That Big Truck Blog

An American Car Hauler's Blog

“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

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 2


COTTRELL TRAILERS MODEL C-10LT A AUTO TRANSPORT REVIEW PART 2

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

“Strap-only” trailers are being marketed arduously now by Cottrell Trailers as they convey manufacturer’s decisions requiring “soft-tie only” attachments. Keep in mind, I am reviewing a chain trailer here. Soft-tie options for chain trailers are readily available and being used daily across the country with minimal, if any, problems. A recent discussion with a veteran car hauler that regularly uses this method of “over-the-tire” ratchet straps on chain-supplied Cottrell CS-12 2005 model year equipment has reported seeing some cracking in the aluminum tables extending from some of the holes used for 3-point securing of the straps. It should be noted that he regularly transports large SUV’s that weigh 5300 pounds and more. I have yet to see any evidence of this in any of my experiences with Cottrell models but I am not doing as much “heavy” unit moves as the above mentioned operator nor am I using extensive strap moves. There are also those rumors of jurisdictions moving toward questioning the practice of using straps via aluminum decking attachment points. I cannot verify this and that is why I call them rumors. If you have personal knowledge to educate the rest of us, jump in. Your comments are welcome.

However, I believe we will see and hear more negative information about this tie-down option as Cottrell seeks to convince operators to buy new equipment or “convert” current trailers over to strap-only. While ratcheting “over-the-tire” straps are acceptable fare by most, if not all, manufacturers to date, it appears there is movement toward strap-only equipment at the urging of trailer manufacturers. It is my opinion that the push by Cottrell has much to do with the current state of the economy and the hard hit auto transport business. Cottrell Trailers remains standing while others have fallen because of innovation and industry-leading design and I do not intend to take away from that when I opine about marketing practices used. Some would just say it is just good business to do what is necessary to keep the employees working and I suppose it is. I can envision the brass in Gainesville having these weekly pow-wows in which each associate has the task of presenting ideas to jump start the once booming business in these hard economic times and while I agree that is the way I would run my business if I were “Mr. Cottrell Trailers”, I have some reservations about some advertised and solicited programs currently being offered for this market. One example, before I continue on to the review itself (and this has to do with this review later on), is a recent phone call/sales solicitation from a Cottrell rep to a family member who operates several full-size stinger car haulers. The Cottrell rep included a proposal to “convert” a chain trailer to a strap-only trailer. (Yes…Cottrell does refurbs, modifications, repairs, etc also). However, the righteous response to the Cottrell rep was this…“Just what year trailer is it that you want to convert for me? It would have to be a 2007 model or newer because anything older than that would be rusted and rotten to the point it would be wasteful ignorance to put such cost into a trailer!” I had to laugh, as much as it hurts, because I know the pain.

The last new Cottrell trailer I bought was a 2000 model…a CS-12. I ran mostly southern California via the southern routes which put me in little snow. (The harsh chemicals used by highway departments in wintertime really do a number on vehicles today but I seldom saw any of that. In an effort to understand the harshness of the chemicals being used today for highway de-icing, a study of the most popular applications all proclaim the low corrosive nature on metals (autos, bridges, etc) from the likes of calcium magnesium acetate (CMA), calcium chloride, CG-90 Surface Saver, CMS-B (also known as MoTech) and others. If these are not the chemical culprits responsible for the premature rusting of rolling stock, then substandard steel is being used). However, in 3 years, the trailer frame rails were eat through from the inside out with rust. You could poke a hole with your pinkie in the main frame rails on this $59,999.00 trailer (that price was in 2000…2007 prices were in the $80,000.00 range!) after just 3 years. Now, if you go to Cottrell’s website, they will state a 2 year “structural warranty”…leaving them off the hook for the substandard steel choices their procurement department has made. Yeah, yeah…I know these trailers have to be made lighter so we can haul more but I believe Cottrell has made some serious mistakes in their choice of suppliers OR material preparation prior to building these trailers. What good is a lighter weight trailer if there are no frame rails after 3 years? OK…I hear you, Mr. Cottrell Service & Repair…replace the frame rails??? How much is that going to cost me??? $10K. $20K More?? Either way, it seems ridiculous…no…IT IS RIDICULOUS for any business to pay this much for a piece of equipment and it basically rots inside out before a 5 year depreciation can be taken on it. What’s the fix? Hey, Cottrell! Listen up! No, I am not an engineer like your educated designers but I have been around this block for a long time. I have inhaled the “zinc coating” smoke & vapors from the insides of the Delavan “Work Horse” trailer frame rails when we would cut the beams to do a stretch job. Once you smell that, you don’t forget it. And just like the olfactory senses embed this memory, the ocular organs leave a lasting impression as well. Old…and I mean old… Delavan steel frame beams could be halved and inspected and the insides of these rails would be as clean as the outer painted surfaces. It appeared to be a coating of some type that these rails were dipped in. It was quite a chore with a grinder to remove this coating prior to welding. This stuff we called “zinc coating” may or may not have been zinc however it was a proven obvious deterrent to the rust problems we see today. (To be fair, later model Delavan trailers also went the way of rust and premature fatigue but there was an obvious change of ownership or management in the Buffalo, NY organization causing this problem). Why can’t you thoroughly pre-coat the entire beam of this thin gauge steel to make it last a little longer? Surely you are not doing this for your own company security as we have to prematurely replace equipment you have poorly prepared? Look…Cottrell has THE design down pat. They have discovered the way to hold seemingly paper-thin steel beams, posts and aluminum ramps together to transport outrageous loads safely. C’mon Cottrell…make ’em last a little longer! We know it can be done and probably by a simple coating of the materials. Now that I have gotten that off my chest…

As I said, Cottrell Trailers design is as far ahead of the game as the build prep bunch is behind. I stand amazed at the trailer durability concerning the welds and bracing. After 225,000 miles, I just had to do my FIRST “crack” repair and it honestly consisted of a hairline crack horizontally across the front upper posts just below the main upper beam. Both posts at the top…about half way across…requiring a weld to repair. I’ll be watching closely to see if it requires more in the coming days or weeks and I am guessing it probably will eventually need some gusseting or additional welds to properly stop this. I recently did some extensive suspension checks and saw no problems, cracks or weak areas. The design is a definite winner. I am often asked by other car haulers about this post-forward design and “Do you like it?” I always reply with a big “Yes!”. The post forward allows easy door access top and bottom and I can pull that unit out on # 3 without fear of overloading the table of a CS-12 had I tried that. One drawback in this position that I have found is the “tilt” deck in the bottom front (# 7 on a 10 car load) does not go as high as my old CS-12 models which limits the height/size of car when attempting to do 8 units in the trailer (11 car configuration…3 on truck, 8 in trailer). The difference is minimal between the two model trailers but it is just enough to create a problem I didn’t have with the CS-12 trailers. I guess it would be easy enough to fix this but why should I have to??? $80,000.00 should get me what it was designed to do. Admittedly, you don’t see a lot of guys (or gals) today doing this “2 end-to-end in the belly” anymore but I’ll do it every chance I get. It’s revenue and it’s a lot of difference at the end of the year. I’ve been surprised at some comments from old hands in the biz telling me they had no idea you could do this on these trailers.

Carl's Car Carriers

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