​Considerations for Front End Protection

Mike Eng, Magnum Trailer & Equipment
June 2019

There are many reasons for choosing front-end protection for your truck. From guarding your investment against small bumps and scratches, to the big collisions with wildlife and other vehicles on the road. Protection bumpers can save thousands of dollars in collision repairs and eliminate costly downtime that can cripple productivity. They even save lives.

According to the US Federal Highway Administration, while motor vehicle collisions have been relatively steady in recent years, animal collisions are on the rise and now represent approximately 5% of all reported motor vehicle collisions. Not all animal collisions are reported, and most crash databases exclude damage under $1,000. So, while there’s a big variance in the estimate of 1-2 million large animals hit per year, it’s a growing concern for truckers and their business.

Most front-end protection decisions are made when purchasing a new truck or if a route has changed and there is an increased probability of coming into contact with wildlife or severe weather conditions. Some trucking companies and fleets even mandate front-end protection. For owner-operators, a decision to buy a protection bumper often comes from a referral from a fellow trucker with firsthand experience of a protection bumper paying for itself or saving their life.

Whatever the reason, there’s a lot to consider when buying front-end protection, and not all bumpers are created equal. Some protection bumpers are built more for looks than they are for strength. Some have poorly designed tow features where ratings overstate the towing capacity leading to damage of the bumper - or in worst cases pulling it right off the truck. Some bumpers can be difficult to install and problematic to maintain. While not a safety hazard at first, this can lead to irritating rattling and vibration as well as premature wear on critical components of the protection bumper.

At Magnum, we manufacture a wide range of protection bumpers to suit our customers’ demands. From big to small, light to robust, sleek and aerodynamic to rugged and tough. Whether your usage is over the road or off-highway, there are many options to fit your requirements. First, you need to consider the type of front end protection you need.

Moose Bumpers: If you are looking for maximum impact protection for the front of your truck, a moose bumper is the product for you. Built from quality, high strength materials, this bumper replaces the OEM bumper and bolts on easily to the front of your truck. A moose bumper can typically weigh between 300-400 pounds depending on the truck model and style you choose.

Special features, like Magnum’s Quick Latch System allows the operator to fold down the bumper quickly and conveniently to access the engine - with one simple click. This feature not only saves time (and money), it ensures drivers don’t neglect regular engine maintenance due to difficulty accessing the engine compartment. Additionally, look for bumpers that use extrusions in their manufacturing process as they are stronger and more unique in design compared to other simpler offerings.

Tube Bumpers: Are you looking for a protection bumper, but concerned with weight or on a tighter budget? Maybe there isn’t a significant wildlife presence in your region, but you’re looking for peace of mind from everyday obstructions like guard rails, snow piles and wildlife, a tube bumper is going to meet these demands and more. Built from high-strength, lightweight materials, tube bumpers can weigh as little as 100 pounds. To optimize strength while still keeping weight in check, look for bumper tubes that are inserted through the vertical beams with inner splice tubes as they tie the assembly together as opposed to welded outer surfaces that can easily crack, bend or break on impact. A quality tube bumper come with all necessary steel mounting brackets (preferably casted) and rated towing features which are engineered to fit your specific truck application seamlessly.

Obvious Considerations:

There can be several determining factors that come into play when choosing what protection is right for you.

Weight: This can be a very big concern for operators looking to keep their fixed weights down in order to maximize their payloads and profits. In certain instances, trucks with front axle weights that are at or near the maximum allowable limit can only accommodate certain types of bumpers. Depending on how close you are to the limit, it may determine what products you can or cannot use for your application. Using aluminum which offers excellent strength to weight ratio, and an engineering design that focuses on getting the most strength while being conscious of weights, is worth considering. Conversely, if a truck happens to be too light up front, a moose bumper can be the perfect solution to add the 300-400 pounds to your steer axle while offering the best protection available.

Strength: Using high quality materials, good engineering design and advanced manufacturing processes are key factors in creating the strongest protection bumpers. Often times people associate bigger with better (and stronger), but that is not always the case. You sometimes have to look a little closer to uncover the whole picture. If a particular product uses large oversized materials, but those pieces are thin walled or of an inferior grade material, the perception of strength is far greater than the actual strength. Look for thick walled tubing, structural extrusions, and additional reinforcement in critical areas to ensure maximum strength in the event of a collision.

Another often overlooked consideration when determining strength is the mounting bracket design and hardware. You can have the strongest of protection guards but if the mount assembly is not attaching it to the truck frame in a way that distributes the force equally and securely, severe damage to the frame and front end of the truck can occur. Bumper mount assemblies should be truck specific and optimized to attach to the OEM tow receivers when applicable. Reinforced boxed assemblies reduce twisting and often have additional secondary brackets for added strength. This is also a very important feature for towing. Tying into the OEM tow receivers makes bumper towing easier, safer, and more reliable.

Price and availability: Every purchase decision is affected by your budget as well as product availability. It’s also very important to remember that price directly reflects the quality, performance and life of the product. So it is critical that you weigh your options in regards to your specific needs. If you travel in areas abundant with wildlife or snowy and icy conditions, the better quality product will offer the best protection and value in the long run. With repetitive impacts, the durability and maximum protection that’s offered will be more cost effective than other products that are often ruined and need to be replaced after just a single impact.

The Not So Obvious Considerations:

A few other things to consider during the buying decision process are the material type of the protection guard and how easy it is to maintain, as well as the overall look and style of the guard’s design.

Aluminum is a more malleable material, offers the best strength to weight ratio and is easier to repair than stainless or coated products. The properties of aluminum also make for better absorption during an impact as it allows for the guard to slightly deflect during contact and spring back to its original position. Stainless steel and coated steel units do not have these properties and are often ruined or extremely damaged during impact. Those materials are not easily repaired either as they require special welding and coating touch up.

Maintaining your protection guard is also a significant consideration. How easy it is to keep your guard running in peak condition is directly tied to how well the features are designed. Check to make sure your manufacturer has replaceable maintenance components that can be easily installed to maximize uptime and keep your guard rattle free.

At Magnum, we know that protecting the truck is the most important purpose of a protection guard. But that doesn’t mean it has to look bad doing it! Magnum guards are specifically designed to complement specific truck models; not a “one size fits all” bumper design that can look out of place or interfere with OEM driving lights.

Installing a protection guard can be the best investment that you ever make; even saving you or your drivers life in an impact. Consider all your options.