BRUCE Hanusosky builds transporter trailers for some big-time clientele.
At the time of this article, he had trailers lined up in adjacent bays in his shop for three racing superstars: Kyle Busch, who holds the modern-era record for most race wins in a season (24) across the top three NASCAR series; Matt Kenseth, two-time Daytona 500 winner and 2003 NASCAR Sprint Cup champion; and IndyCar team owner Bobby Rahal, the 1986 Indy 500 champ and winner of three CART season championships.
But Hanusosky, owner of Bruce High Performance Transporters, takes pride in every custom trailer he builds, regardless of whose name is on it. That's why he spent incalculable hours designing his new Stealth series of full-size, gooseneck, and tag-style transporters.
“I have competitors all scratching their heads because they're wondering how I came up with that so quickly,” he says. “Probably most of them thought I was never even going to develop my own. I put a lot of effort into this design — more than I could explain.”
Hanusosky was the first to take the car haulers of yesterday and turn them into the state-of-the-art customized transporters of today, and now his Stealth Series takes it one step further.
For starters, his company is now building its trailers completely in-house, from the ground up. This means that for the first time, it is fabricating its own signature body shells, which incorporate a number of design improvements: a smooth, clean exterior that is literally free of exposed fasteners, huck bolts, or rivets; and smooth-side walls that incorporate all extruded, radius upper, and lower rails. It all adds up to a significantly lighter weight body in comparison to the bodies that were used in the past.
Bruce Transporters also has developed a new, more aesthetic liftgate that utilizes the same basic construction principles with the added benefits of smoother lines and side doors that are incorporated into the complete structure. Due to its streamlined contour, the Stealth will pull with less drag than the previous trailer design. Combined with its lighter overall weight, that means better fuel efficiency.
Inside, cabinets are updated with more durable components and in general, are lighter in weight due to advancements in material and construction techniques. And the trailer includes new, state-of-the-art LED lighting and trim options.
“It's a purpose-built trailer,” he says. “For 27 years, we took Kentucky Trailer bodies and finished them out into racing trailers. They were a very specific body. Kentucky built those bodies for me for our use, but the fact is that not too many have ever built a real purpose-built semi racing transporter body shell.
“The way semi trailers were built for many years entailed rivets and Huck bolts when trailers were assembled. We designed an all-new fully welded steel frame, and nobody I know of has built a frame quite like ours. We also did a re-design of our side walls because we had problems with them buckling over time in the past. In my new design, we made a change so our sides are absolutely smooth.
“When a semi trailer is built, there is an upper and lower extrusion — a rub rail. All floor sills are bolted through the side of that rub rail. So you see all those heavy fasteners in the side of the trailer. I'm not saying it isn't good structurally, but there's a lot of corrosion in those areas where bolts pass through dissimilar metals. We'd get electrolysis. It's an ongoing issue for everybody. But in my new design, not only did we build an all-steel welded frame, but we added over the upper and lower rail a smooth radius extrusion that slides over our actual frame and is bolted up through the bottom. It gives great structure with very little flexibility, and we use no exposed fasteners. When you look at it, it's very clean and smooth and sleek.
“Also, we're not using any fasteners anywhere else on the exterior, so when you look at the generator housing that's on the nose, there are no rivets or fasteners up there. On the pre-assembly of the body, we're using a coating that's basically relatively new — a hot coating. When the frame is all built, it goes into our booth. We spray the frame with 30 mils of a special polymer, and this material is indestructible. You can't cut it off with a torch or grind it off. The manufacturer claims it could add several years of life to the trailer because it prevents corrosion.”
Hanusosky says that after production began, they had the same challenges as with any new product.
“We built a couple of them and I didn't like a few things, so we revamped the engineering, lightened them up a bit,” he says. “I would guess we're the lightest of all manufacturers.
“And we use all skilled labor. We don't have anyone here who's not. You can really only grow as fast as you can get qualified people. I've always been that way. I'll never risk the quality we build here.”
Hanusosky says the Stealth trailer was well-received at the Performance Racing Industry (PRI) Show in Orlando in November. He was hoping to unveil it for the first time at the Show, but a select few had already seen it because Michael Shank Racing was using the first one that Bruce Transporter produced. Hanusosky says he started receiving phone calls as soon as people saw the Shank trailer.
