APPEARANCE is everything in the horse and livestock trailer business.
Horse and livestock trailer customers pay great attention to exterior appearance and paint on the trailers they purchase, says Steve Reeder, president and owner of Trails West Manufacturing in Preston, Idaho. Appearance is often one of the top selling points.
Being aware of these concerns, Trails West Manufacturing, a builder of horse and livestock trailers, installed a state-of-the-art painting system at its 60,000-sq-ft shop in Preston. Another appearance improvement was to give up welding and rivets for a special adhesive tape used to join metal.
Exterior sheets are attached to a trailer skeleton of metal tubing with Very High Bond (VHB) tape from 3M Bonding Systems Division, says Marianne Sleight, purchasing manager at Trails West. The walls are insulated and steel sheet finishes the interior.
After the trailer is assembled, the interior is inspected to ensure there are no sharp edges that could possibly injure an animal. Then the trailer is washed and dryed for 45 minutes before priming and painting.
"We place a large emphasis on paint," Sleight says. "Paint is the largest concern to our buyers, so our painters are allowed no deviation from strict application procedures."
The company has four 70-ft spray booths for drying, painting, priming, and curing. Trails West uses a specially formulated self-etching primer and urethane paint from Akzo Nobel that provides superior adhesion and corrosion resistance.
Producing a high-quality paint finish is one reason Trails West began using VHB tape, Reeder says. Rivets can cause paint to run and corrosion can begin where rivets make holes in electrogalvanized steel sheet.
Eliminating rivets and welds on sidewalls and roofs creates a smooth, uniform appearance, Reeder says. Welding is another area where there is a potential for appearance problems in construction of livestock and horse trailers. The heat from welding guns can easily distort steel sheet.
"Aesthetically, using VHB tape makes a trailer look 10,000 times better," Reeder says. "It's something that our end users were asking for."
Besides appearance benefits, VHB simplifies the production process, he says. No drilling or welding is needed to build the trailer walls or roof, and the VHB tape reduces the number of parts and tools needed.
When Trails West began using VHB, the shop took a week off its regular production schedule to determine how to best use the tape, Sleight says. Employees on the shop floor welcomed the switch from mechanical fasteners to VHB tape, which made the wall and roof assembly process more efficient.
"They were glad to get rid of the rivet guns," Sleight says. "Trails West workers are no longer required to pick up a drill, make a hole in sheet metal, then pick up and install a rivet."
In the 18 months since Trails West began using VHB tape on its trailers, the company has not experienced any tape failures on its products, Reeder says. Part of the reason the product has worked well is because of the time 3M spent training Trails West employees on proper installation of the VHB tape.
"They ensured we knew how to use the tape and also how to clean all the oils, grease, and dirt from the metal," Sleight says. "We had 3M support people here whenever we requested them."
VHB tape is now used on about 80% of the trailers built at Trails West, Reeder says. Even though the VHB fastening system is more expensive than welds or rivets, Trails West prefers VHB tape because of its durability and ability to provide smooth sidewalls and roofs.
Trails West builds about 1,800 horse and livestock trailers a year. Reeder started the company in 1987 to build steel horse and livestock trailers.
The company built 16 trailers during its first month of business, Reeder says. Currently, Trails West is building about 40 trailers a week. During its busiest week last August, Trails West built 41 trailers.
Trailer Dealer Network
The trailers are sold through a network of 53 dealers located in Arizona, California, Colorado, Idaho, Kansas, Kentucky, Montana, Michigan, Minnesota, Nebraska, Nevada, New Mexico, North Carolina, Ohio, Oregon, Texas, Utah, Virginia, Washington, and Wyoming. In Canada, Trails West has dealers in British Columbia, Ontario, Quebec, and Saskatchewan.
"We sell exclusively through dealers," Reeder says.
Trails West dealers shows its trailers at several expositions often in conjunction with rodeos in the US and Canada. Some of the rodeos and expos include the Denver Stock Show in Denver, Colorado; the World Paint Show in Fort Worth, Texas; the Scottsdale Arabian Show in Scottsdale, Arizona; and the Toronto Horse Expo in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.