Kentucky Trailer : Revolutionizing the Road

Michael SommerfieldRachel Carr
Michael Sommerfield - Project Manager Rachel Carr - Junior Editor

Revving up the industry with its specialty trailers and truck bodies, Kentucky Trailer is a leader in designing and manufacturing custom transport vehicles. President, John Kwapis, discusses the company’s skills, services, and solutions.

REVOLUTIONIZING THE ROAD

Along the west side of the Appalachian Mountains lies the US Commonwealth of Kentucky, hemmed by the Ohio River on its northern border, which flows directly next to the major urban center of Louisville.  

The Bluegrass State’s largest city is home to Kentucky Trailer Manufacturing and Kentucky Truck Body (Kentucky Trailer), founded in the Gilded Age of 1879 and known at the time as the Kentucky Wagon Manufacturing Company.  

Impressively, it originally produced some of the nation’s most popular horse-drawn carts and became the largest wagon manufacturer in the world. Indeed, its unmatched quality and workmanship still stand today.  

The company acquired the assets of Hercules Motor Cars in 1916 and moved its production to Louisville, becoming the first automobile manufacturer in the city, where its primary facility remained until 2009.  

“In 2009, we relocated to a new 240,000 square foot (sqft) facility specifically designed for mixed-model trailer production. Additionally, the truck body division has a 100,000 sqft facility with dedicated space for decal installation and a paint booth for trailers and truck bodies,” introduces John Kwapis, President of Kentucky Trailer.   

“We produce composite, sheet and post trailers, and truck bodies for dry freight transportation, moving and storage, packaged delivery, and highly specialized transportation needs. If a company needs a customized vehicle with doors, windows, heavy-duty floor rating, interior buildouts, etc., we are the go-to solutions provider,” he continues.  

Kentucky Trailer’s moving and storage clients include Allied, Atlas, Mayflower, North American, United Van Lines, and many more. Other specialty-application customers encompass the largest snack food producers and top package delivery companies in the US. 

Furthermore, the company is known for extending the life of its trailer and truck bodies beyond their original purpose. Many of these moving and storage trailers are repurposed into tractor pullers, marching band equipment, football equipment, and workshop trailers.  

These advantageous elements make Kentucky Trailer a prominent player in the competitive US market and a leading global manufacturer of trucks and trailers. 

TRAILBLAZING TRUCKS

The manufacturing industry has experienced significant change over the years. However, with technological advancements and the recent transition to electric vehicles (EVs), Kentucky Trailer is determined to remain competitive. 

“The focus on EVs adds an exciting new dimension to the production process, which includes training employees, engineering drawings, power stations, and lightweight designs. This alters the fleet owners’ needs and makes multiple power options available,” Kwapis observes.  

As the US EV industry evolves, Kentucky Trailer is rapidly expanding and providing solutions to exceed its customers’ expectations.  

“An important customer is using our trailers in its sustainability efforts as the company incorporates electric trucks into its fleets,” he reveals.  

Indeed, Kentucky Trailer is constantly developing its products to outpace a competitive market and is launching a new plate truck body designed using state-of-the-art technology later this year.  

“The plate truck body will be lighter and easier to repair, with an aerodynamic corner design that maximizes the space inside the body for many use cases to deliver products and services. Our panels exceed our leading competitors for density and resistance to delamination,” prides Kwapis.  

In addition, the body will feature brighter, damage-resistant panels for increased visibility. The vehicle’s structural integrity is maintained with a robust aluminum corner cap and an extruded front-corner vertical post that allows for easy repairs.  

“We offer different mounting options that are easy to affix to your chassis or can be delivered to you, as well as multiple chassis power options. In addition to gas and diesel, we also have EVs, hybrid vehicles, compressed natural gas (CNG), liquefied natural gas (LNG), and liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) available.” 

Thanks to its fully galvanized frame and cross-members, the truck body structure and side walls are incredibly durable, likely to render the industry-leading five-year warranty redundant.  

“With all Kentucky Trailer products, our durability delivers a low total cost of ownership, and representatives deal directly with our factory to experience unparalleled customer service and delivery performance,” outlines Kwapis.  

