Corrugated Metals Blog

Steel vs. Aluminum: What’s Right for Your Trailer?

Posted by Ken Carlton

Jan 14, 2014 8:37:00 AM

trailer_hauling_livestockHere’s a question that has been plaguing manufacturers for decades: Do you use steel or aluminum for your product? As you might imagine, the choice is critical on a wide range of levels. Issues like weight, strength, corrosion-resistance, carbon footprint and cost all play roles in deciding which direction to go. When it comes to trailers (the ones used to transport horses, cars, livestock and other products and materials) most of the industry’s leaders are fans of aluminum. So how did all the biggest names in trailers conclude that aluminum was far superior to steel for their products?

Corrugated Metals - Comparing Aluminum and Steel

While there are many factors involved when choosing between aluminum and steel, the following five factors stand out:

  • Weight - There isn’t much argument that aluminum weighs less than classic steel. While the price of a steel trailer might be lower when purchased, the second you get an aluminum trailer out of the road you instantly begin saving money. Whatever weight the steel adds to the trailer is pounds of cargo that you don’t carry.  This is especially a big deal to over-the-road truckers who must constantly battle with weight restrictions.
  • Strength - Don’t be fooled, modern aluminum is tough and strong. While it cannot match steel’s yield and ultimate strengths, aluminum can certainly hold its own. In addition, aluminum has a better strength-to-weight ratio.
  • Corrosion - In general, aluminum is much more corrosion resistant than regular steel. Some of the extremely expensive and difficult-to-work with stainless steels do offer excellent corrosion protection. However, they are heavy and absolutely cost prohibitive for use in trailers. 
  • Green Benefits - According to the Aluminum Association: “one pound of aluminum in place of 1.5 lbs. of steel in a typical bus or truck application reduces greenhouse gas emissions by almost 90 lbs. over the lifetime of the bus or truck.”
  • Cost - This one isn’t as clear cut as the issues above. The initial cost, what you pay to have a trailer manufactured, will most likely be higher with aluminum. Steel does have a number of cost benefits (upkeep, repairs); but if you crunch the numbers, the costs associated with aluminum and steel equal out in the end, or even in favor of aluminum.

After looking at these factors, and many more, it starts to become clear that when it comes to trailers, aluminum is your best bet. Of course, this is not the case for all situations, and you should always share your unique needs with your trailer manufacturer or salesperson; but in general, aluminum is the perfect corrugated metal material for your next trailer. 

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Topics: corrugated metals, Steel, aluminum, Trailers