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Industrial Parts Dep

Utility Trailer is 100 this year but not showing its age

On display at MATS are Utility Trailer's 3000R reefer (above), the 4000D-X dry van and other popular models. (Photo courtesy UTILITY)

By DOROTHY COX
The Trucker Staff

3/27/2014

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Utility Trailer Manufacturing Co. may be 100 but you can’t tell it. They’re just as forward-looking and forward-thinking as any newcomer upstart. Not only are they America’s oldest privately-held trailer company, they’ve been the top-selling one for the past 20 years.

Last year Utility had 54 percent of the market share for refrigerated trailers, a 12.5 percent market share of dry vans and 11 percent of flatbeds and tautliners.

In 1924 they had the first mechanical steel brake which worked by steel-on-steel friction. The early models looked like a box pulled behind a buggy and advertised that they carried twice as much as a man could carry on his back.

They patented the first sliding running gear and their first refrigerated trailer operated by means of air blowing over a bunch of ice.

Now they have their own test track in Southern California and their own research and development center.

Utility’s 3000R, a lighter weight product has been a big seller since the late ’90s and the company had record sales of its brands the last two years running and record market shares for the past two years as well.

They must be doing something right, and indeed the company points to the strength of its dealerships, which are locally manned and know their local customers’ needs. There are five manufacturing plants and a parts distribution hub in centrally located Ohio.

And Utility keeps expanding its options to offer what customers want and need, including a roll-down door that’s 4 inches higher, meaning more cargo room; a lift axle that lifts up when the load goes below 18,000 pounds; extended-wear floors made out of aluminum for higher duty cycles; and a 24,000-pound rated floor.

But even as Utility eyes the future, it’s celebrating its 100 years in the business with a special museum trailer equipped with interactive screens, historical photos, rare memorabilia and a 25-minute documentary film chronicling its story, said Craig Bennett, senior vice president, sales and marketing for Utility.

The Legacy trailer debuted at the Mid-America Trucking Show here Thursday and will be at other events throughout the year.

Also on display at the show are one of the company’s earliest models along with the current 4000D-X dry van, the 3000R reefer and the 4000A flatbed trailer. They also make Tautliner curtainsided trailers.