Still innovating after all these years

Just as we were wrapping up the last pages of the June issue of Trailer/Body Builders, we received an e-mail from a reader whose company lost a wealth of truck equipment history when its building was razed.

The e-mail drove home how much innovation occurs in our industry and how often records of those products get lost as time goes by. We should picture some of those products. What better place than our Buyer's Guide to show what you have sold?

We invited you to send us samples of your most innovative products, truck or trailer, new or old.

And you did.

We promised to publish what time and space permitted us to include. Here is just a glimpse of what you have done.

Looking for more horsepower

Trailmobile has been serving North America's transportation needs since horses — not tractors — provided the power. This wagon, kept in the lobby of Trailmobile Canada, has a tare weight of 610 pounds and a one-ton capacity.

Got milk? We can deliver

The milkman used to be part of American culture. Today he seems a product from deep in the past, much like this local delivery truck built by Kranz Automotive Body.

Hit me with your best shot

Trucks in the 1920s operated in tough off-road conditions, then moved onto roads that were almost as rough. Hendrickson built this walking beam suspension in 1926 to absorb some of the shock.

Trucks as an advertising medium

Trucks get around, and a lot of people notice them. Even in their early days, trucks were seen as a good way to get the word out. The nattily attired driver of this “pharmaceutical chemist” truck might remind you that “clean teeth don't decay,” but chances are that his truck will tell you first. The truck was built by Kranz Automotive Body in St Louis in the early 1900s.

I just like trucks

You don't have to work for a truck body or trailer manufacturer to appreciate commercial vehicles. Rick Schumacher snapped this photo of an old dump truck at an antique truck show. The body (manufacturer unidentified) is mounted on a 1918 Mack AC. Even though he is retired and has no affiliation with the truck, he sent us the photo because “I am a truck enthusiast.”

Wow, have you lost weight

This stainless steel body was delivered to a Johnson Truck Body customer in 1952. The stainless exterior, combined with an oak frame and spunglass insulation made it the ultimate of its day. However, the body weighed about 10,000 pounds.

Not your grandson's crew cab

Crew cab trucks today are among the most popular pickups on the road, but that was not the case at the end of World War II.

The typical truck could seat three people in relative discomfort, which is why Humble Oil & Refining Company (today's ExxonMobil) placed an order with Ace Distributing Company to build a cab that could transport a crew. The modified truck was built to carry crews for building oilrigs.

Ace Distributing Company is a third-generation family-owned business started in Houston in 1927, by H D Graf Sr and G R Stark. Prior to starting Ace, they worked for Martin Parry Corp in Houston. Martin Parry subsequently became Fisher Body under General Motors.

To start Ace, Graf put up $500, and Stark brought body tools to begin building specialized truck equipment.

“H D often reminded his grandson Doug, that work would stop one-half hour before quitting time,” says Ace's Lelia Graf. “Everyone would sweep the floor, recovering every dropped nut, bolt, and washer. They would salvage all usable metal and upholstery for future jobs. Those were the days when labor was cheap and parts were expensive.

“Dump bodies, school buses, beverage bodies, ice cream trucks, geophysical trucks. You name it, we built it. Today, most of our work is ‘one-off’ or impossible projects that take some extra head scratching and engineering. Long gone are the days of ‘canvas and white lead’ roofs on Model A delivery trucks, but our legacy lives on in these photos we share.”

Feeding the hungry

The first Olson walk-in van is shown making its debut at a work site in New York City. Now owned by Morgan Corporation in Morgantown, Pennsylvania, the company has been building walk-in van bodies for thousands of customers for nearly 60 years, says Stephen Vajda. Industries such as parcel delivery, baking and snack foods, laundry and uniforms, newspaper and utility companies are some of the applications where walk-in vans have been used.

Haven't yet said ‘hi’ to hydraulics

Here's a photo of one of Clement's earliest innovations. It's a winch lift trailer from the 1950s rated at 15 tons. Lamar Clement developed it to haul sand and gravel.

Keeping cool the hard way

Before mechanical refrigeration systems became popular, truck bodies such as this relied on cold plates to keep cargo cool. The heavy plates were frozen nightly and then installed along the walls. This beer delivery truck operated in the St Louis area during a time that Falstaff was selling more beer in St Louis than Budweiser, according to Gene Kohler, president of Kranz.

Another way to keep cool

Railcars also faced challenges for refrigerating cargo. The solution at the time was to use ice, and this “ice tower truck” enabled rail cars to be loaded with ice from the top. The Auto Truck Group built trucks such as this one during the 1950s and 1960s until mechanically refrigerated rail cars put an end to the ice age.

