Kois Brothers Equipment in Denver CO complements its truck equipment business with several products that do what truck-mounted equipment is not set up to do. Ernie, Scott, Gary, and George display an articulating vehicle the company has equipped for applications such as clearing hike and bike paths. In the background is a new, patent-pending brine maker that the company has begun manufacturing and marketing throughout the US.

Denver distributor expands its horizons and goes to world market to find extra profits in specialized snow-control equipment

Sept. 1, 2010
TRUCKS and truck equipment are the heart and soul of the Kois Brothers Equipment Company product line. But selling truck equipment can take a distributor

TRUCKS and truck equipment are the heart and soul of the Kois Brothers Equipment Company product line. But selling truck equipment can take a distributor to some interesting places — including the sale of snow and ice control equipment that has nothing to do with trucks.

Sometimes the places are within the company's home state of Colorado, where Kois is selling laser-guided snowplow trucks. Or it could be halfway around the world to bring European technology to the United States.

Either way, the multi-generation family business goes beyond selling truck equipment, offering its customer base an array of solutions for removing snow and ice.

A brief stint as a Unimog dealer proved to be one way for Kois Brothers to expand its horizons. The specialized chassis, a highly customizable truck manufactured by Daimler, gave the company reason to travel to Europe and scout out specialized products designed for use on the Unimog.

“We were a Unimog dealer for 18 months,” says Gary Kois. “During that time, we learned a lot about the specialized attachments made for it. We sold some to government and for customers in the private sector.”

One of the manufacturers Kois Brothers discovered was Zaugg AG Eggiwil, a Swiss-based manufacturer of snow and ice equipment that already had established a relationship among the ski slopes near Denver for its snow- grooming equipment.

Kois Brothers entered into an agreement with PBL Enterprise, the company that owns the distribution rights for North America, to distribute Zaugg products that have applications for commercial applications (as opposed to the equipment used for grooming ski slopes). This includes equipment that does not necessarily go on trucks. One example is the snow blower that Zaugg manufactures. It fits in place of the bucket on the front-end articulated wheel loader.

“That's the trend — to mount the blower package on the wheel loader,” says Ernie Kois, one of three sons that president George Kois has in the business. “Municipalities want the flexibility of being able to use equipment year around, rather than having to buy dedicated equipment that cannot be used much of the year.

“We have an exclusive for our trade area — Colorado, Montana, and Wyoming. The big advantage is the snow blower's auto safety reset. The standard is to use a shear pin that breaks whenever the snow blower hits something. The Zaugg design has a clutch that resets after the operator turns the machine off. Usually the operator can lift the machine up, and the rock falls out. This is a big advantage, especially in an avalanche area.”

Landing the state bid

Kois Brothers currently is working on a three-year contract to build an estimated 66 snowplow trucks for the state of Colorado.

“This has been good for our company,” George Kois says. “A lot of our standard truck equipment business has dried up — both items we distribute and manufacture. For example, we used to manufacture lumber bodies, and we shipped them all over the country. We still do a fair amount of solid waste trucks, and we manufacture a lot solid waste containers. General truck equipment has been slow, so we are pleased to get this order from the state of Colorado.” The 66-unit order will be based on International 7600 chassis. The trucks will be equipped with Williamsen dump bodies, Henke snowplows, Swenson spreaders, Whelen strobes, and computer control systems produced by Force America and Certified Power.

Beyond the basic trucks, however, area specifications are somewhat flexible. The state is divided into eight sections, and the personnel within those sections continue to provide input on details on how they want their trucks equipped.

One of the more interesting options is a laser-guided warning system. The system, manufactured by LaserLine Manufacturing, is designed to reduce wing plow impacts. The laser identifies the path of the wing, pointing out potential obstacles that may be outside the driver's normal vision. If the laser hits a mailbox, for example, the wing will, too, if corrective action is not taken.

“We are building a truck now that will have that system on it,” Gary Kois says. “It's an interesting concept.”

Kois Brothers has a history of manufacturing its own products, including a line of liquid deicing equipment. Most recently, the company has developed a patent-pending brine maker that is designed for easy cleanout.

“Our patent is on the general design,” Gary Kois says. “It's a stationary brine make that has a sloping floor and a hydraulically opening door. It can be cleaned out without requiring anyone to get inside.”

Kois Brothers sees the market as anyone wanting to create brine for liquid-deicing operations — including state and municipalities. The state of Kansas was the company's first customer.

“There is a big cost benefit,” Ernie Kois says. “Mag chloride is going for almost 90 cents per gallon now. The Midwest is staying with brine, which is understandable. You can make brine for 12-15 cents per gallon.”

Spanning generations

Kois Brothers has been in business since 1967. Brothers Gene and George Kois started the company as a specialist in the solid waste business.

Eugene “Gene” Kois, owner and secretary of Kois Brothers Equipment Company, passed away July 21 after a battle with cancer. At the time the company began, a federal ban on refuse incineration had created the need for refuse containers. Gene Kois, who died this summer, played a lead role in the design and fabrication of these and other custom products that Kois Brothers produces.

The company, based in the Denver suburb of Commerce City, now has three locations. It operates branches in Billings and Great Falls, Montana.

Now in its second generation, the company continues to have brothers (Scott, Gary, and Ernie) in management positions.

Kois Brothers remains heavily involved in the solid waste market, representing Heil, Pendpac, and Lodal, and manufacturing its own container line. The company also distributes a variety of snow and ice control manufacturers, including Fisher, Henke, Ice Eliminator, Swenson, Viking-Cives, and Zaugg.

About the Author

Bruce Sauer | Editor

Bruce Sauer has been writing about the truck trailer, truck body and truck equipment industries since joining Trailer/Body Builders as an associate editor in 1974. During his career at Trailer/Body Builders, he has served as the magazine's managing editor and executive editor before being named editor of the magazine in 1999. He holds a Bachelor of Journalism degree from the University of Texas at Austin.