Aluminum Vs. Stainless Steel Crude Oil Haulers

Apr 30, 2020 Comparison By ___

For a long time, aluminum crude oil hauler trailers were the gold standard when it came to hauling crude oil long-distance. However, in recent years, stainless steel has risen as a popular choice for crude hauler construction, despite its higher cost and heavier weight. You may be curious to know why this is and what it means for your line of work. Do you stick with tried-and-true aluminum, or do you trade up to the newer stainless steel options?

Trailers Of Texas in Houston is your Lone Star State crude hauler dealer. Here are some of the differences between stainless steel and aluminum crude haulers to help you decide what’s the best option for your business.

The Issue With Aluminum

The lightweight nature and affordability of aluminum has made it a classic choice for crude haulers and many other types of heavy-duty trailers for years. Economically, it makes a lot of sense for a crude oil hauling company to use the less expensive option wherever possible, especially when additional weight can reduce the amount of payload that a truck can carry, which in turn lowers profit margins. Aluminum crude haulers are generally lined with an epoxy coating in order to protect the metal.

However, a few years ago, it was discovered that the epoxy linings can fail, especially near heat-affected areas on a trailer like where sumps are connected. This led to the sumps’ failure due to corrosion after only a few years.

This is because, when crude haulers are serviced, they are emptied of their residue and steamed in order to clean them and reduce the risk of explosion from lingering vapors. Methanol is used as an antifreeze following this service.

Unfortunately, the methanol can cause epoxy to soften, as can abrasive materials in the crude oil, like sand. Combine this with the other chemicals utilized in well fracs and you have the perfect recipe for deterioration, leading to thousands of dollars in repairs.

Where Stainless Steel Excels

Stainless steel crude haulers do not need a lining, epoxy or otherwise, in order to prevent corrosion. A stainless steel trailer may not need maintenance until after a decade or more of constant use. Stainless steel also has more fatigue strength than aluminum and can withstand more stress without becoming damaged. For areas with harsh terrain (which includes most crude oil operations, honestly), stainless steel is a much hardier choice for crude oil haulers. This is why, despite its higher cost and heavier weight, stainless steel has become the much more popular choice for crude haulers in recent years.

Which To Choose?

Ultimately, the decision is up to you when it comes to the type of material you want your crude oil hauler to be manufactured from. Aluminum trailers will need their linings serviced every few years in order to maintain their integrity, and they will also last about half as long as a stainless steel hauler will (five years versus about ten years).

An aluminum crude oil hauler will initially cost less, but the replacement of the epoxy coating and maintenance required may up the overall cost of the trailer so significantly that it makes stainless steel the more economical option. However, stainless steel inherently costs much more and weighs a lot more, which can be detrimental to profitability due to the higher fuel costs associated with heavier weight and the reduced capacity for hauling as a result.

It truly depends on how you handle maintenance and where you’re hauling your crude. For straight highway hauls, aluminum is an economical choice, since it’s lighter in weight, but steel has more longevity and is good for tougher conditions.

Come see us at our location in Houston, Texas, to take a look at our vast inventory of new and used crude oil tank trailers for sale in both aluminum and stainless steel styles. You can also talk to our staff about our financing options if you’d like to make use of them. Trailers of Texas proudly serves the Texas cities of Katy and The Woodlands.