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Universal Trailer’s new office and production facility

Universal Trailer Corp. today (March 24) unveiled a state-of-the-art manufacturing plant in Bristol, Ind., for the production of Wells Cargo and Haulmark cargo trailers.

According to a press release, the $25 million-plus facility represents over two years of innovation adapted from the automotive industry to produce lighter and more durable Wells Cargo and Haulmark performance-grade cargo trailers. The new facility will employ over 200 new professionals and includes modern lighting, shop floor break rooms and numerous other amenities.

Located on 43 acres in Elkhart County, the 200,000-square-foot facility features several trailer industry firsts, including Universal Trailer’s proprietary construction material, intelligent robotic welding for square and true frames; HSLA (high-strength, low-alloy) roll formed steel, double-flanged cross members to minimize road vibrations; frames dripped in paint providing advanced anti-corrosion protection; and automotive fastener technology for perfectly aligned trailer chassis, walls and roof.

The materials and processes will allow Universal Trailer to deliver trailers with three times the life expectancy of many competitors, the release stated. To verify its new materials, forward-thinking production techniques and sophisticated fastening methods, Universal Trailer stress-tested its new cargo trailers design on commercial truck test tracks for over two years. UTC also utilized 3D modeling and computer vibration simulation to further validate the new design.

Wells Cargo and Haulmark trailers will be produced as complete trailer frame kits, which will then be shipped off to Universal Trailer’s four cargo trailer facilities around the country for further assembly and customization. 

Frame chassis ready to be hoisted onto the overhead conveyor system

“The modular production process enables us to continue to scale to meet global market demands, producing twice as many Haulmark and Wells Cargo trailers per week versus the traditional production methods used, all the while keeping our quality high,” said CEO Terry Carlson. “The new plant also takes our employees’ experience into account with an open, modern architecture and internal windows to the show floor throughout the facility. Needless to say, it’s also great for the local Elkhart County economy with 35 new hires and plans to hire an additional 175 full-time and part-time employees over the next 18 months.”
 
“Our customers demand the very best and we strive to deliver. The status quo is not good enough, so we embarked on a mission to create a more durable trailer that can go anywhere and withstand the test of time,” added Jeff Howes, vice president of Marketing Universal Trailer. “Not only did we redesign our cargo trailers, we incorporated the latest in automotive engineering and manufacturing techniques to make the Haulmark and Wells Cargo trailer frames truly unique in the industry. We feel that we have set a new industry benchmark with a world-class trailer that is built strong for the ages in a manufacturing facility with reduced emissions and lower carbon footprint.”

Technological advancements include

  • Robotic welding: Three automated, gantry-style quick changeover welding stations with micron-precision welding will result in higher quality, squarer and truer cargo trailers. Automation allows for increased speed, efficiency and consistency achieved through repetitive welding.
  • Anti-Corrosion dip tank: Every trailer frame (chassis, walls and roof) is dipped in ArmorTech, an advanced protective coating from Valspar. This environmentally-friendly corrosion treatment is proven, through laboratory testing, to deliver real-world protection against rust creep.
  • A-frames: Sealed with an automotive quality topcoat finish.
  • Stronger and lighter: Trailers are made with High-Strength, Low Alloy (HSLA) roll formed steel, with Grade 50 steel used on the chassis and wall attachment flange. This produces a new trailer frame that is up to 15% lighter yet stronger, delivering increased fuel economy and cargo capacity.
  • Automotive fasteners: Trailers will be assembled with advanced fastening technology used in aerospace, rail and automotive industries for increased precision, strength and perfectly aligned trailer walls.
  • Automotive test-track tested and proven: Universal Trailer fully vetted its new trailer design, components and fastening technology by rigorously testing the trailers on an automotive style proving grounds, ensuring they could handle 100% Gross Vehicle Weight Rating capacity and a variety of real-life driving situations, terrains and road conditions.

“This new plant is a significant milestone for Universal Trailer and represents the future of lean, responsible manufacturing in a facility designed from the ground up with the employee in mind,” added Carlson. “No one was pushing us to do this, but we have a culture of innovation and excellence that compelled us to do even better for our valued customers and dealer partners. We’re proud of this new plant as another symbol of our commitment to excellence in everything we do.”