“With all Kentucky Trailer products, our durability delivers a low total cost of ownership, and representatives deal directly with our factory to experience unparalleled customer service and delivery performance”

John Kwapis, President, Kentucky Trailer

SPECIALTY SOLUTIONS

Kentucky Trailer often needs to make modifications for specialty sectors due to its diverse client base.  

“Our innovative trailer design offers a platform that provides a 20 percent increase in cargo capacity in comparison to a straight floor trailer, a perfect solution for the moving and storage industry due to its high-quality fit and finish,” Kwapis points out.  

Similarly, the extreme durability and maximum interior heights improve the speed of loading and offloading for the package delivery sector, last mile delivery, less-than-truckload (LTL), and third-party logistics (3PL).    

While Kentucky Trailer Specialty Vehicles (KTSV), in Michigan provides commercial transport for mobile data centers, kitchens, workshops, classrooms, and marketing activities, it also supplies the medical industry and the US government with even more specialty modes of transportation.  

“KTSV and our AMST division in Illinois facilitates the provision of medical services to hospitals and underserved areas by transporting both equipment and people.  

“To ensure the safety, comfort, and security of patients and staff, we implement radiofrequency (RF) shielding for diagnostic imaging systems. Additionally, we design vehicles for sterilization, mammography, endoscopy, mobile laboratories, and workshops to meet the necessary standards,” explains Kwapis. 

The US government, meanwhile, requires a mobile sensitive compartmented information facility (SCIF) and includes disaster response, recovery, national defense, communications, training, and laboratories through KTSV.  

“KTSV also provides enclosed transport delivery vehicles for luxury automobiles, motorcycles, snowmobiles, and other high-end applications.” 

Regarding its manufacturing procedures, Kentucky Trailer employs automated processes and pioneering equipment to build sidewalls and floors to attach key components.  

“Telematics and smart trailer assist devices are becoming more prevalent in the industry, such as back-up cameras, vehicle diagnostics, and tire pressure monitors, with many more options becoming available each year,” he divulges.

KEEP ON TRUCKIN’

Since its inception 145 years ago, Kentucky Trailer has undergone many transformations.  

Its latest incarnation occurred in 2014 when the company became a majority-owned subsidiary of Alleghany Capital Corporation (Alleghany).  

The Tway family, whose bold vision led to truck-drawn trailer production when R.C. Tway purchased company assets in 1936, retained a minority stake after Alleghany was acquired by the Berkshire Hathaway Group (BHG). Kentucky Trailer is now part of Marmon Holdings Inc., which is owned by BHG and includes 11 industry groups.   

“BHG and Marmon Holdings Inc. have positioned the company for growth and expansion with new products,” according to Kwapis.  

Going forward, the company’s focus is on the Lean 5S methodology, the 80/20 strategy, continuous improvement, resources for automation and innovation, and training and education opportunities for its associates.  

Furthermore, Kentucky Trailer prioritizes product durability over cost-cutting measures.  

“Our goal is to provide the highest quality product at the best price possible; that model requires a constant focus on improvement and supply chain excellence,” he emphasizes.  

Kentucky Trailer centralizes supply chain operations for its Louisville locations to leverage group spending, and various support personnel are available at each of its individual sites. The company uses over 50 supply chain sources, with most partners based in the US, including divisions outside Louisville.  

“Although we have some strategic offshore resources, we are proud to possess a strong group of domestic partners. It is important to remember that your supply chain’s strength relies heavily on robust alliances. As a company, we take great pride in developing and nurturing our relationships as our partners are the backbone of what we build,” concludes Kwapis.  

In the future, Kentucky Trailer will remain a significant player in the truck plate body business by focusing on innovative solutions that meet customers’ specific requirements.

REPUBLISHED ON:Manufacturing Outlook
PUBLISHED BY:Outlook Publishing
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By Michael Sommerfield Project Manager
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Michael Sommerfield is a Project Manager for Outlook Publishing. Michael is responsible for showcasing corporate stories in our digital B2B magazines and Digital Platforms, and sourcing collaborations with Business Leaders, Brands, and C-suite Executives to feature in future editions. Michael is actively seeking opportunities to collaborate. Reach out to Michael to discover how you and your business could be our next cover story.