Today’s modern fleet has plenty of choices where bumpers are concerned. Whether you are looking for weight or corrosion-resistance, chances are there’s a bumper out there that can be spec’d to your needs. Still, there are things to consider. Let’s take a look at each bumper type.
Many truck manufacturers build their bumpers with plastic. The fact is, plastic is a lightweight and aerodynamic option. Still, the difference between the weight savings gain between plastic and metal isn’t as much as some believe. Also, should you be considering more than just weight and aerodynamic performance?
You may also need to look at things such as resistance to chipping, cracking, peeling and other appearance-related concerns, especially in regional or city driving. There are also environmental and serviceability considerations.
How good chrome performs depends on the technique employed to polish the metal. A chrome-plated bumper starts with a steel base material. Depending on the manufacturer, different grades of steel may be used. After the steel is formed and fabricated, the metal gets buffed and polished down.
The important part is that there be no polishing lines. If the chrome application is done correctly, imperfections will be smoothed out or covered during the electroplating process. Finally, the steel bumper is plated.
Plating adds a coating to the polished steel. The bumper is dipped in several tanks before a thin layer of chromium is plated over it. This electroplating process is what gives you your chrome finish.
Clad bumpers fuse two different types of metal together. Upon fusion of the metals, the bumper becomes a solid material. Then it can be sent on to forming and fabrication.
Most Clad bumpers start with a pre-polished material at the base. The material will be put through a long and proprietary process that includes a number of buffing and polishing sessions. Once the bumper is formed, no further polishing or adding is required.
Managing Road Problems
Let’s face it, the bumper takes the brunt of the punishment. It sits mounted directly at the front of the vehicle, so it shouldn’t come as a big shock that it will undergo a series of impacts as the truck is driving down the road or highway.
Also consider that chemicals used to de-ice roads can have an extremely corrosive effect on the bumper. So how does each bumper type respond to damage?
- Plastic: Although plastic does not usually rust or corrode, they are more susceptible to damage from road debris or other hazards or obstructions.
- Chrome: Chrome bumpers are a lot better at resisting punctures or major damage. Their weakness is that they are susceptible to rust or corrosion.
- Clad: Depending on what they are formed of, clad bumpers can be very rust and damage-resistant.
It’s no secret that heavy-duty commercial vehicles have an impact on the environment. And certain product types are better for the environment than others. Being “green” goes beyond fuel consumption, it also encompasses manufacturing techniques.
Way back in 2004, the EPA launched their SmartWay initiative. This initiative was designed to reduce transportation-related emissions. The point was to reduce environmental risk and go a way to improving global energy and freight security.
If you want to have a SmartWay-verified trailer, then you may want to choose a bumper that can contribute to the trailer’s environmental “green” footprint. The chemicals used in manufacturing your next bumper will play into that. The key is to not buy a bumper manufactured with volatile organic compounds.
Keeping Up Appearances
Of course, looks matter. There is no getting around the fact that a new chrome bumper has some great visual appeal when you are dealing with customer service matters.
In the end, whether you go with chrome, plastic or clad, make sure you properly consider all the factors going into that purchase, from application to manufacturing technique.
Your vehicle’s bumper sits at the head of the table. You don’t want it giving your fleet a bad image. Choose wisely when you pick your next bumper.