Fracture of Supplementary Axle-Support Channels for a Highway Trailer Caused by Restricting Welds
A supplementary axle, which was used as an extension to a highway-trailer tractor to increase its load-bearing capacity, failed in service. The rolled steel channel extensions that secured the axle assembly to the tractor main-frame I-beams fractured transversely, with the crack in each instance initiating at a weld that joined the edge of the lower flange to the support bracket casting. The cracks propagated through the flange on each side until the effective cross-sectional area had been reduced sufficiently to bring about sudden and complete fracture of the remaining web and upper flange. Fatigue fracture was caused by a combination of high bending stresses in the bottom flanges of the channels due to the heavy load being carried, concentration of stresses due to the rapid change in section modulus of the channel at its point of attachment to the support-bracket casting, and brittleness of the high-hardness HAZ of the weld associated with the abnormally high carbon content in the central part of the channel. Welding of channel edges contributed to harmful gradients in section moduli and should be avoided in future assemblies.