James Larkin | Dreamstime
Dreamstime Xl 2020

Top Stories 2020: Familiar trends in a strange year

Jan. 1, 2021
Overcoming unprecedented challenges became the underlying theme of the most-read TBB posts during the pandemic-dominated past 12 months

It shouldn’t be surprising to find that the most popular posts on Trailer/Body BUILDERS in 2020 are very similar to the leading stories from years past: big industry event coverage; visits to trailer manufacturers, upfitter shops and dealerships; market trend reports; new equipment profiles; and how-to posts.

The main difference in this pandemic year has been that many of the top stories were put together early in 2020 before the economic shutdown and fitful recovery, and the biggest news of the year is really about what didn’t happen—the calendar that essentially was wiped clean from mid-March to year’s end.

Instead of event coverage, TBB added a category for COVID-19 news, and that’s hardly a fair trade.

Still, the transportation equipment industry has come on strong since September (see the reports Boom! Trailer orders 'exploded' in September from FTR and ‘Fantastic’ October trailer orders push into record territory from ACT Research) with build slots already booked through 2021.

Speaking of market statistics, the TBB Trailer Output Report remains the most anticipated content on editorial calendar. Reports dating back to 1993 are archived for ready reference here.

For better and worse, The Work Truck Show in early March just managed to get in ahead of social distancing lockdowns, and our coverage of the annual event is annually our top photo gallery—although there really wasn’t much of a race for second place in 2020.

Still, a TBB editor was able to get out of the house by mid-November to participate in a tightly controlled test drive arranged by Ford for the 2021 F-150, and that First Impressions post was the top equipment feature of the year—edging out our January test drive of the Ford F-Series Super Duty lineup.

But again, other reveals and first-drive opportunities were canceled or moved online … and, despite the best efforts by all involved, watching a video is just not the same as hands-on (and mask-on) time behind the wheel.

Appropriately, the year’s most-read feature story, A grand opening and the great shutdown, detailed the challenges faced by Great Dane dealer Crossroads Trailer as the company expanded with a new location some 750 miles away from its base—just in time for the COVID-19 crisis.

In the top shop story of 2020, we were lucky to visit with Tim and Derek Williams at Sun Country Truck Equipment early in the year. ‘Simple things add up’ relates the story of the upfitter’s 20 years in the business, and the pleasures and challenges of transitioning to second-generation management.

Another story about an inter-generational business transition, US Trailer Parts & Supply at 40, was TBB’s top distributor post of 2020.

In the top trailer manufacturing post of the year, Hicks Manufac­turing founders Greg Hicks and DeWayne Williams detail the newly patented design behind their ‘weld-free’ end dumps, and why—on the verge of retirement after decades in the industry—they decided to build a new business around it.

We couldn’t get to Ringgold, Va., for the grand opening of Morgan Olson’s new plant there, but TBB’s virtual coverage of the event—and the challenges of a mid-pandemic expansion—was the most-read body manufacturing post of 2020.

Of course, the great thing about the internet is that good information from past posts is readily available to anyone with access to the web and a search engine. Providing the basics of trailer and truck body building continues to drive readers in droves to stories from past TMC, NTEA, and HDAW sessions such as How to deal with dissimilar metals; Tips on truck frames; Determining gross vehicle weight rating for trailers; and The importance of merchandising.