“I think a lot of people were waiting to see what it actually looked like, and if it was as clean as I said it was,” he says. “We had a great turnout.”
Hanusosky and wife, Judy, started High Tech Performance Trailers in Painesville, Ohio, in 1981.
In December 2009, Hanusosky's company and Kentucky Trailer, a custom trailer manufacturer based in Louisville, Kentucky, announced a joint venture to manufacture and sell custom trailers to the motorsports transport, corporate marketing, training, hospitality, mobile marketing, and event-marketing industries. Throughout the previous two decades, Kentucky Trailer had produced trailer shells for High Tech Performance Trailers' aftermarket modification needs. The two companies formally joined forces to cohesively design, manufacture, sell, and market custom trailers to a broader market base under the Kentucky-High Tech Performance Trailers name.
But the JV ended in December 2011, and in January 2012, Hanusosky changed the name of his company to Bruce High Performance Transporters, under the banner of The Bruce Companies, which includes Bruce High Performance Awnings, Bruce High Performance Restorations, Bruce High Performance Graphic & Paint Finishes, Bruce High Performance Commercial Interiors, and Bruce High Performance Body Manufacturing & Equipment.
Hanusosky declines to elaborate on the split, saying only, “We decided to dissolve the joint venture. And we did that. At that point, it was decided to operate under the banner of ‘Bruce High Performance Transporters.’ From a marketing standpoint, that's gone real well. Most of the customers say, ‘We never bought trailers from High Tech Trailers anyway. We always bought them from Bruce.’”
In 2012, Bruce Transporters also introduced a new state-of-the-art awning setup that is lighter, stronger, and more aesthetically appealing. It has state-of-the-art billet aluminum radius fittings with vertical poles that pivot and swing into place, a clear anodized aluminum frame with custom colored fittings, quick release spinnaker ends and stronger rafters with radiused corners. This new design saves up to 20 minutes in setup time.
With the company's new large-format graphic division, Bruce High Performance Custom Graphic and Paint Finishes, it is now able to provide vinyl graphics in-house, with custom graphics printed right onto the awning fabric itself. The company has an in-house graphic design artist who can create custom-designed graphics. Numerous options are offered to personalize the awning, such as custom windows and vents, privacy curtains and doorways, wired rafters, hanging speakers, ceiling fans, and LED lighting.
“We have a whole new awning design for all of them, but specifically for racing,” he says. “We have limited the welding in awnings. All fittings and pieces and parts are made in-house now on a Haas CNC.
“We've always been known as the premier builder of awnings. The only difference now is that we're getting more people with corporate trailers and want to build bigger structures. We're getting more teams with display trailers that want to build bigger, better, higher, wider structures with pretty intricate fabric work, especially on display trailers. By increasing the size of the awning operation, we're now building many more types, but mostly trailer-related.”
The Bruce High Performance Restoration Division was established because he felt there was a need in the marketplace to extend the life of older, existing transporters due to the current economic climate. In many cases, the company can completely restore a trailer to virtually “new” again for less than half the price of purchasing a new trailer.
The addition of the Bruce Truck Body and Equipment Division a year ago means that the company is manufacturing and distributing a full line of custom truck bodies for the commercial work truck industry. Complete installation is available, which provides a convenient, one-stop shop.
He says that was driven by the feeling that the company wasn't as diverse as it needed to be to thrive in downturns such as the one that hit in 2008.
“For so many years, I probably could have gone out and had a lot more diversity in this company,” he says. “I guess I got comfortable. We were always busy. Always. We were constantly building trailers. Business was very good. When the economy hit bottom and the racing industry hit bottom, things got terribly slow. Like everybody else, we suffered badly.
“So I thought diversity would be a good thing, and it has been. The truck division is building large dump trucks and every truck you can imagine. We've been solid with truck orders. We got a lot of that because of our reputation in the trailer business. At the same time, some of the companies in northeast Ohio that were building heavy trucks and snow-removal equipment went out of business. I thought it would work for us. Most people in northeast Ohio know who we are. I started advertising heavy trucks, and we started getting orders right off the bat. And they have not stopped since that day. We're working on five or six heavy trucks all the time. It looks to me like it's going to be a good part of our operation.”