Arm getting too cranky? Go full electric

It takes 50 to 60 crank arm rotations to get the legs on a trailer’s landing gear to touch ground. This exposes the driver to a variety of musculoskeletal injuries.

The damage typically occurs to shoulders, knees, back and upper body. The repetitive cranking motion impacts muscles, tendons and joints, especially with aging drivers.

And what about aging drivers cranking landing gear on trailers?

Consider that the average farmer in Canada is 55 years old. Maybe that’s a good age to stop cranking that landing gear. Maybe it’s a good time to electrify it.

That’s what AIRman Products had in mind as they developed their Automated Landing Gear Deployment and Retraction Technology, said Shane LaHousse, engineering vice-president for the company.

“Operating the crank arm can be awkward and physically taxing, even if the driver is young and uses the proper technique for landing gear operation. So we’ve taken this task out of the driver equation by automating it,” said LaHousse.

The 12-volt compact electric motor eliminates the manual cranking required to raise and lower a trailer’s landing gear. The 15-pound unit can be OE-installed or retrofitted in less than an hour. It’s compatible with all existing landing gear makes.

With the AIRman system, a driver can deploy and retract landing gear in less time than it would take to do either operation manually.

“The fleets we’ve surveyed tell us that shoulder, back and rotator cuff injuries are at the top of their list for workers’ compensation claims, and that cranking landing gear up and down can cause or exacerbate these injuries,” according to an AIRman release.

“Truck driving is already a physically demanding profession, so our automated system focuses on one primary stressor, making trailer drops and hook-up operations safer and faster. Because no crank arm needs to be accessed, and the controller is mounted just under the trailer apron, tighter trailer positioning is possible.”

The system comes as a complete kit. Installation requires the removal of two bolts on the landing gear crossbar, attachment of the AIRman landing gear actuator and the reinstallation of the crossbar.

The 15-pound unit can be retrofitted in less than an hour. It’s compatible with all existing landing gear makes. With the system, a driver can effortlessly deploy and retract landing gear in less time than it would take to do either operation manually. | AIRman photo

The electrical interface requires a 12-volt power supply. The unit’s control box mounts under the trailer. The two-way toggle switch user interface mounts to the side of the trailer frame rail for easy access.

Once installed, the unit requires no maintenance, except periodic replacement of its dedicated battery, as needed. The landing gear actuator is self-contained and requires no lubrication. AIRman says their system is about half the cost of other systems.

AIRman says that during the development of the system, they conducted temperature, shock and endurance testing. As part of the evaluation, units were put through the equivalent of 10 drop and hook cycles per day for a period of 10 years or 36,000 cycles, with no observable wear and no failures.

The Automated Landing Gear Deployment and Retraction Technology is now undergoing final fleet field-testing on trailers operated by both regional and national carriers. The system is expected to be in commercial production by the third quarter of 2020. It will come with a five-year warranty plus and a seven-year warranty is available under a fleet agreement.

When it was introduced to the trucking industry in January, AIRman said they expected the price to be about $700 USD.

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