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Trailer maker nears century of family success
By Jack Roberts
After a successful CCJ Fall Symposium wrapped up last month in Scottsdale, Ariz., and all of my colleagues scuttled out of the southwestern desert racing for home, I found myself heading just a little farther west to City of Industry, Calif., for a state of the business/industry sit-down with the principals at Utility Trailer Manufacturing Co.
Much like CCJ, which celebrated a century covering the trucking industry in 2011, 98-year-old Utility is closing in on its own centennial celebration. The company founded by brothers H.C. and Walter Bennett in 1914 is poised to welcome its fourth generation of family members into the fold, making it the oldest privately-owned trailer company doing business in North America today.
“We want (customers) to start making money with that trailer on day one.”
– Craig Bennett, Utility senior vice president of sales and marketing
H.C. and Walter would be pleased to see how the company they founded continues to prosper all these years later – particularly in an economic climate as difficult as this one. Shortly after my visit, Utility was slated to produce its 100,000th reefer trailer at its manufacturing facility in Clearfield, Utah – one of 200,000 total units produced there. Today, Craig Bennett, senior vice president of sales and marketing, proudly can claim that more than half of all reefers in service today in North America bear the Utility name on their sides. Bennett told me that even in the current economic downturn, Utility invested more than $13 million in facilities, technology and processes. “Our core idea is for our customers to be able to put their new trailer into service on the day they receive it,” he said.
Bennett said that in order to ensure this mission, Utility provides a greater level of modification and adaptation in the manufacturing process. In the company’s reefer production facilities, engineers from Carrier and Thermo King are onsite to troubleshoot any issues that arise during production, handle warranty issues or track down a Freon leak.
*Centennial nears: Family-owned Utility Trailer Manufacturing Co. has been in business for 98 years.
*What downturn? The company recently invested $13 million in facilities, technology and processes.
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