ALBERT LEA, MN. As a custom truck show focused on working tractors and trailers that spend real time on the road hauling freight—rather than prepping for the next beauty contest—Shell Rotella SuperRigs is a showcase for dozens of successful owner-ops and small fleets who gather each summer to compare equipment and share tips and tricks for doing business, and for having a little fun at the same time.
And while sparkling tractors with amazing interiors draw most of the attention from contestants and onlookers, entries in the Tractor-Trailer Division pay great attention to the payload-carrying part of the rig as well. Trailer/Body BUILDERS stopped bythe rigs of several entrants to discuss their trailer selection, and what trailer manufacturers might do to improve their products.
But it shouldn’t come as a surprise that everyone we spoke with cited their relationship with a trailer manufacturer or dealer as being just as important as equipment quality.
To haul “anything that's a flatbed load that needs to be kept dry and clean from the elements,” Dean DeSantis pulls a 2019 East Mfg. 49-foot flatbed with an Aero Conestoga tarp system, Alcoa aluminum wheels and Michelin tires.
He selected East because of “a lot of history.”
“I've been in the business pushing 35 years now. East is a veteran aluminum product builder,” DeSantis says. “When I started in the industry, I bought East aluminum dump trailers. And I know they make a damn good aluminum flatbed.”
And what would he like for trailer builders to better understand about the business of trucking?
“Here's the challenge of the day: It's all about weight,” DeSantis says without hesitation, noting the weight added to tractors by emissions equipment and other technologies. “The trailers, they're basically built the same way they always were. It's tough, because the trailers are heavy, so the tare weight is heavy, and it doesn't allow us to offer our customers what they're looking for.
“So, how do we build a lighter trailer? I guess that’s what I'm asking for.”
Brad Beuthien agrees about the importance of trailer weight. He comes to SuperRigs with a 2020 Extreme Trailers 53-foot flatbed with a sliding rear axle and a Quick Draw tarp system. He operates in all of the lower 48 states, and “if it fits, it’ll ship.”
“They’re a lot lighter than everything else on the market right now. The quality of the build is just phenomenal. And the pricing for what they’re offering—you can’t beat it,” Beuthien says of his Extreme model. “It pulls smooth; we haven’t had any problems. Extreme hit it on the nose with the options we can work with. I’ve got the double J-hook rails down the trailer on the inside, winches on the outside. I really can’t complain about how they set them up.”
Brian Bourdeaux runs with a 2015 Superior Mfg. steel half-round dump trailer with an Aero electric side roll tarp and Michelin wide-base single trailer tires.
“I like the quality of the product they build—it’s lighter weight than most. It’s Hardox steel, so I like the fact that’s it built to take a beating, which it does,” Bourdeaux says. “We haul a lot of rough stuff, big monster boulders—you name it. It’s holding up real well. They also offer a lot of custom features, and they paint to match my rig.”
The only thing he change he’ll make next time around is to add more rear lighting, for better illumination when backing.
“Superior is really easy to deal with, whatever you want,” he says. “There’s not huge upcharges. They always get feedback from customers, and in a year or two when it’s time to upgrade I’ll just tell them to pull the specs off this one and try to do the same thing again.
“I think I nailed it pretty good.”
Gary Jones uses his 2019 Globe Trailers 55-ton lowboy with a hydraulic flip axle to haul heavy equipment, such as CNC machines. It’s just the latest trailer he’s bought from Globe, and he’d encourage any trailer manufacturer “to take notes” from them.
“Globe’s the best in the industry. They’ve taken care of me from day one,” Jones says. “They go above and beyond with the quality. And if you have any issues, the turnaround is right away. I have 11 trucks, and I’ve had different trailers, but I’ve never been treated as well as I’ve been treated at Globe Trailers.”
Dustin Shipman pulls a 2020 Etnyre Blackhawk 55-ton lowboy. His rig “Never Satisfied” was featured on the cover of the TBB Mid-America Trucking Show issue.
“It’s a dependable trailer; it’s a tough trailer. It’s proven it can do what we need it to. They’re really awesome trailers,” he says, noting that J&L Contracting has 35 of them in the fleet. “We stick with what we have—like everybody has their own preference for toothpaste.
“They’ve listened to us over the 12 or 13 years since we’ve used them, and they’ve come a long way with providing what the customer is looking for. They’ve stepped up to the plate and done what we needed.”
Jerry Linander exhibits a 2014 Great Dane 53-foot dry freight trailer, one of the few vans at the show. The mirror finish on the trailer door is meant to “make the guy on the golf course miss his ball when I go by,” Linander jokes. Among his other custom touches: a Bluetooth speaker system inside the box for entertainment during loading and unloading the trailer.
“I’ve got a relationship with Great Dane right here in Albert Lea, and my last three new trailers have been Great Dane,” he says. “I pull the same wagon all the time, so it’s about image.”
Asked why he bothers to customize a box, he admits he’s asked himself the same question.
“It costs a lot of money to show off,” he quips.
But, judging by the excitement around the SuperRigs contest lot, it’s money well spent by all the constestants.