Are you fresh out of truck driving school and ready to become the owner/operator of your very own truck? If you're shopping for your first used truck, one of the decisions you'll need to make is whether to invest in a rig with a sliding fifth wheel or save a little money by opting for one with a stationary fifth wheel. Here are two important questions to help guide toward the answer.
Will You Be Hauling Loads In Multiple States?
One of the benefits of a sliding fifth wheel is that it allows you a bit of play with the weight of your loads. Every state imposes its own truck gross weight limits. Your truck's gross weight is a combined total of your truck, trailer, and load, and this number cannot be changed or altered by anything you do.
However, each state also imposes its own steer axle weight limit. This number defines how much of your truck's gross weight its steer axle is bearing. This weight can be changed, as it can be transferred to your drive axles. How? Simply by sliding your fifth wheel forward. On most trucks, every forward cog move will effectively transfer 100 pounds from your steer axle to your drive axles.
If you'll only be working intrastate, you know that your state has a high steer axle weight limit, and you won't be hauling exceptionally heavy loads, then you may not need a sliding fifth wheel. On the other hand, if you'll pulling heavy loads and crossing several state borders (some of which may have strict steer axle weight limits), then it's a good idea to have the added weight flexibility that a sliding fifth wheel offers.
Will You Be Pulling A Variety Of Trailer Types?
When you're stopped at a Department of Transportation checkpoint, they'll want to check the combined length of your truck and trailer. Each state has their own laws regarding allowable tractor trailer lengths, and if you break those laws you'll be ticketed and fined.
Another benefit of a sliding fifth wheel is that it allows you to shave a few inches off of your truck and trailer's total length in a pinch. When you slide your fifth wheel forward toward the cab of your truck, the distance between your cab and trailer is shortened, thus making the overall length of your truck slightly shorter. Keep in mind, though, that this little trick can only be implemented with lighter loads. With heavier loads, those few clicks forward of your sliding fifth wheel could bump your steer axle weight over the limit and you'll be fined for being overweight instead of having a trailer that's too long.
In short, if you purchase a truck with a stationary fifth wheel, you need to make sure that you're only pulling trailers that, when combined with the length of your truck, don't exceed the legal tractor trailer length limits of the states you'll be traveling in. If you have a sliding fifth wheel, however, you'll have the ability to lose a few inches in a hurry, so you can haul longer trailers without the ever-present worry of running into a D.O.T. checkpoint in a state with tight length laws.
Used trucks with stationary fifth wheels are a little less expensive than trucks with sliding fifth wheels, but sliding fifth wheels offer more flexibility when it comes to the legal weight and length limits of your rig. If you know for certain that you'll be hauling light loads and short trailers, then a stationary fifth wheel will be just fine for you. If you're uncertain about the weight of the loads or the lengths of the trailers you'll be hauling, then skip the risks of tickets and fines by opting for the flexibility of a truck that has a sliding fifth wheel.
Visit a site like http://www.arrowtruck.com/ when you're ready to start looking at trucks.