Thomsen's Trails

30 April 2008

The Trail King story began in 1974 when Gordon and Shirley Th omsen, 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 70,000 pounds. 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 67,500 square foot plant on South Ohlman Street in Mitchell.

In 1988 Jerry Th omsen was appointed president of Trail King and remains in that role today. Th at plant was expanded in 1992, 1994 and 2001 to its current 240,000 square feet, bringing total square footage in Mitchell to almost 300,000 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 13,000 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 160,000 square feet to accommodate the production of a range of Trail King products. Th is 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 6,000 to 1 million pounds and are sold all over the world. Th omsen 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, Th omsen 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 $ 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, Th omsen explains, “Trail King has more than 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, meeting record–level production demands, and keeping abreast of ever–changing state and Federal regulations. Th omsen 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 Th omsen 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 is increasing at a rapid pace,” Thomsen adds.

In future

Commenting on the outlook for the industry and the business, Th omsen 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, Th omsen says, “There is increased demand due to an improved economy and the opportunities presented by new emerging markets, for example, wind power.”


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