That Big Truck Blog

An American Car Hauler's Blog

“…he always did things a little differently as a kid”

10 Cars on a Cottrell High-Side...Loaded A Little Abnormally

"Ten Cars...My Way"

A little unconventional way to 10 car a Cottrell Trailers C-10LT high-side…but it works rather well. The # 4 position can be stored below the rails (the red Jeep Compass backed on) and I have had an SUV/crossover type vehicle as large as the GMC Acadia in this position. Benefits are multiple…the weight of the engine/front end are kept to the rear and most supported part of the table and there is much less “swing” weight out on the front as the ramp is raised to it’s utmost point while loading. A lot less stress on that number 4 table this way while loading & going down the road. Of course, keys are in the bottom…belly car must be backed on with flippers on the shotgun stored inward. Also the shotgun car must be driven on with the wheels to the leading edge of the ramp. These 2 final vehicles must be of short enough wheelbase/length combinations to fit within the space from the front of the shotgun table to the rear of the telescoping # 10 ramp…obviously.

Oh yeah…don’t try this without a little wheelbase in your horse.

Be safe.

October 31, 2011 Posted by | Auto Transport Trailers, Car Haul, Carl's Car Carriers Inc, General Auto Transport | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“WHAT IS A CAR HAULER?”

"What is a car hauler"?

WHAT IS A CAR HAULER ???

Mention “truck driver” to the general public and the cartoon image of a burly, half-educated, unshaven, brawny lout is conjured up. Deserved or not, that is the unfortunate stereotype…but what really is a truck driver and particularly a car hauler?

A car hauler is a guy expected to put anywhere between 6 and 12 motor vehicles in a box 75 feet long and 13 and a half feet high. The box is about 3 times the size of a normal house garage, the sides of which the average motorist finds himself scraping from time to time.

On newer equipment types, he places his 195 linear feet of cargo in his 75 foot container by manipulating approximately 23 valves, which activate almost 45 hydraulic cylinders or screws, which in turn place head ramps, cantilevers, stands, and decks in position to complete the loading puzzle. He is working with tolerances which consider 3 inches “all kinds of room,” and he practices his art in all kinds of weather.

When he is through with the loading process, he finds himself with a package which from the standpoints of height and length, is at the fringes of legal limits.

He is the biggest thing on the road with bridges, tree limbs, detours and road construction posing a constant threat. In all types of road conditions, daily commuters see him as an obstacle to be avoided at all costs. Although he may be lost, looking for a dealer he’s never been to before, in bumper to bumper traffic, concerned with overhead objects which may pop up at any time, he receives that amount of sympathy normally reserved for reptiles. He is cut in front of, cut inside of, tailgated and sudden stopped.

With the complexities of loading behind him, possibly terrible weather conditions and maybe even a breakdown or two, he frequently arrives at his destination only to find outrageous unloading conditions and hostile car checkers (if he can find them). Yet he is expected to maintain his composure because public relations are also a big part of his job. And when he finally gets his last unit off, he often proceeds to another terminal to pick up his backhaul and start all over again.

The next time you’re inclined to think of our drivers in those old cartoon images…ask yourself if you could do their job. Not many of us can, and for you to continue your job, he, God bless him, must continue to do his. Being a professional car hauler is not given to many, and one who has made it, is entitled to all your respect and admiration.

Thank You, Drivers, for All Your Hard Work ! We Really Do Appreciate You !

January 7, 2010 Posted by | General Auto Transport | , , , , , | 6 Comments

LOCKED IN A TRUNK – Car Hauler Tales

You just can’t make this stuff up.

