TRAVIS Body & Trailer president Bud Hughes knows a good thing when he sees it, which is why he bought his way into the half-round dump trailer business.
The Houston, Texas, dump trailer manufacturer was looking for the missing piece that would “round out” the company's line of end- and bottom-dump trailers. When presented with the opportunity to acquire the assets of a proven design, Hughes says, Travis did so and then immediately began refining it.
“We had been sitting on the sidelines watching half-round dump trailers evolve, and we wanted to offer one,” he says. “A half-round was the last piece that we needed to complete our line of dump trailers. But we also were wary about designing one from scratch. The highways of America are littered with companies that have tried to build a reliable half-round dump trailer.”
Hughes believes Travis found the best of both worlds when Travis bought the assets of Everlite, manufacturer of the Alumatech half-round dump trailer, in 2011.
“Over the last 15 years, Everlite built a successful product that did not have the problems that some of the other half-round designs developed,” Hughes says. “Their Alumatech trailer was a good design, but we wanted to learn what their owners' experience had been. We talked to a lot of customers who bought them and operated them. We learned what the problems they have had with them. None were company killers — they were at worst some nagging problems that cut into customer satisfaction. We identified those problems and have addressed them all.”
Hughes says that Everlite received product and manufacturing engineering assistance from Letourneau University, a private institution founded by R G Letourneau, a leading inventor of earthmoving equipment. He credits the university with helping develop one of Everlite's most valuable assets — the equipment the company used to roll the floors and sides of its trailers. The custom tooling enables Travis to roll seamless floor and side sheets that are up to 40 feet long.
“That allows us to offer one-piece floors and sides,” Hughes says. “It's a huge advantage for us. Letourneau engineers did a great job with it. This equipment came with the purchase, which made the decision to acquire the Alumatech line even easier.”
Travis also got the rights to the extrusion dies used to produce Alumatech trailers. As such, parts for older trailers built by Everlite are now available through Travis.
Another attraction for Travis is the Alumatech line of truck bodies. Travis will offer Alumatech bodies in lengths ranging from 12 feet to 22 feet.
“This strengthens our presence in the dump body market,” Hughes says. “As a matter of fact, the first Alumatech product we built here was a dump body.”
Another benefit of the acquisition is an expansion of Travis' dealer network. Travis has entered into new relationships with several dealers who had represented Everlite.
“They have all been excited to see the product come back to life,” Hughes says. “And they have been instrumental in helping Travis get up to speed on expectations among the loyal customer base of earlier Alumatech trailer owners.”
Making it better
The interviews Travis conducted with Everlite customers produced ideas for ways to improve the product. One of the key improvements is the new aluminum subframe. It is now 22% longer than the Everlite design. The new design adds strength to this high-stress area while removing more than 250 pounds of steel.
“Making the subframe longer spreads out the forces that are produced when the dump body is raised, forces that try to pull the body away from the subframe,” Hughes says.
Other changes that Travis made before putting its version of the Alumatech half-round on the market:
An improved coupler plate. Travis has switched to T-1 steel and has enlarged the upper and lower saddles from four inches to five inches.
Redesigned drop legs. They now are mounted on the draft arms, providing a broader base for improved stability.
Improved tailgate by moving the tailgate cylinders to a protected area and upgrading the tailgate seal.
More standard equipment
The Travis version of the Alumatech trailer makes more features standard equipment. They include Intraax suspension, LED lights, aluminum draft arms, rubber-seal tailgate; Duralite hubs and lightweight drums, mirror-finish surface, aluminum wheels and air tanks.
“We figured 85% of customers want these features anyway,” Hughes says. “Why not make them standard? It simplifies the ordering process.”
Travis does offer options, including a choice of 60” and 63” side heights, 7-ft and 12-ft liners, tarp options, a grain door, shorter apron, apron delete, two-speed landing gear, wide-base tires, and tire-inflation systems. The company is working on quarter-frame and frame-type versions of the design.
Management expects the Alumatech design to account for 15% of productions.
“We don't expect that it will cannibalize our existing products,” Hughes says. “It should be a nice complement to our product line.”
Travis is targeting the Alumatech line for sand, gravel, and fertilizer operations.
“It can be used for almost any bulk commodity,” Hughes says. “It has a little less capacity, though, — 41½ cubic yards vs. 48 cubic yards for the typical box trailer — so it's not as competitive if the customer is hauling exceptionally lightweight commodities.”
The half-round, though, boasts of reduced tare weight. With standard equipment, the trailer tips the scales at 8,892 pounds.
The backlog for sold Alumatech trailers now stretches well into 2012, and Travis is aggressively working on increasing production of the Alumatech line, as well as all of its other lines.
“Last year was solid for Travis,” Hughes says. “With the added excitement and early success of the new Alumatech model line, 2012 is shaping up to be even better.”