Paul Schenck and Wanda Tunnell Schenck

Building on a foundation of trust

March 6, 2019
Trailer/Body Builders' February 2019 print editorial

I’m a fan of February. Among other things, for those of us who live closer to the Gulf than the Great Lakes, the first signs of spring emerge shortly after Valentine’s Day; pitchers and catchers arrive for spring training; and convention season comes into full bloom.

More on the show calendar in a minute, but first a few words about why February is big here at Trailer/Body BUILDERS.

Namely, this month’s magazine features our annual trailer output report, probably the most anticipated, widely circulated—and improperly reproduced on the internet—feature that we publish.

This year’s version is special both because of the record trailer numbers it confirms and the occasion of the report’s 25th anniversary.

An even more noteworthy aspect: The report has been compiled and authored by the same man since 1994. 

You’d have to have been a long-time reader to fully appreciate it, but Paul Schenck was the founding editor of TBB. And the magazine also is celebrating a milestone this year: Its 60th anniversary.

That means Paul has been around a while. Without him, there likely would be no Trailer/Body BUILDERS as we know it, much less the trailer report. And, as the current editor with a vested interest in the continuity of the magazine and its star content (to say nothing of Paul’s continued good health) I had a few questions for him. 

The first, of course: Why was he still putting together the report? “Who else could do it?” he replied, and I laughed, because it was the response I’d expected. 

“No, no, no,” he quickly said, then explained, “Somebody eventually can, but people in the industry have known me for 60 years. They have to trust what you say is accurate, and that you have no selfish interests—that you are an independent voice. I’m very proud of the fact that we do this, that we do it and do it well.” 

He credited the Truck Trailer Manufacturers Association with encouraging its membership to get on board in the early going, making the case that everyone would benefit from data put together by a reliable and objective source. And the magazine already was well-established in 1994.

“People realized it was for the good of the industry, and they were willing to bend a little bit. It’s an industry that works together very well,” Paul said. “The people who think big tend to get big, and those who think small have to work harder because of it.”

Of course, there was—and, occasionally, still is—some reluctance to publicize arguably proprietary information, but the instances of participants passing along questionable production totals have been few. 

Paul emphasized the importance of making phone calls to discuss the numbers, noting that it’s more tempting to fudge on an impersonal form than to be deceptive in an interview. He also calls the process largely “self-regulating.” 

“Anyone in business knows pretty much what his main competitors are doing,” he said.

If there’s a shortcoming to the survey, it would be, Paul suspects, that there are a handful of trailer manufacturers whose production totals would qualify for the Top 25, but they’ve somehow been overlooked over the years.

And that’s an opportunity. 

As I mentioned, February is a good month for me because trade show season really takes off. I likely will have just returned from the National Association of Trailer Manufacturers Convention and Trade Show by the time you’re reading this, but I’ll head to the NTEA Work Truck Show the first week of March, quickly followed by the Technology & Maintenance Council Annual Meeting and Transportation Technology Exhibition, then it’s off to Louisville for the Mid-America Trucking Show to close out the month before April takes me to the TTMA Annual Convention.

In short, I’ll have plenty of chances to talk to people and, I hope, continue to build on the trust Paul has spent 60 years earning. 

Please say hello, and let me know what you’re doing to improve your business. Spring also is when I schedule my site visits for the coming months, so let’s compare calendars.

And if you’re building a thousand or so heavy-duty trailers in 2019, please, please look me up. 

We don’t want to go another 25 years without you.