Utility Trailer Manufacturing’s Craig Bennett said his company had a strong 2016 and expects another one in 2017.
Addressing a meeting of trucking industry trade press editors January 25, Bennett said he is “fairly optimistic about 2017. It will be down a little, but not too bad.”
This past year was Utility’s second-best in its 103-year history, down only slightly from 2015. But production numbers are only part of the story.
“The trailer manufacturing industry uses production as its yardstick,” Bennet said, “but we have labor hours to sell, too. And we are selling more trailers with high labor content.”
Utility believes that the shortage of drivers is making trailer customers want to get even more out of trailers—more cargo and more efficiency.
“We increasingly are being asked to install accessories and custom specifications,” Bennett says.
Foodservice trailers---a product requiring substantially more labor content than a standard van—have been in strong demand. The substantial increase in these types of trailers helps offset the slight decline in standard van production. The current product mix at Utility is 41% dry-freight vans, 55% refrigerated trailers, and 4% platforms and Tautliner trailers.
The company developed several new products last year, including two scheduled to be revealed at truck shows in the first quarter of 2017. The new products include:
• A composite van with tall bottom rail. The new: 4999D-X composite TBR (tall bottom rail) was introduced late last year. It has a bottom rail that is 10” taller and 50% thicker than the one used on the company’s standard 4000D-X composite van trailer. The bottom rail provides a band of solid aluminum in the “work zone”—the first 10” above floor wear forklift abuse is the greatest. No fasteners are used in the space. Instead, fasteners are used in the 8” wear band above the work zone. The fasteners are located in the recesses of the wear band to help protect them from forklift damage.
• 4000AE combo trailer. The new platform trailer has steel main beams, but a major portion of the remaining components are replaced with aluminum. The result is a trailer that is 536 pounds lighter than the 4000 base model, 627 pounds lighter than the company’s 4000A base model with optional coil package.