One of the very interesting stories I encountered during my 33-plus years of auto transport involves a young man from eastern Tennessee. “Stevie” was a car hauler for many years…raised in the biz much like I was, taught by his father whom I knew to be one of the top-shelf car haulers in the country. My father, Claude (i.e Baltimore Kid, Kentucky CatFish, Gold Digger for you that only remember folks by their CB handles), was simply the best and Stevie’s dad worked along side my own father for many years. Both eventually would train many new recruits to the business, teaching them “old school” ways of making this difficult job successful. They were owner/operators in addition to the tough job of hauling automobiles so there was much to be attentive to if they were to survive the tests of many years down the road.

There was a time when Stevie became a driver/operator for one of the independent owners that had a truck leased to an enterprise of mine, Carl’s Car Carriers, many years ago. At the time, southern California was a route that we serviced from several of the northeast U.S. automobile auctions. Stevie was dispatched on a load from the Newburgh, New York area destined for El Monte, California. Back in that day, early 90’s Ford Thunderbirds & Mercury Cougars were a favorite model for this particular buyer. These cars also had the dreadful trait of trunk lids mysteriously popping open during transport when loaded in a “back on” position. (This eventful personal discovery was not a pleasant one for this author, I might add.) To be sure, I don’t think the engineers and designers at FoMoCo in Michigan had planned for these cars to go down the road at 65 miles per hour…backwards! Not all of these cars had this problem…seems like every now and then one would just open but when it happened, it was usually a costly problem as the wind forced it up and back, bending hinges and sometimes breaking that cute little rounded rear window, spraying shards of safety glass all down the following cars on the trailer.

This mixed load of used cars headed into the Los Angeles basin just happened to contain one of these particular model cars and Stevie chose to load it first…which meant it went on the top, front position out over the cab/hood of the shiny red Peterbilt car carrier he was driving. This placed the trunk facing forward, catching all the turbulence of some 2500 miles cross country. It was a cold night, as told to us the next day, when Stevie pulled out of Newburgh, NY and began his journey south. It wasn’t far down the road and he received a CB call from a passing truck driver advising him that “the trunk on that first car is open!” Stevie pulls into a rest area to check things out and sure enough, the trunk lid is popped and now sticking straight up, hinges bent and fortunately the rear glass had not been broken.

There is no way to access this one position on a car hauler from the front…obviously it is resting some 13 feet off the ground with nothing to stand on. The only way to access it is to climb the ladders and carefully “hug” the car as you inch along the side of the car, holding onto door handles, windshield wipers or anything you can grab onto for support. Stevie accomplishes this task and sees that the hinges have been bent and the trunk will not close back completely without some force. Hanging from his precarious position and attempting to slam the trunk lid down proved to be difficult but he did get it to latch…only to have it pop back open again. Stevie decides he needs a few tools to check out why the latch mechanism is not working and holding the trunk lock securely. After gathering a few tools, he climbs back into position but is unable to reach the locking mechanism from the side of the rack. His next move placed his head, arms and upper body over the edge of the open trunk as his legs slid in behind him. Inside the open trunk, now he had good “safe” access to the lock mechanism and he began his investigation and adjusting. Are you still with me here? Do you have this picture in your head? It is cold…dark…frost is covering the car surfaces…a man is sitting cross-legged inside an open trunk on top of a car carrier 13 feet in the air in a rest area parking lot at some early wee hour in the morning…holding a flashlight in his mouth while he tries to repair the lock so the trunk lid will stay latched as he makes his way to California.

Stevie felt he had found the problem and made a simple adjustment to the catch by bending it so the lock would hold. Before he got out of the trunk, he wanted to check it to make sure it would line up. Yeah…you are ahead of me here…I can tell. Stevie decides to lie sideways and pull the trunk lid down while observing with his flashlight from the INSIDE of the trunk. His words were…”I knew I was in trouble when I heard the trunk latch click on the first attempt.” Yeah, when I heard this story, I gasped too at that moment. It is one of those impossible to make up stories. I did not discuss with Stevie about his claustrophobic nature…I was laughing too hard at the time. Scary, for sure, but at the telling of the incident, I was aware the man had survived the ordeal. He could have been locked in that trunk for days until the truck was located and even then, I don’t even want to imagine what would have led an investigator’s K-9 companion to the trunk of a car loaded backwards on top of this car hauler.

