The oil industry is a lot like trailer manufacturing — marked by wild boom and bust cycles. When business is good, it is very, very good. And when it isn't…
Combine the swings of the oilfield with the ups and downs of the trailer industry, and you have the potential for a ride that amusement parks can't match.
“The oilfield is consuming just about everything we can manufacture right now,” says Carl Henderson, president of C-All Manufacturing, the company that produces oilfield and equipment trailers under the brand Nuttall Trailers.
The company was formed in 1975, a low-water mark for the trailer industry that had not been rivaled until 2009. But while the trailer business was down in 1975, the oil business was riding a boom that lasted until the early 1980s.
When the bottom fell out of the oil business in 1982, the trailer industry was hardly the place to turn for booming business. The recovery from its 1975 low had run its course. This time the two industries when bust together.
“We survived, though,” Henderson says. “Until the oil bust, we were making all the oilfield trailers we possibly could. Suddenly that business went away. We were able to get by because we found a niche — building trailers to haul bulldozers. Our customers liked them. When they needed another, they came back and bought a new one from us.”
Nuttall recognized that its strength is in producing the custom trailers that industries such as the oilfield demand. One of the more unusual trailers that Nuttall has developed is one that “kneels” to the ground so that heavy equipment can be loaded from ground level. Rather than using conventional landing gear, this mildly sloping drop-deck trailer has landing legs that resemble a conversion hoist used on farm bodies. With the tractor removed, twin double-acting cylinders place the nose of the trailer on the ground to allow the equipment to be driven onto the deck. A beaver tail at the rear of the trailer makes it possible for the equipment to be driven forward off the rear as well.
“We aren't a big company,” Henderson says. “We only build about 100 trailers a year, so we really have to listen to our customers and provide them with something special to meet their needs. Some of our best ideas come from the guys who tow our trailers and work with them.”
Right now the market is asking for trailers with rolling tailboards — mostly with five axles. Seventy-ton capacity is the most requested, with Ridewell 240 Series underslung suspensions as standard.
“We are beginning to get requests for disc brakes now,” Henderson says.
Knowing the cyclical nature of the industry it serves, Nuttall makes it a point to reinvest in the company, especially during good times.
“We've bought a lot of equipment in recent years,” says Henderson, who bought the company from founder Bill Nuttall and Dale Gipson, the current sales manager, in 2005.
Since acquiring the company, Henderson has purchased multiple machine tools designed to improve quality and productivity. The biggest was a Retro Systems plasma cutting table. Other purchases include an HE&M band saw and a Koike Wel Handy multi-purpose welding carriage for automating the production of trailer main beams.
Nuttall main beams usually are 21 inches deep with 7" × ¾" flanges. Each is custom fabricated from T-1 steel.
“We are standard now on T-1,” Henderson says. “We won't build a five-axle trailer that isn't made from T-1.”
Other standard specs include 24" crossmember spacing. Crossmembers tend to be eight-inch I-beams. Oak decking is standard, with apitong available as an option.
The new fabrication equipment helps the company compete on the world stage. Nuttall has shipped its custom trailers as far away as Libya and Egypt. But as things stand right now in a very cyclical business, there are plenty of customers right here in the USA.