Viking Trailers Expands Texas Plant For Building Platform Semitrailers, Lowbeds

VIKING Trailers has increased its production capacity in 1997 by building with a 35,000-sq-ft $2.2-million addition to its semitrailer manufacturing plant in Nacogdoches, Texas.

"The addition enables Viking to increase production of 35-ton lowbeds and forestry trailers in one building while concentrating on platform and drop-deck trailers in the other," says Clem Russell, general manager. "This will save us an enormous amount of time because we will not need to switch jigs each time we build a different style trailer."

Viking, a manufacturer of folding pole trailers for the forestry industry, was purchased by Bright Coop in 1992. After the purchase of Viking, a 24,000-sq-ft building was constructed to house equipment and welding fixtures.

Bright was established in 1951 by Charles and the late N G Bright for production of wood chicken coops to serve the emerging poultry industry in east Texas. Since 1980, Bright has built and galvanized metal coops and cages. To load and unload chicken cages on drop-deck trailers built by Viking, Bright sells Manitou forklifts and is a national distributor for that company.

"With the purchase of Viking, Bright has become a one-stop-shop for live poultry transportation needs," says Billie Buckner of Viking.

To aid broiler and turkey farms in moving pullets and turkey poults from the growing farm to the laying house, Bright developed a special unit for moving breeders. Bright supplies the cages and hydraulics for the unit and Viking builds the drop-deck trailer.

Chicken-Hauling Trailers As cages are tilted, the weight of the birds opens spring-loaded doors and they slide onto the floor of a laying house. In 1980, Bright developed a cage-dumping system used at the live bird receiving area of a processing plant. Forklift trucks place cages on the dumper and return the empty cages to the trailer. Coops for turkeys area attached to the trailer and unloaded differently because of the larger size and heavier weight of the birds.

Viking's poultry special trailer has a nesting angle on the side rail used to position cages. The cages loaded on the trailer are 4-ft wide, 5-ft high, and 8-ft long.

Each cage transports about 300 five-pound chickens. With 22 cages, a 48-ft trailer and tractor have an 80,000-lb GCW.

"We have poultry customers in all of the leading poultry-producing states," Buckner says. "Most are on the East Coast, and we also sell in Mexico, Canada, and Jamaica."

The poultry trailers and coops are sold directly by Bright and Viking, Buckner says. Forestry trailers and other semitrailers are sold through a dealer network. Viking has about 40 dealers located in Alabama, Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, and West Virginia.

Forestry Trailers "Viking wants to expand its dealer network to more eastern states," Buckner says.

At an open house in October, 200 of Viking's and Bright's dealers and customers visited the plant and offices in Nacogdoches, Buckner says. Some poultry equipment and trailer customers travelled from as far as Maryland and North Carolina to attend.

Besides semitrailers for transporting coops and cages, Viking builds seven different models of trailers for the forestry industry.

In great demand are delimber and loader trailers that primarily work off road. The drop-frame trailers are built in 35- to 48-ft lengths and shipped to dealers where delimber equipment and knuckle-boom loaders are installed.

After timber is cut, trailer-mounted delimbers remove limbs from tree trunks. Knuckle-boom cranes on loader trailers stack cut timber on four bolster, plantation, or folding-pole trailers that transport the logs to lumber mills.

Four-bolster and plantation trailers have a full-frame and four bolsters that hold stacked logs. The trailer is available with a frame made of T-1 steel or a frame made of a mill-rolled I-beam.

In 1994, Viking began building platform and drop-deck trailers. Currently, half of Viking's production is forestry trailers and the other half are platform and dropdeck trailers.

New Plant Equipment Most forestry trailers are built in Viking's original 24,000-sq-ft shop. The new 35,000-sq-ft addition is located nearby. Equipment in the new building includes a plasma cutting water table, submerged arc welders, a beam table, welding fixtures that rotate trailer frames 360 degrees for finish welding, and other welding fixtures.

Webs for beams are cut from T-1 steel sheet on a plasma cutting water table. Pieces for other beams are cut from hi-tensile steel.

Webs are moved from the water table to a conveyor and rolled into a nearby welding fixture. An Ogden dual-head submerged-arc welder welds the flanges to the web. Operators do not need welding helmets since the arc is submerged in flux and cannot be seen.

Overhead bridge cranes that span the plant floor move beams and trailer frames from one welding station to the next.

Welding fixtures designed and built by Viking rotate trailer frames 360 degrees so all welds can be made in the flat position. This provides for better penetration and a more uniform weld bead.

Rotating Welding Fixtures The fixtures have electric and air-operated motors that rotate the trailer frame. The fixtures roll on floor track to accommodate trailer frames of different lengths.

After finish welding, trailers move to a shot-blasting booth for surface preparation before being painted in a spray booth. Then trailer wiring and flooring are installed.

By October, Viking built 390 trailers, Buckner says. The shop has 30 trailers in production at any one time, and the company typically sells about 500 poultry trailers a year.

Viking exports some trailers to Guyana, Puerto Rico, and Mexico, she says. Viking is establishing a dealer network for its lowbed and platform trailers separate from its dealer network for forestry trailers.

"We cater to several different industries," Russell says. "By establishing a dealer network for platform and drop-deck trailers separate from our forestry trailers, we can better serve customers in each industry."

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