For years, manual lever-style fifth wheels were the go-to product in the semi-trailer business. Today, air-release fifth wheels have been introduced, providing convenience. So, what’s the difference between manual and air-release fifth wheels, and which option is best for you based on your application? We’re here to tell you all about it. 

Comparing Manual vs. Air-Release Fifth Wheels

The world of semi-tractor equipment has significantly evolved in efforts to improve efficiency and driver safety. One of the new pieces of technology is the air-release fifth wheel. Let’s compare manual and air-release fifth wheels. 

What Are Manual Release Fifth Wheels?

The main difference between manual fifth wheels and air-release fifth wheels is the coupling technology. With manual-release fifth wheels, you may verify that it’s coupled properly by doing a tug test. You should also visually inspect the fifth wheel to be sure. You’ll ensure the locking bar fully crosses the throat, all visual lock indicators are engaged (JOST 5th Wheel Lock Security Link), and check that there’s no air gap between the bottom of the trailer and the top of the fifth wheel. 

To uncouple this fifth wheel, the lock is released manually by pulling a handle on the fifth wheel. 

The Cons of Manual Release Fifth Wheels:

  • There are so many different products on the market, each with its own unique locking operation. Knowing what to check for can be confusing for drivers, thus resulting in safety risks. 
  • The manual lever style is more difficult for the operator to use – it involves more physical work, and it’s challenging to couple and uncouple.

What Are Air-Release Fifth Wheels?

JOST International air-release fifth wheels are favored for their state-of-the-art sensor technology. The sensors are paired with a coupling system that helps the driver confirm that the fifth wheel is properly attached and safely from inside the cab. No more tug tests or visual inspections under the trailer are needed! 

The Sensorkuppling and Lok-Lite systems contain dual sensors. The first sensor indicates that the kingpin is securely in the lock position. The second sensor shows that the fifth wheel is locked and the release handle is secured (JOST 5th Wheel Lock Security Link). The status of the lock is indicated by a JOST-supplied dash display, communicated through the vehicle’s CAN bus or via lighting at the top plate. 

To uncouple the device, air pressure is applied through a valve inside the cab. The driver can safely uncouple without even having to exit the vehicle! 

The Pros of Air-Release Fifth Wheels:

  • A safety system interlock requires the truck to be stopped and the trailer brakes applied before cab controls can be activated.
  • An automatically engaging secondary lock ensures security.
  • A visual lock indicator will confirm proper locking, so you can always be sure you’re good to go.
  • The fifth wheel can be rebuilt in under an hour without taking it off the truck – this significantly improves productivity. 
  • The throat cushion ring reduces wear on the kingpin and absorbs impact.
  • The full-size release handle allows for quick, easy, and convenient manual release.
  • JOST air-release fifth wheels are available for specification at all major OEMs.
  • Insurance costs and claims are reduced.

Air-Release Fifth Wheels From JOST International

As you can see, there are many advantages when you use air-release fifth wheels. From large national fleets to owner-operators, more and more semi-trailers are opting for JOST International air-release fifth wheels. Are you interested in learning more about JOST International air-release fifth wheels? Take a look at our brochure or contact our team today!