This is the 25th anniversary of our annual trailer-count news article in the February issue of Trailer/Body Builders magazine. Our first trailer-count article giving the annual production of individual truck-trailer manufacturers was in the February 1994 issue. That is when we decided to contact each trailer manufacturer, rather than rely on the U. S. Census of Manufacturers and industry suppliers for estimated counts.
In that intial report, covering 1993, Great Dane Trailers reported building the highest number of truck trailers—24,700 complete trailers, plus 7,500 container chassis and 7,340 intermodal containers.
Wabash National followed with 22,600 complete trailers plus 500 container chassis. Trailmobile, Utility Trailer Manufacturing, Stoughton Trailers, Strick Corp., Pines Trailer Ltd, and Dorsey Trailers each built over 10,000 trailers in 1993. Fruehauf Trailer Corp didn’t quite make the 10,000 trailer hurdle, building only 9,445 trailers that year.
The number of trailer manufacturers reporting jumped to 17 in the February 1995 issue. Wabash National Corporation led the group, building 34,308 complete trailers in calendar year 1994 plus 1,374 containers and chassis. Great Dane followed, but was number one when containers and chassis were included. Utility, Trailmobile and Fruehauf (16,000) followed.
It was a record-breaking year in 1994 and Commerce Department figures showed 227,851 complete trailers plus more than 90,000 containers and chassis were built that year. Other reporting agencies suggested that the Commerce Department figures were more than 10% too low.
That record-breaking 1994 was followed by a bigger record-breaker in 1995 when the count jumped 20% to 282,000 trailers. It was a bigger increase for dry freight vans and big vans. The 53-ft dry van on air-ride became queen of the road. More trailer builders (21) joined in reporting their production totals.
When the trailer production bubble burst in 1996, the effects of over-production and price-cutting took its toll. Some 26 trailer manufacturers were reporting their numbers, but some were in trouble. Two of the top ten manufacturers were in bankruptcy. Fifth-ranked Monon Corp. was closed down by unpaid creditors (including the U.S. government), and sixth-ranked Fruehauf was being auctioned off to the highest bidder.
Wabash National was still in the lead by far in 1996, but second-ranked Great Dane Trailers was purchased by the Crown family of Chicago, who also owned tenth ranked Pines Trailer. The combination of Great Dane and Pines Trailer represented the largest truck-trailer manufacturer in the world at that time.
The Top-25 bounced back in 1997 with a big year only 3% less than 1995. Wabash National was again the top producer after adding the former Fruehauf plants. Great Dane was second largest after combining with Pines Trailer. Monon came back as HPA Monon and was headed for the ninth largest position in 1998.
Almost every truck-trailer manufacturer increased production in 1998, when the increasingly unreliable Census Bureau reported annual production well over 300,000 trailers. The Top-25 in our count produced about 265,000 trailers or about 88% of the total market, plus some 37,000 containers and chassis.
For the past 26 years of the Top-25 count, Wabash National has built the largest number of trailers for 16 of those years. Great Dane Trailers has built the most trailers in six of those 25 years. Hyundai Translead was in first place for the last two years.
Utility Trailer Manufacturing normally is ranked about fourth place, but in one rare year, Utility ranked first. In the 2009 low production year, Utility built 16,544 dry freight vans, refrigerated vans and flatbeds or about 21% of the total trailer market that year, and more than any other producer.
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