The Trail King story began in 1974 when Gordon and Shirley Thomsen, Jerry's parents, founded Western Ag Sales, Inc. in Mitchell, South Dakota. For the first four years the company was primarily a distributor and sales representative for agricultural equipment. In 1978 Plains Industries, which manufactured the Trail King trailer, was purchased and relocated to the plant at 300 East Norway Avenue in Mitchell.

During the next few years the Trail King line was expanded to include trailers with hydraulic tails, detachable goosenecks, and other features, in capacities up to 70000 pounds (32 tonne). In the early 1980s the distribution of agricultural equipment ended, and Western Ag Sales' primary business became the manufacture of Trail King trailers.

In 1983 the company name was changed to Trail King Industries, Inc., reflecting the company's commitment to trailer manufacturing. In 1985 the commercial and specialized line of transportation trailers was developed, and in early 1987 increased sales and production demands brought about the need for a new 67500 square foot plant on South Ohlman Street in Mitchell. That plant was expanded in 1992, 1994 and 2001 to its current 240000 square feet, bringing total square footage in Mitchell to almost 300000 square feet. Also in 1994 Trail King began a manufacturing joint venture with Cipsa, in Pueblo, Mexico.

In June 1995 Trail King was acquired by Carlisle Companies, Inc., which is based in Syracuse, New York. Carlisle Companies comprises three operating segments: construction materials, transportation products and general industry. Trail King is part of the transportation segment. Carlisle employs more than 13000 people at more than 70 plants around the world.

In September 1995 assets of Ti-Brook, Inc., which has locations in Brookville, PA and Green Pond, AL, were acquired by Trail King. The Brookville plant was expanded to 160000 square feet to accommodate the production of a range of Trail King products. This addition to the Trail King family added the dump body and end-dump trailers to the range.

The acquisition in 2000 of Red River Manufacturing, Inc. of West Fargo, North Dakota further expanded the line of trailers to include bottom dump and live bottom types, with applications in the agricultural, waste and construction industries.

Trail King's trailers range in capacity from 6000 to 1 million pounds (2.7 to 454 tonnes) and are sold all over the world. Thomsen says they have an unsurpassed reputation for quality and performance. The strong growth of Trail King throughout its history is a tribute to the company founders and the people who have contributed to making Trail King what it is today, Thomsen continues.

Current position

Trail King has more than 700 employees at its three manufacturing locations: Mitchell, Brookville, and Fargo. Combined total production is almost 4000 trailers a year, generating annual sales of more than US$ 130 million. Almost 300 authorized Trail King dealers offer sales and service across the US and parts of Canada.

Trail King Industries, Inc.manufactures a complete line of trailers for the construction, transportation, industrial and agriculture markets. Open deck models include: utility; tag; tilt; rollback; hydraulic tail; rigid gooseneck; sliding axle; hydraulic detachable; mechanical detachable; and folding gooseneck types as well as specialized multi-axle trailers for heavy haul applications. Materials hauling models include: half round; side dump and bottom dump trailers; aluminum frame-type and frameless end dump trailers; live bottom trailers; and pneumatic dry bulk transport trailers.

In business

When asked why should people choose Trail King over others, Thomsen, who has been president since 1988, explains, “Trail King has over 25 years of sales, engineering, and manufacturing experience in the specialized hauling industry. During that time, we have produced trailers for some of the most demanding hauling projects for many of the finest specialized transport companies in North America. It is this experience and track record of success that we bring to every specialized trailer project we undertake today. So, when a customer comes to Trail King, they know we have the engineering expertise, the advanced manufacturing capabilities, and the specialized hauling ‘know-how’ to deliver the best trailer value in the industry.”

Challenges facing the company and the industry as a whole include rising steel prices, keeping up with record-level demand on production and keeping abreast of ever-changing state and Federal regulations. Thomsen explains, “At Trail King, we address these challenges in three ways: we continue to invest in the hiring and training of top-notch people; we continue to invest in the best tools and technology to manufacture the highest quality trailers in the industry; and we continue to participate in and support professional organizations, such as SC&RA, and their efforts to make the industry better for everyone involved.”

Something Thomsen says would make life easier for the business is to have more uniformity in oversize and overweight regulations, which would help to simplify the industry both for manufacturers and haulers. “Some type of protection against frivolous product liability lawsuits would also help in managing the business. The frequency and cost of defending frivolous lawsuits are increasing at a rapid pace,” Thomsen adds.

In future

Commenting on the outlook for the industry and the business, Thomsen says, “The next three to five years looks very good for the transportation industry - the economy appears to be recovering and people are very optimistic about business. The last three or four years have been a little soft and there appears to be some pent up demand for our products. Some customers have put off a purchase decision for a number of years and they are now ready to buy. We see growth opportunity in almost all of our markets.”

Customers are optimistic too, Thomsen says, “There is increased demand due to an improved economy and the opportunities presented by new emerging markets, for example, wind power.”

On the SC&RA

Thomsen explains, “SC&RA is a strong organization that has helped its members solve various problems and issues that are facing the industry. SC&RA has also helped its member companies achieve and maintain the highest standards for quality and safety. The SC&RA organization is also a great opportunity for member companies to network and develop business relationships with other companies in order to grow and expand their own business.

Member companies regularly work together on various projects when they do not have the specific equipment or people required to handle a particular project.”

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