TBB Time Travelers: February 1974—Definitive dispenser of distributors' stories

Before February was reserved for Trailer/Body Builders’ annual industry-leading survey of the top 25 trailer manufacturers in North America, it was a time for spotlighting those indispensable distributors who help connect the trailer and truck body segments, and keep parts and equipment moving, from OEMs to customers—and everywhere in between.

(Don’t worry distributors, you still get your month in March.)

Our February 1974 issue—printed 45 years ago, for those of us who aren’t mathematically inclined engineers—was packed cover to cover with stories for and about distributors, including a piece by a former Ohio State finance professor on planning for profitability. The tips he shared then, such as putting profit before sales, keeping inventory turning, reducing receivables and decreasing debt ratio, are as applicable in today’s economy as they were in those pre-Star Wars times.

The issue also told the inspiring story of Tom’s Hydraulic Supply in Elk Grove CA, which grew from local truck equipment distributor to prominent truck equipment manufacturer with national distribution before closing its doors in 2010 after a 61-year run. The company persevered through tough times early on, then rose to prominence on its signature high lifts.

Other pieces included a report on Olson Trailer and Body’s preparations for “Snow Go ’74,” a truck and snow plow drive-away event for dealers held at Lambeau Field in Green Bay WI; the beauty of refuse trucks in the eyes of C&C Trailer & Body Company; and advice on “How to sell 500 Trailers—One at a Time.” (For those wondering, the top tips from then-Hudsonville Trailer general manager Mel Verwys were: Keep the salesmen in the field, the lots fully stocked, and treat used-trailer buyers the same as the ones buying new.)

Of course, we also printed a story entitled “What happens when a Woman Takes Over a Man’s Job?” which may seem silly today but illustrates how far we’ve come as an industry and society—or, some might say, how far we still have to go. What happened, by the way, was Myrtle Evans, a MENSA member, kicked peers’ butts and took distributors’ names while working the phones as a sales administrator at Meyer Products in Cleveland OH—and still maintaining a more traditional view of equality and the workplace.

“I still like men to hold the door for me, and I think female liberals who say we should all be equal are downright foolish. We’re already equal.”

Well said Ms. Evans.

And now, for the visual portion of this presentation, climb back into our TBB Time Machine, powered by the latest flux capacitor (although we still need roads where we’re going), and travel to February 1974 with the only magazine for producers, sellers—and distributors—of commercial truck bodies, trailers and truck equipment

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