Trailerbodybuilders 237 Hurricaneike

Companies Working to Rebound From Ike

Sept. 15, 2008
If there was anything good about Hurricane Ike, it was the opportunity for Houston-area companies to prepare

If there was anything good about Hurricane Ike, it was the opportunity for Houston-area companies to prepare.

As Ike churned through the Gulf of Mexico, gaining size to the point where it was a monster stretching nearly 500 miles in diameter, the landfall estimates changed radically. On September 8, the predicted eye landfall was just north of the Mexican border near Brownsville. The next day, the projection had moved up the coast to Corpus Christi. By Thursday, models had it smashing into Freeport – just 60 miles west of Houston, putting the nation’s fourth-largest city near the eye and on the dreaded “dirty side”.

At General Body Mfg Co, they rented a generator and air compressor, which according to operations manager Josh Paull will allow them to be 50% operational today and possibly 100% by the end of the week.

“We were prepared before the storm came and had a game plan for whatever the aftermath of Ike was going to be—short of total devastation, of course,” he said. “We have relatively minor damage. No trucks got damaged. We have some roof damage on the shop but overall, it’s light compared to what it could have been.

“We were able to reach 35 of 70 employees (by Monday). As long as there’s no rain, we can weld. Our main thing is power. Like any truck equipment house, we run a lot of welders and need pretty high voltage for that. Until we have full power, we’re limited as to what the generator can produce as far as wattage. We’ll have about eight bays working, full air-compressor compatible, but only about two welders as opposed to 15.”

At Travis Body and Trailer Inc, they spaced their trailers out far enough so they wouldn’t bang into each other if the wind knocked them around.

“We had about 40 trailers in the yard and none of them turned over or tossed about,” president/COO Bud Hughes said. “We were pretty fortunate. We didn’t do probably as good a job as we would have with better notice. But I think we came through pretty well, all things considered.”

Hughes said the only damage was the loss of eight overhead doors in the shop. As of Monday afternoon, Travis had partial electricity in the office but not full power in the shop.

“We’ve got a downed power line that may or may not be the culprit,” he said. “We had half of our workers show up and they did re-arranging of scattered things and then we sent a lot of them home at noon, because we can’t weld.

“Every day you’re not building trailers, it’s gone forever. It’s like a hotel room that didn’t get rented last night. You’ll never be able to recover that night of revenue. Short of working overtime, we’ll never make up for that. Fortunately we do not have a huge backlog, so it’s not that critical.”

At RKI Inc, Ike caused minor damage to the facility: a fence was blown down and a corner of the building peeled up.

President Tom Rawson said he believes the power never went out at the facility, but the bigger problem was that many employees still had no power as of Monday afternoon. But 30% of them showed up for work in the morning.

“I am deeply grateful to the employees that work here who managed to find a way to come here in such a difficult time,” he said. “And I do feel very lucky that the facility wasn’t damaged and we have power. We were kind of an island of electricity in a sea of darkness Monday morning. We’re good and the McDonald’s at the corner is good, and everything else is no good.

“Our problem right now is finding our employees and them finding their way back to work. We had one guy who had the sewer back up in his house and we sent him home because we felt it was more important for him to fix that than to make products. We’re going to be slow to get back on our feet because of the difficulty with our employees getting back. A lot of them were surprised we were open so soon. But a lot came here.

“We’re going to run as much overtime as the employees are willing to put in, but we’re not going to force anyone to work in a time when their home is destroyed.”

At Choice Trailers, which manufactures custom-built heavy-duty lowboys for the construction, oil-field and mining industries, the damage was minor—some vents on the roof were ripped up.

Fred Litsch, a clerk, said it was nothing that will impact the manufacturing operation.

Choice was closed on Monday, and full power was restored later that afternoon.

Texan Trailer Sales did not have power in the office Monday and was closed for business, but will assess the situation today.

The phone was not answered at Batterson Truck Equipment LLC, Pickup Equipment Co, Texas Truck and Body Co, Husky Trailer Mfg, and Mate Trailers.

The phone line was busy at H&E Equipment Services, Liftmoore, and Sam and Sons Truck Equipment.

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