So why all the interest in trailer steering?

…the short answer; Urbanisation.

The growing requirement to transport goods into urban areas where vehicles need to negotiate sharp corners and small roundabouts in often highly congested environments, are all factors driving the increased specification of steered trailers.

Using a steered trailer means operators can deliver bigger loads, smoothly and safely into locations only previously accessible with shorter wheelbase rigids.  Other advantages such as reduced tyre scrub, better fuel economy and less wear on suspension systems all contribute to make trailer steering a hot topic amongst trailer manufacturers and operators.

Trailer steering – the main benefits:

  • Greater trailer utilisation
  • Vastly improved manoeuvrability
  • Reduced tyre wear
  • Less fuel consumption
  • Less road surface damage
  • Reduced number of transport movements
  • Reduced C02 emissions
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A wide range of trailer steering solutions - all available from IMS

IMS is uniquely positioned to offer the market a complete portfolio of trailer steering solutions including:

  • SAF-Holland self-steering axles
  • SEM mechanical steering systems
  • GreenSteering cable-operated mechanical steering systems
  • VSE electro-hydraulic steering systems

All of the steering solutions offered by IMS are supported by class-leading customer service and aftermarket back up.  Our in-house technical experts are always on hand and more than happy to advise fleet operators and trailer builders on the best steering solution for their particular needs.

Keep scrolling for a brief overview of each of the different types of trailer steering systems.

SAF-Holland Self Steering Axles

Self-Steering axles have been developed for special transportation requirements in delivery services such as tight, winding roads and particularly for semi-trailers with a wheelbase so long that, without them, legislative requirements would not be met.

How they work

Put very simply, the SAF self-steer relies on the caster principle found on virtually all shopping trolleys.  Because of friction on the road surface, the wheels of a self-steering axle will always turn until they point in the direction of the semi-trailer combination.

In the SAF self-steer axle, the stabilisation of the self-tracking action and the subsequent return to the straight-ahead position are carried out by a robust, internally stabilising damper that also prevents wheel flutter.

SAF Self-Steer solutions are available in both disc and drum brake forms and can be specified to suit any wheel/tyre combination.

Benefits

  • Less tyre wear
  • Less fuel consumption
  • Higher level of driver comfort
  • Optimal manoeuvrability
  • Higher resale value of the trailer
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SEM Mechanical Steering

The SEM single bar and double rod mechanical steering systems are designed and engineered to exacting quality standards in the Netherlands.

How it works

With turntable steering the whole axle, including its suspension, is mounted to a turntable; when driving through a bend the whole axle rotates. The main advantages of this steering configuration are that they are relatively easy to manufacture/install and that axles equipped with single & twin tyres can be easily accommodated.

The primary component in the SEM SB system is a steering wedge. This is connected to the tractor fifth wheel, this enables the direct transfer of the steering motion to the rear axle(s) which are mounted on an axle mounting frame.

When the trailer is coupled to the truck, the steering-wedge locks into the fifth wheel of the truck.  The trailer-mounted coupling plate and steering wedge rotate when the truck makes a turn, transferring the movement through the bar to the rear axle. The position of the bar on the fifth wheel unit and the axle mounting frame define the steering angle.

Benefits

  • Improves the manoeuvrability of the vehicle
  • Saves tyre wear
  • Reduces maintenance costs
  • Improvement of fuel costs
  • Reduction in damage costs
  • Constant & consistent steering behaviour (full or empty)
  • Reliable
  • Low maintenance
  • Bespoke requirements can be accommodated
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Green Steering - Cable Operated Mechanical Steering

GreenSteering is a wholly own division of SEM Transport Systems, a member of the Pon Group of companies.  The acquisition of GreenSteering further broadens the portfolio of trailer steering solutions now available to transport operators through IMS Limited.

With more than 4,000 systems installed in the Benelux, the GreenSteering system has very much proven its worth over the past years. It is also the market leader in France for fitment onto refrigerated transport operations.

How it works

GreenSteering uses its own, specially developed and patented polyvalent cables as central components of a high-quality steering system offering several unique features that all lead to a reduction of CO2 and fine-particle emissions.

Benefits

  • Extreme manoeuvrability, linear steering angles
  • More payload by virtue of its light weight
  • Low fine dust, CO² and NOx emission
  • Minimum maintenance and service requirement
  • More loading space due to low structural height
  • Optimised steering angles reduce steering and turning stress in the chassis
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VSE Intelligent Steering Systems

Get your trailers where they’ve never been before with VSE.

A VSE Electro-Hydraulic Trailer Steering-equipped 13.6 metre trailer, can reach delivery points only previously accessible with rigids or small urban trailers allowing operators to standardise their fleets thereby maximising efficiency through greater vehicle utilisation and significantly increased load volumes.

VSE is fully configurable for one to three steered axles on a standard semi-trailer and additional axles on highly specialised haulage trailers.  It requires no installation space within the body of trailer so doesn’t compromise load carrying capacity.  Advanced design also means that axles are placed for optimum load distribution/trailer handling.

How it works

The axles’ steering input is determined by the trailer’s articulation angle with the tractor unit by means of a contactless magnetic angle sensor integrated within the trailer’s kingpin.  Moving the sensor rotates a potentiometer, the output of which is read by an ECU and transmitted electronically rather than by means of a mechanical (rod or cable) or hydraulic linkage.

Each steering axle also has a ‘centring’ hydraulic cylinder, plumbed in a separate circuit, locking the wheels in the straight-ahead position.

A hand-held wireless remote control can be used to change the steering angles without needing the semi-trailer to be in motion.

Benefits

  • Enhanced fleet productivity
  • Minimum installation space requirement doesn’t compromise load carrying capability
  • Low maintenance costs – no lubrication points/maintenance on turntables
  • Fuel savings – approx 500 kg lighter than other systems which can result in massive fuel savings
  • Ease of build/commissioning – plug-and-play system custom-written software for multiple axle configurations
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VSE Smart Steering

The electronic steering assistance system for 1 steered trailing axle

VSE Smart Steering is an electro-hydraulic steering assistance system that allows a trailing axle to be steered during forward and reverse driving of a trailer. It is a standard system for one steered trailing axle.  The big advantage is that it is now possible to make a trailer with a trailing axle more efficient and suitable for a broader range of loading and unloading situations. After all, the rear axle no longer has to be set to a fixed position when driving in reverse.  In addition, with a trailing axle you can reach multiple locations without manoeuvring, saving time and providing more options at loading and unloading locations.

How it works

A sensor on the kingpin measures the angle between the truck and the trailer.  The software in the system locker uses this data to calculate what the corresponding angle of the self-steering axle should be.  The cylinders on the axle then steer the self-steering axle until the desired angle is reached. The desired angle is measured by another sensor on the axle.

Benefits

  • Superior manoeuvrability: Manoeuvre full length trailers and LSTs far more easily
  • Increased operational efficiency: Significantly improve trailer loading/unloading speed
  • Simple to install: A compact, quick and easy-to-install low maintenance system
  • Versatile: Suitable for any type of trailer with a self-steering axle
  • Retrofittable: Easily added to existing trailers
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