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Utility to expand plants in Arkansas, Virginia

Utility Senior Vice President Craig Bennett tells reporters during a news conference that his company is expanding two plants. (The Trucker: LYNDON FINNEY)

By LYNDON FINNEY
The Associated Press

8/24/2012

DALLAS  Noting that his company was headed for a record number of sales in 2012, Utility Trailer Manufacturing Senior Vice President of Sales and Marketing Craig Bennett Thursday, Aug. 24 told reporters at the Great American Trucking Show here that the company was in the process of expanding production capabilities at two of its manufacturing facilities.

“While there may still not be the highest level of confidence in the economy, trailers sales are doing well,” he said. “We’re on our way to a record year in sales depending on how the fourth quarter turns out.”

Bennett said the company was planning to open a 22,000-square-foot expansion at its Paragould, Ark., dry van plant that will house a new modification center that accommodates more customized trailers with complex or multiple options.

It will open in September, Bennett told reporters at an afternoon news conference.

Utility estimates that the expansion will increase its workforce by 50 at Paragould.

The modification center has been expanded to include 12 new drive-through trailer bays and an additional employee lunchroom.

Bennett said Utility was constructing a new 50,000-square-foot modification center for high option and complex refrigerated trailers at its Marion, Va., reefer plant, that would be online in late October.

Many customers order trailers with complex options that must be manufactured in a process that does not utilize an assembly line, he said.

While the expansion at the Arkansas facility could be attributed to an uptick in dry van sales, not so at the reefer plant, Bennett said.

“We’ve been expanding our capacity because we’ve had a big demand for reefer trailers,” Bennett said. “It was the most steady product throughout the recession. It was only off a couple of points in 2009 when the industry was off 36 or 37 points.”

Bennett said Utility was well-positioned with its customer base, which is made up of carriers and private fleets outside the top 20 companies in the U.S.

As for the reefer market, “We are currently in our 18th consecutive year as the No. 1 market leading reefer trailer manufacturer consistently building over half of all the reefers in North America,” Bennett said, “and this expansion is evidence of our continuing commitment to lead the reefer trailer industry.”

Refrigerator carries today, particularly the food service and distribution sector, are looking for ways to make their driver’s jobs easier,” he said.  “Lift gates, walk ramps, ingress and egress options of all types all go into a trailer but they are not the box itself. They are accessories.  Things that are going on trailers for our customer base require a mod center.”

A base trailer can be built in 120 hours while it might take 200-400 hours to build a trailer with complex options.

Bennett also announced that two new high-strength steel options will be made available for the 4000D-X Composite dry van in the fourth quarter.

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The high strength steel side panel option, presently available for the DX-100 only, comes as an alternative to the standard .040” aluminum side skin, providing a means of countering fluctuations in the price of aluminum.

Bennett said using the same durable exterior side skin material found on plate trailers, this new option features .016” high-tensile 80,000 psi, pre-painted white, galvanized steel panels the full length of the trailer, including the front wall.

In addition, a new side wall system will be made available for both the optional DX-100 and the standard DX-101 featuring 18-gage, 100 ksi galvanized steel side wall posts in the bay area to offer significant weight savings for increased payload capacity.

Together, the high strength steel side wall system and the high strength steel side panels are a natural match, offering both cost and weight savings for greater profits.

“When combined, this unique pairing reduces weight while adding to the bottom line, making it a winning combination.” Bennett said.

The Trucker staff can be reached for comment at editor@thetrucker.com.

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