WIERS MANUFACTURING Inc is establishing a national dealer network for its customized Toter tractors that pull manufactured housing units such as single-, double-wide, and sectional homes.

The manufacturer is a sister company of Wiers International, a truck dealership in Plymouth, Indiana. Wiers Manufacturing builds the vehicles in a 50,000-sq-ft shop at the International dealership.

Toters are Class 6, Class 7, or Class 8 tractors modified by Wiers for pulling manufactured housing such as single-, double-wide or sectional housing, says Tom Wiers, president of Wiers Manufacturing Inc and Wiers International Trucks Inc. Equipment installed on Toter tractors normally includes a hitch available in three different models, a mirror assembly with three different power options, and a small, bin-type truck body for carrying spare tires for mobile homes and tool boxes.

Another customized truck built by Wiers is the Towmaster, which is a customized low-profile Navistar chassis with a crew cab for pulling recreational vehicles.

"We're expanding our dealer network because of requests from Toter customers and sales growth of 25% to 30% over the last four years for Toters," Wiers says. "Wiers plans to have nationwide distribution and is drastically increasing production of the Toter and Towmaster."

Each year, Wiers and its dealers sell about 300 Toters and 150 Towmasters, says Matt Garver, information technology manager at Wiers. The Toter is used only to transport manufactured housing units.

Wiers has already signed up about 20 Toter dealers in the southwestern, southern, and southeastern United States, Garver says. All factory branches of Fontaine Truck Equipment carry Wiers Toter kits that have all the equipment Wiers installs on tractors modified in its shop.

Toter International Trucks The tractors usually have a 136- to 146-inch wheelbase and a single-drive axle, Wiers says. Most of the tractors are specified with a 300- to 400-hp engine. As the weight of manufactured housing continues to increase, some new tractors are using tandem drive axles.

"Some of the units Toters transport weigh up to 40,000 lb," Wiers says. "The largest single-wides measure 16 by 80 feet, and in Texas they can be up to 20 feet wide."

Sideview mirror assemblies on the trucks are eight feet wide in the stowed position and telescope to an overall length of 18 to 20 feet for the larger homes allowed in Texas, Wiers says. The telescoping mirrors are offered as electrically powered, manually operated, or hydraulically powered. Yellow flashing lightbars are mounted in the center on top of the mirror telescopes.

Toters are primarily purchased by transporters or manufactured home dealers, Wiers says. A transporter delivers manufactured homes from the factory to the dealer's lot. This generally only requires a two-way ball hitch that moves up and down hydraulically.

Multi-Directional Hitches Manufactured home dealers and their contractors use more sophisticated hitches with mobile homes, Garver says. These multi-directional hitches are used on Toter trucks to set a mobile home on a concrete pad or footings.

Besides the basic two-way hitch used by transporters, these hydraulic hitches come in a four-way and six-way model, Garver says. The hitches are offered in a Magnum version with 40 inches of left-and-right travel or a Super version with 22 inches of left-and-right travel.

The four- and six-way hitches have a High-Tower option with a two-stage lift that increases the up-and-down movement of the hitch to 72 inches, Garver says. A four-way hitch has vertical and lateral travel.

Four- and six-way hitches move laterally on three-inch diameter high-tensile steel bars built into the rear frame of the hitch, he says. In addition to four-way movement, a six-way hydraulic hitch moves in and out 20 inches from the rear of the chassis frame.

The hitch frame extends six feet from the rear, forward on top of the chassis frame rails and is built to handle heavy weight, Garver says. The Magnum six-way hitch has up to 60,000 pounds of pushing or pulling power.

High-Tower Hitch Option The six-way hitch, 72-inch tower, and six-ft frame extension are needed to deliver and set trailer homes on hillsides or in deep hollows, he says. This configuration for Toters is popular in southern states where many manufactured homes are often placed in hilly, rural areas.

Wiers began building Toters in 1982, and is near many of its customers because of the concentration of manufactured housing plants in Elkhart, Indiana, Wiers says. Part of the demand for Toters is because an increasing number of first-time home buyers are purchasing manufactured homes.

"About 25% of first-time buyers are purchasing manufactured homes," Wiers says.

Sales of Towmasters, the other major product line of Wiers Manufacturing, also are increasing, Wiers says. Towmasters are built on an International 4700 low-profile crew-cab chassis and offered to International dealers through Navistar.

Demand is increasing for Towmasters because of their automotive appeal in the recreational vehicle industry, says Jan Anderson, a Towmaster salesperson at Wiers. The trucks have an upgraded, customized cab interior and 23-ft turning radius, which is tighter than most dual-wheel pickup trucks.

Towmaster Recreational Truck The demand for a heavy-duty recreational towing vehicle has never been adequately filled until Wiers introduced the Towmaster in 1990, Anderson says. Many Towmaster customers are at least 60 years old and purchasing a truck similar to the Towmaster would be difficult were it not offered as a complete package.

"The Towmaster is marketed primarily as a product similar to the Ford Expedition because of its automotive appeal," Anderson says.

Most Towmasters have an Allison MD-3060-P automatic transmission and a 275-hp diesel engine that generate pulling capacity with 800 foot-pounds of torque, Anderson says. This power is needed to pull recreational trailers that can weigh up to 25,000 lb and are furnished with washers and dryers, solid wood trim, and full-size appliances such as refrigerators.

"The Towmaster provides the horsepower and braking needed to pull today's fifthwheel recreational vehicles," Anderson says.

Because new recreational vehicle trailers are heavier, about 80% of the trailers that are 34-ft long will overload one-ton pickup trucks, many of which are rated to only pull 14,000 lb, Anderson says. Any recreational vehicle trailer 35-ft long will overload a one-ton pickup truck.

Besides recreational vehicles, the Towmaster is well suited for pulling gooseneck or fifthwheel trailers, Garver says. However, most are purchased for pulling recreational vehicles.

"Occasionally, we pick customers up at their house who've purchased a Towmaster, sold everything, and moved into a recreational vehicle trailer," Wiers says. "The Towmaster is built more for a way of life."