” says Rick Mullininx, Great Dane executive vice president of engineering.

Protecting Drivers

“Slips and falls are a major concern for fleets, so we offer multiple options for safe entry and egress, as well as an anti-slip feature inside the trailer,” Mullininx says. “Our engineers are continuing to explore innovative ideas to make the trailer safer for drivers.”

Speaking of slips and falls, Great Dane has engineered its trailers to prevent them at every turn, as even a minor accident can mean lost time and money for the driver—not to mention the hassle of finding a replacement driver for the fleet.

Great Dane trailers feature a rear frame that provides access to the cargo area through swing or roll-up doors, easing the efforts needed to access cargo by the driver. The rear frame also features accessible ingress/egress device designs such as various steps, ramps, and gates.

“The rear frame is an essential part of the trailer body,” Lee says. “It contributes to trailer body rigidity, durability, and impact resistance. A well-designed and assembled rear frame helps fleets to have less downtime caused by improper door fit-ups and operations, less corrosion, and impact damage.”

Great Dane’s trailers have an easy-access front gladhand and electrical box connection design mounted on a replaceable pan for the driver. Also, trailers feature easy-access grab handles and doors.

“Great Dane was the first trailer manufacturer to provide as standard equipment the grab handle on the roadside door (swing doors) and the perforated channel between the RIG verticals,” says Tim Schmeits P.E., director product engineering, Everest Super Seal at Great Dane. “We may have also been the first manufacturer to offer steps and a recessed grab handle as standard on roll-up doors as well. This allows for safe entry and exit from the trailer.”

Great Dane trailers have a unique, continuous hinge-style side door lock design that is more ergonomically friendly for drivers. To add to this, Lee says one of the ideas Great Dane engineers have in development is an ergonomically-friendly rear swing door which requires less force to operate than a typical door.

Through its mix of engineering expertise and innovation, Great Dane finds going the extra mile to keep truck drivers happy and safe is always worth the effort.