The latest way to keep cool

Speaking of cool, Carrier Transicold sent us information on its latest technology. The SmartAir system unites the trailer, refrigeration and air handling components into a single, integrated system for pre-cooling and ripening in transit, as well as precision temperature control for highly sensitive cargoes. Trailers using the SmartAir system have plenums built into the walls. A high-pressure zone is created in the plenums when the system is running, pushing air out to the cargo. A negative-pressure zone in the center of the trailer draws air through the packaging and back up to the refrigeration unit mounted on the front of the trailer.

Crank it up

This dumper fit inside the pickup box and used the existing tailgate to enclose the back. A hand crank, gearbox, and cables were used to lift the dumper's 1,500 lb payload.

When Jerry Pool cranked up his father-in-law's manually powered pickup dumper more than 35 years ago, the thought occurred to him that there had to be a better way.

Pool, then owner of Meritt Manufacturing Company, was inspired to develop a hydraulically operated pickup dump insert. He and Gary Shoup went on to form TruckCraft Corporation in 1992. Today, the company's top pickup dump product of TruckCraft Corporation is an electro/hydraulically operated aluminum pickup insert that dumps 5,000 pounds in 19 seconds.

Remember when Cuba was a customer?

Before Fidel Castro, Cuba was a major U S trading partner — and a customer of Medical Coaches Inc of Oneonta, New York.

Shown here is the company's first sale to the Cuban government. The order included 12 fully equipped (including x-ray) health exam units, 12 dormitories, and 12 ambulances. This was the first large multiple mobile medical unit order of its kind in the world, according to Medical Coaches' Chad Smith.

Wrapping things up

One of Aero Industries' pioneering products is the side-panel tarping systems the company introduced in the 1960s.

The son of Aero Industries founder Paul Tuerk, Bob Tuerk, developed the kit. Engineered as a side-wall system of panels connected by steel bars, Aero introduced its Side Kit as an option to throw tarps.

The system opened the door for flatbed truckers to haul a wider range of products. Large cargo was easier to load and unload thanks to the paneled walls. Steel, aluminum, and other weather sensitive product were better protected under the Side Kit's steel hauler model. And the grain hauler model (pictured) allowed farmers and other haulers of “bulk” commodities to use flatbed trailers to transport a load.

Hey, let me in

Is there any reason why dump truck drivers have to go over the top? MAC Trailer included a door in the bulkhead of this dump trailer to provide the driver with easy access.

A trailer that gives flying lessons

Medical Coaches Inc delivered to the Boeing Company and Sikorsky Aircraft a custom-built Comanche Flight Test Trailer. The front section of the trailer is a flight simulator. It uses hydraulic cylinders to recreate the sensation pilots experience, and it contains the advanced flight instrumentation equipment found on the new Attack Comanche helicopter. The rear of the trailer includes 14 computers that are networked together to generate and collect the data needed. By using a trailer for a flight simulator, scheduling is facilitated, and training can be offered at multiple sites.

Let's get down to specifics

Although most tank trailers are for specific use, some become so highly specialized, and their cargo is so distinctly formulated, that it takes a trailer built exactly to the needs of that singular product, says John Koll with Polar Tank Trailer. This tank, designed to haul ink in extreme temperatures, contains a large, heated cabinet to house dedicated pumping and metering systems that precisely measure expensive commodities with extreme accuracy. Hose reels hold dedicated delivery hose to eliminate contamination.

Truck equipment goes global

The truck equipment business traditionally has been local in nature, but that's changing. This is one of five dump trucks that J & J Truck Bodies & Trailers in Somerset, Pennsylvania, recently shipped to Russia. Mounted on Kenworth T800Bs, the steel dump bodies are being used by a construction company in the construction and replacement of bridges as well as other material hauling applications. J & J has been manufacturing truck bodies and trailers for over 45 years.

Before there was high rail, there was…

High-rail equipment gives pickups the ability to travel along railroads. Previously, track inspectors traveled on motor cars such as this one. Auto Truck Group, headquartered in suburban Chicago, equipped pickups to carry these cars to the rail siding. Introduction of high-rail equipment eliminated the use of motor cars, says Jim Dondlinger, president. The trucks were used between the 1950s and 1970s.

Tomorrow's innovations

Paul Spevacek, a designer with Crysteel Manufacturing, captured how tomorrow's truck bodies and trailers are designed today.

It does not involve drawing on napkins or shop floors. Here is what he says:

“This jpeg is captured from the screen of my ProE session. These snapshots are a great tool for both sales and manufacturing.

“It is what I work with everyday.

“The designer always gets first view before any part is cut in the shop. Most times I never see the photos of the completed and installed product.

“The heartbeat of innovation.”

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