What Does Air Ride Equipped Mean?

Air ride equipped trucks use an air ride suspension system instead of conventional steel coils or springs. This suspension system uses an air compressor that provides compressed air into airbags that act like springs when properly inflated. In this article, you will learn more about the air ride equipped system, the use of air ride equipped systems in trucks, and how the air ride equipped trailer operates.

Courtesy of PJ Trailers

How Does an Air Ride System Work?

Air ride systems replace the standard suspension system of steel springs with bags or bladders of compressed air to create a smoother ride and better protect cargo. This system consists of several components that allow the suspension to adjust to road conditions.

  • Air compressor 
  • Bladder(usually rubber)
  • Air tank
  • Air pipes
  • Electronic Controller Air Suspension(ECAS) computer

Suspension can be controlled by changing the amount of compressed air sent through the airlines to the bladder. A computer monitors the air pressure in real-time to adjust the suspension which will last longer than a standard spring suspension and provide a more comfortable ride for the driver. Air ride suspension has become the new standard as it is used in 75% of trailers that are manufactured today and in almost all highway tractors, according to Fire Apparatus Magazine.

Use of Air Ride in Trucks

Many truck drivers swear by air ride-equipped suspension systems because it reduces the amount of “bumps” they feel while driving. Because of this, truck drivers often deal with back problems when spending many hours driving in uncomfortable conditions. Traditional spring suspension systems create a less steady ride, in which case the driver feels more movement that can be unpleasant and painful. When driving up to eleven consecutive hours, truck drivers will opt for anything that gives them a more comfortable ride. Air ride suspension can adjust to keep the truck level when driving on rough roads. Many trucking companies prefer this system because a softer and smoother ride appeals to drivers and allows them to drive longer and delay fatigue.

Installing air ride suspension into a truck can be very beneficial, but it will be more expensive than a standard suspension. Depending on the equipment needed and the truck’s size, installation can range from $500 to upwards of $3000. 

Air ride suspension requires many parts and components, such as air compressors, lines, and valves, that will need more maintenance than coil suspension. However, air ride suspension systems tend to last longer and can even reduce the wear on tires and joints by reducing the stress placed on them. Equipment longevity is essential when dealing with trucks and requires costly maintenance and repairs. While the upfront cost of converting to air ride can be expensive, protecting expensive assets and cargo can save money in the long run. 

How an Air Ride-Equipped Trailer System Operates

Air ride suspensions help to protect fragile cargo, like glassware or electronics, by reducing the risk of compression damage and telescoping, which is the sliding around of objects into each other. 

Standard coil suspension systems are less forgiving when it comes to turns and bumps in the road and can cause cargo to move around and be damaged. Since air ride suspension maintains a level ride, the cargo is less likely to slide and ensures that it will be intact upon arrival. In some instances, distributors will require air-ride-equipped trailers to transport their cargo.

When pulling lighter loads, trailers with a traditional spring system tend to bounce more since they have less weight pulling them down. Air ride suspension keeps the trailer steady and evenly distributes weight to create a smoother ride.

In some cases, air ride-equipped trailers have an advantage in docking by being able to adjust the height of the truck so that it aligns with the dock, which allows for easier unloading and loading, saving time and labor. However, trailers that use an air ride suspension are more susceptible to “walking” away from the dock, caused by shifts in weight when unloading.

Air ride equipped trailers operate at their full potential when paired with an air ride equipped truck. Having an air ride on only one or the other provides almost no benefits to the driver or the cargo, as one is subject to the movements and vibrations of the other. Air ride suspension equipment needs to be well maintained in both trailer and truck to maintain the system and get the most comfortable ride and return on investment.

Conclusion

Unlike traditional suspension systems, air ride-equipped trucks use airbags adjusted with air compressors to replace steel springs or coils. This advanced suspension system provides a smoother ride by maintaining a level ride height and reduces the number of bumps in the road that the driver feels, creating a more comfortable ride. When equipped in a trailer, air ride suspension protects cargo and acts as insurance for truckers hauling fragile and often expensive goods in challenging driving conditions.