The good ending to this story is that Stevie kept his head and was eventually able to bend the latch assembly with the small screwdriver to get the trunk to pop open once again. He said he spent some very scary, uncomfortable time inside that cold, dark trunk that night. I can only imagine.

A few years ago, car manufacturers began installing pull tabs on the inside of trunk cargo areas so this kind of problem could be avoided. I’m certain they were brought about by a rash of car-jackings and somebody said “there outta be law” or something as simple as that. I’m pretty sure the engineers at the Big 3 automakers didn’t create this pull tab inside the trunk area due to errant car haulers finding themselves prostrate and locked in a cold, dark place never intended for human occupation…unless you were on the bad side of Tony Soprano. But in the latter instance…you probably wouldn’t be able to reach the pull release tab anyway. 😉

January 4, 2010 Posted by | Auto Auctions, Auto Manufacturers, General Auto Transport, Manheim Auto Auctions | , , , | 2 Comments

COTTRELL TRAILERS MODEL C-10LT A AUTO TRANSPORT REVIEW PART 3

COTTRELL TRAILERS MODEL C-10LT A AUTO TRANSPORT REVIEW PART 3

COTTRELL TRAILERS MODEL C-10LT REVIEW CONTINUATION

***The following is an ongoing, independent, unbiased review and commentary by CB Stephens of Carl’s Car Carriers Inc and is based on regular, everyday usage of the equipment in the course of automobile transportation activities for which this trailer was intended. CB Stephens is a 33-plus year veteran in the car haul field as an independent owner/operator and small fleet developer. Carl’s Car Carriers Inc. is a Tennessee-based automobile transportation service chartered in 1991. Cottrell Trailers can be visited by clicking this link: CottrellTrailers.com

With the earth’s axial tilt approaching it’s farthest away from the sun, Old Man Winter has begun his annual visitation a little early for some of us. And with the southern states getting highly unusual “first” snows, a skid-jerkin’, chain-poppin’ carhauler doesn’t have a lot of time to ready his horse and himself for the harsh weather conditions ahead…matters not what part of the country you operate in.

I would like to address a Cottrell Service Bulletin on this third installment of my personal review of the C-10LT high-side auto transport trailer as it applies to this model. It is officially designated SB # 006 by Cottrell Trailers and applies to this reviewed model C-10LTA and C-10LTB trailers. The beginning models of these trailers apparently required more bottom gusseting near the front of the trailer to add support to the front upright posts of position # 3. When this was discovered, Cottrell Trailers made available to owners a kit that included 2 new bottom gussets pre-cut and a pair of tubes to telescope into the top of the front uprights to add more support. My trailer was no exception in this warranty issue covered by this SB # 006 service bulletin. Please see this important notice for specific Cottrell requirements for kit installation and weld procedures. It is imperative that weld procedure be followed and adhered to according to Cottrell Trailer specs. Improper gusset weld can be troublesome per this link: SB006 Weld Bulletin.

Small cracks developed on the top of the front posts at the bottom edge of the horizontal beam on my trailer…an ’07 model. At first notice, I was not at a location that I would want extensive repair to be performed and opted for a weld repair to close up the crack until the repair could be properly handled.

Cottrell Trailer

In completing this repair/warranty issue, hydraulic lines will have to be disconnected at the top of the posts…both ends should be disconnected and the lines strapped to the top beam out of the way. I retracted the cylinders to remove as much hydraulic fluid as possible and set the posts on the pins prior to disconnecting the lines. On my trailer, there was an electrical connection for the top horizontal rail “chicken lights” so that was placed out of the way with the hydraulic lines. Pull the retaining pin out of the top saddle and allow the cylinder to rotate and hang from the opposing end/pin. (see image below) Good time to verify fit of the o-ring in the fitting on the cylinder end. If I’m not mistaken it is a #6 o-ring in case you need to look for one. *Hint…Home Depot or the “Do-It-Yourself” display at your parts store.

