EBY Big Country

Elemental Flatbeds

Matthew Randall

People generally recall their high school chemistry class with minimal fondness.   In retrospect, there was a lot of really great stuff going on during the lecture and the lab: burning gasses, exploding metals, shattering objects, super cooling vegetables, and such.   Chemistry effects every day of our lives in a multitude of ways, but I wager to guess the math required to have mastery over this field of study is what painted it in a negative hue for most.   Moles, mass, gaseous volume measurements, reaction calculations, learning the metric system, and the like made many a teenager frustrated at what should have been fun.   It is a subject that tends to be appreciated more with the passage of time, when the knowledge it was trying to impart on us is more impactful and immediate in our daily lives. 

Thinking back upon this field of study, one image universally serves as its symbol for all who labored at dimly-lit lab stations, highlighted by the glow from a bunson-burners: the Periodic Table.   I remember spending many agonizing evenings attempting to memorize all 118 elements identified by this seemingly disorganized patchwork of colored squares, franticly preparing myself for a potential pop quiz, and inevitable written exam.  The idea that changes in protons and neutrons altered an element’s position on the chart represented the extent to which I fathomed this exercise.  Compounding the confusion was that many of the popular elements did not even match up with their symbol on the chart – Iron is FE and Gold was AU, for example.   I realize that their naming stems from logical roots, usually based in Greek or Latin somehow, but it stumped me at the time.  

One element that makes sense is Aluminum: Al.  You see it and can’t help but start humming the Paul Simon song “(you can) Call me Al.”  This substance is amazing due to its combined properties of being low density, strong, and corrosion resistant.  A hundred years of innovation would be in a very different place had this material not been successfully produced and manipulated to service the dreams and desires of the human race.  Planes would still be constructed of wood and canvas, bacteria would not have been subdued from a protective foil barrier on our food, electronics would we absent heat sinks, and spacecraft would be unable to defy the pull gravity and reach for the stars.  Revolutionary changes benefiting the world came into play due to this gift gleaned by Humankind from Mother Earth.  

My natural proclivity is steers towards the enjoyment of water activities, specifically boating.   Inaugural watercraft experiences for me included an old Marblehead Cruiser from Biddeford that grandfather piloted as he chugged up and down the Saco River in hunting for stripers, and a yellow Old Town canoe our family would use to plod around on a Maine lake each summer.  I became proficient in a watercraft for the first time in a severely tired-looking Grumman aluminum canoe, teaching Canoeing Merit Badge at a Scout Camp.  Eventually I learned how to perform a dry exit, the art of gunnel-hopping, side slipping, sculling, and more.  Canoeing quickly turned into my “thing,” augmented soon after by similar aptitude with row boats.       

These decades old floating classrooms perpetually looked haggered: gouges, dents, tears in the trim, and more littered their facades, but rarely compromised their structural integrity.  Non-profit organizations face challenges in the form of cash-flow and availability of resources, which makes aluminum equipment desirous.   Hundreds of youth camps are scattered throughout the United States that use and maintain fleets of aluminum watercraft because they are durable and long-lived.  When small business owners are selecting the material that the newest additions to their work fleet will be made of, many are also turning towards with wonder metal for similar reasons.  

Common sense dictated that the earliest mainfestatoins showcasing the extraordinary properties of this material would be in form of a flatbed up fit option, primarily due to their relative simplicity of design.  Light weight, easy to maintain, and they allow a person to do a myrid of work with one unit; lugging dirt, scrap, brush, boxes, tires, lumber, cement, propane tanks, and almost anything else a person can think of.   Add a couple of straps, and maybe a few removable sides and you’re in business.   Best of all, these up fits tend to be some of the least expensive, high value options a business owner can select.  Install time is a breeze, and add-on’s like a gooseneck hitch, light rack, rear step, and more can be included for minimal additional capital.  

Creating with Aluminum is not as convenient as with other materials, due to the different properties it exhibits.  The primary obstacle is that it becomes structurally compromised once any intense source of heat is applied to it, such as when cut with a torch or welded upon.  When you build bodies for work trucks, low weight and reliable rigidity are important, and using nuts, bolts, and rivets to keep things together only augment these problems.   Modern assembly techniques have advanced to include extruded pieces with no welds and unique shapes to increase rigidity, welding only on the spots where material is at its thickest to reduce premature fatigue, and glue.   Yes, glue.   Have you flown in an airplane?   If you have, you’ve benefitted from the wonders of aluminum bonded by glue. 

As stated earlier in this piece, the subject of chemistry seems to become more interesting to people when it impacts your life in a positive way.   When is comes to Aluminum, this knowledge combines to make the modern up fit body a durable, cost effective platform, worhty of any business owner’s consideration.   If you’ve run with steel bodies and have not tried out aluminum, give it a whirl.    When buying your next work truck body, put one on that is comprised of this wonder element.   We bet you’ll be glad you did, and the team here at Messer Truck Equipment can help get you a reliable product at a fair price.