Steeled for success: SSAB makes the case for high-strength steel

SSAB Swedish Steel’s Ozgur Yalcin explores how the use of high-strength steel satisfies the often competing needs of reducing costs and fuel consumption, and improving trailer payload capacity

A cement mixer trailer made using Hardox by a customer that has joined SSAB’s Hardox In My Body initiative, which encourages a collaborative approach to product design.
A cement mixer trailer made using Hardox by a customer that has joined SSAB’s Hardox In My Body initiative, which encourages a collaborative approach to product design.

Regional trends in the transportation industry are driving demand for lighter, more fuel-efficient vehicles, according to SSAB, as fleet operators continue to experience considerable pressure to reduce fuel consumption and costs, while improving crash performance and payload capacity.

The Swedish steel manufacturer has now been working with trailer and truck body fabricators in the region for a decade, having delivered the first wear-resistant Hardox steel plates in the Gulf to the Gorica Group in 2007. Since then, the use of Hardox steel among trailer manufacturers in the region has expanded significantly as awareness about the merits of SSAB’s unique products has grown.

Put simply, Hardox is a toughened steel with an above average hardness — measured on the Brinell scale — that allows manufacturers to reduce the thickness of the steel used in their fabricated products compared to conventional steel, while keeping the same degree of robustness and product lifespan.

This lowers the weight of the fabricated elements of trailers and truck bodies, increasing the payload that can be carried for a given gross vehicle or combination weight when loaded as per regulations, and reducing fuel costs and wear on load-bearing truck and trailer components when running empty.

Conventional heat-treated or annealed stainless steel has a hardness of 200HB (on the Brinell scale), and when SSAB started out with Hardox, it had a hardness of 400HB. Today, research and development has pushed the hardness even higher — to 600HB and even 700HB with Hardox Extreme — comparable to some of the toughest hardened tool steels.

SSAB also produces a high-strength steel called Strenx in strips and plates with structural strengths ranging from 600MPa (megapascals) to 1,300MPa — making it one of the world’s widest ranges of structural steels. Strenx can be used to reduce the weight of steel structures by up to 40% — yielding cost saving benefits in much the same way as Hardox.

Ozgur Yalcin, Middle East sales manager for SSAB Swedish Steel, notes: “The incorporation of high strength steels, with their lightweight properties, into truck and trailer designs can improve their wear resistance, payload capacity and performance — delivering significant benefits to the end user: fleet operators.”

As an example, Bion Industrial used Hardox steel in the fabrication of its CB520 cement bulker semi-trailer — increasing its capacity by 2m3 and reducing its weight by three tonnes compared to a standard model on the market.

Hardox and Strenx can also help make tipper bodies and trailers — which are exposed to especially severe wear and impact during their product lifecycle — not just lighter, but tougher and stronger. This lengthens their life and delivers a more sustainable lifecycle.

Another market dynamic that is shaping how fleet operators structure their operational costs, and how trailer and truck body fabricators respond to their requirements is the increasingly stringent regulations in terms of axle loads and gross combination weights now being put into practice in the Gulf countries.

Yalcin notes: “As the maximum weight of a vehicle is limited by law, a lighter configuration allows the payload to be increased and lowers fuel consumption on unloaded journeys. A conservative estimate of the fuel savings is 0.55 litres of fuel per 100km per 1,000kg of weight reduction. This will directly impact the operating costs of any logistics company.”

Yalcin continues: “Beyond the competitive advantages for the end user, body-builders can also benefit from using high-strength steels by reducing material costs and production time. From the perspective of overall production costs, despite a higher steel price per tonne, the reduced sheet thickness of high-strength steel will in most cases yield a substantial reduction in the cost of both processing the material and the material itself — as less steel is consumed.”

He details that by upgrading a standard chassis with advanced high-strength steels, a fabricator can reduce the thickness of all major structural parts — lowering the weight of the chassis by as much as 1,500kg, and reducing production costs, in turn, by up to 30%.

The use of thinner gauges of steel in the workshop can also result in lower costs and less time spent on the cutting, bending and welding phases of production — with a reduction in time spend welding, in particular, yielding large cost reductions due to the reduction of related consumables. This is especially true with advanced high-strength steels with a high degree of pliability, which — if taken into account during the design phase — can be allow for structural modifications that reduce the total number of welds.

SSAB’s brand initiatives: Hardox In My Body and My Inner Strenx, support its direct customers by offering them technical support and training on the incorporation of its specialist steels during the design and production phases, and sales support through joint marketing activities. A trailer or truck body product certified by SSAB also provides customers with the manufacturer’s guarantee that the end product is made using genuine Hardox or Strenx high-strength steel.

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