After the lines have been removed, you may want to place a jack in the position depicted below to achieve a closing of the gap in the crack area…that is if you have waited long enough to develop a crack. If not, you may still want to place some support in the area shown in the image to keep things as they should be. Not sure if it’s required by Cottrell but the placement of the jack in the area shown immediately closed the small gap at the top of the posts. Jacking in the 5th wheel area even with a cum-a-long stretched to the top of the post could not close the gap. Only a small amount of pressure on the railroad jack placed under the bottom beam closed the gap immediately on both sides.

Insertion of the telescoping tubes is pretty straightforward and all I could offer here in the procedure would be to make sure you block the possibility of the tube falling down into the bottom of the uprights. Don’t ask me how I know this. There was a pin placed in a side hole of the upright for this purpose but when the c-clamp let go and the tube fell, it kicked the blocking pin right out and settled down near the bottom of the tube…caught by the inner hydraulic plumbing I think. Not a big deal but we were able to tack weld some flat stock through a side pin hole and retract it back up into position. Cottrell specifies 1/4″ of the telescoping tubes be left out the top and welds placed there. In addition, there are plug welds that must be made on the side and the rear of the front upright posts after drilling. Grind smooth.

These are not intended to be complete kit installation instructions…there are many more warnings that must be acknowledged, i.e. isolating ECM modules and other electronics prior to welding by removing battery cabling, etc. This is my personal experience with this model trailer and it is my intention to include every repair and maintenance issue that is encountered as I work this trailer through it’s useful life. This repair was performed at approximately 235,000 miles of use. I have become accustomed to making good use of this new design which allows the “pulling on” of vehicles on this # 3 position as opposed to the CS-10 and 12 models. I also utilize this position many times for a larger unit and yes, large SUV’s can be pulled on and the doors will swing wide open to exit the vehicle.

Be Cool On Yer Stool, Driver…and Truck Safe.

December 24, 2009 Posted by | Auto Transport Trailers | , , , , | Leave a comment

COTTRELL TRAILERS MODEL C-10LT A AUTO TRANSPORT REVIEW PART 1


COTTRELL TRAILERS MODEL C-10LT A AUTO TRANSPORT REVIEW PART 1

COTTRELL TRAILERS MODEL C-10LT REVIEW

The following is an independent, unbiased review and commentary by CB Stephens of Carl’s Car Carriers Inc and is based on regular, everyday usage of the equipment in the course of automobile transportation activities for which this trailer was intended. CB Stephens is a 33-plus year veteran in the car haul field as an independent owner/operator and small fleet developer. Carl’s Car Carriers Inc. is a Tennessee-based automobile transportation service chartered in 1991. Cottrell Trailers can be visited by clicking this link: CottrellTrailers.com

After working with this “post forward” design high-side automobile transport trailer for some 225,000 miles, I thought I would share a personal experience review for others considering a new high-side Cottrell Trailers purchase.

I ordered a new C-10LT A (short decks with flippers) in early 2007 after speaking to a factory rep that informed me they had one opening available due to a customer declining a previously placed order. It was explained to me that the Cottrell factory order process includes fabricating, cutting and preparing all parts and specifications about 30 days in advance. That means after that 30 day window, a customer cannot make many changes to the spec’d trailer order. Maybe paint, tire brand, etc? That was early 2007 BEFORE the Wall Street bust and the current economy woes that hit most all industry pretty hard. Car hauling was no exception and possibly was hit as hard as any. At the time of my order, there was still quite a backlog on getting a new trailer unless someone opted out of an order and you were Johnny-On-The-Spot or one of the larger companies that handled a number of trailers on a regular basis. Being a single trailer purchase, I got lucky when Motor City Auto Transport changed their mind from a high-side post forward model to another model, leaving that pre-cut trailer within the 30-day window looking for a buyer. I was at the right place at the right time and my name was placed on that trailer schedule. A Viper Red paint choice and a few small changes moved me up from a 3 to 4 month wait to a 30 day delivery ETA at the Cottrell Trailers factory in Gainesville, Georgia.

I have had extensive experience with many manufacturers of auto transport equipment over my car haul career that began officially for me in the early 1970’s. Even before that, my Dad, Claude Curtis Stephens, was a well-known, well respected car hauling professional for many years and I grew up around his trucks and trailers…all “high” 5th-wheel models. For much of his career, Troyler Trailer out of the Scranton, Pennsylvania area, was some of his favorite equipment but keep in mind this was a different day and there were some pretty stringent regulations for car carrier equipment back in those days. I remember maximum length limits of 55 feet overall in most states…8 feet wide was the limit before the 102″ allowances came along with the STAA (Surface Transportation Assistance Act) of 1982. Stinger-steered trailers (described mostly as a tractor/trailer combination where the kingpin is 5′ or more behind the rear axle centroid) were around then but the companies my Dad was leased to operated mostly high-5th wheel trailers and utilized a single car headrack (the super-structure custom fitted around the cab/roof design of various truck/tractors to facilitate the loading and transport of an automobile). It was not unusual in those days for heavy modifications to be performed on trailers as regulations changed to accommodate the maximum load potential. Steel frame rails in those days were substantially heavier and stronger and lent themselves well to complete frame stretching with a multitude of design options and changes per the operator’s ideas.

On to the C-10LT A review…it is my desire to provide an unbiased perspective on this trailer model with NO hidden agendas. I have no connection with Cottrell Trailers other than being a current user of one of their models and having used many different models of Cottrell trailers over my 30-plus year car haul career. I also have owned and operated Delavan trailers, Boydston trailers, Stuart trailers, Troyler trailers (both highly modified and factory 10-car units) and a host of other cut, hammered, chopped and stretched pieces of auto transport trailers as I did my best to put food on the table for my family like Dad taught us.

This particular Cottrell model C10-LT has the unique distinction from the earlier CS-12 models that include the “post forward” design which simply means the first 2 upright posts have been brought closer to the front of the trailer and at slightly less angle than the CS-12LT.

These images reveal this feature at the locations of the red arrows…the first being a 2000 model CS-12 with traditional post positioning while the second image is the C10-LT A 2007 model “post forward” design.

I have owned and operated about half dozen various CS-12 trailers prior to this newer design. It is this author’s opinion that the Cottrell high-side trailers are at the highest level attainable in the auto transport industry today as it applies to design, versatility and current regulatory limitations for size, dimensions and weight. Most of my own business will include used car dealers buying a mix of cars, large and small, and sport utility vehicles along with minivans and light trucks. This requires the versatility of the high-side design, again…my experienced opinion…where load potential can be maximized AND in the case of split buyers/split loads…requiring a minimum of loading/unloading to accomplish the task of delivery. With this design and the CS-12 models, it is possible to bring a unit off one of the top forward positions without unloading the top rear positions in many cases. While there are those times when this cannot be accomplished due to the size and dimensions of a particular unit on these trailers, there are many times I have been able to save double handling of cars just to get one unit off. This is enough to keep me in the “high-side” market alone but there are other reasons I personally choose to run one of these trailers. Versatility is the chief reason for a high side model as far as my car hauling niche goes. If I were operating short haul and quick load/unload was a priority, I may consider a 9-car quick-loader or comparable offering. I would be shorting myself if I went with any other design for my current customers.

I will continue my review of this trailer and include various load images, etc on subsequent posts here in this blog. If you have comments or images of your own, please forward them to thetruckist@gmail.com and I’ll see what I can do about including them here.

December 24, 2009 Posted by | Auto Transport Trailers | , , , | 6 Comments