In 1983, infamous corporate raider Victor Posner, a pioneer in asset stripping and leveraged buyouts, purchased Evans Products. As usual, he sold off the company’s assets to pay off debt from the buyout. One of these assets was Monon Trailer, which found itself seriously cash strapped without the backing of its parent corporation. Company executives Jerry Ehrlich, Ronald J. Klimara and William M. Hoover tried to buy Monon outright in the hope that they could rebuild it. Their offer was refused, so the three left the company and founded their own business, Wabash National, in 1985.
Thanks to their strong connections to the industry, Ehrlich, Klimara and Hoover had no problem getting the capital and factory space they needed for the new company. Shortly after building their first trailer, Sears Roebuck, a former customer of Monon, ordered 10 trailers. From there, the business grew at an astonishing rate. By the end of the following year, they cleared over $70 million in sales, producing 15,000 trailers for Heartland Express, Schneider National and Dart Transit. They became a publicly-traded company in 1991. In 1994, they became the largest trailer manufacturer in America. By 1999, they were producing 70,000 trailers per year.
The key to Wabash’s success has been their dedication to improving semi trailer technology. In 1987, they were one of the first manufacturers to introduce intermodal trailers. 1996 saw the release of their signature product, DuraPlate. This composite combines plastic, steel and multiple protective layers to create extremely strong, lightweight trailer walls. In 2009, they started releasing aerodynamic devices, starting with the AeroSkirt. In 2011, the DuraPlate XD-35 became the first dry freight semi trailer on the market with a 35,000 lb. rated floor.
As Wabash Trailers grew, they acquired other companies to expand their lineup. 2006’s purchase of Transcraft added flatbed and drop deck trailers while buying Benson Aluminum two years later let them start building aluminum trailers. By buying Walker Group Holdings and Beall Corporation, they were able to add a complete line of tanker trailers to their portfolio. In 2017, they bought out Supreme Industries, a builder of truck bodies.
Today, Wabash National is more than just Wabash Trailers. They upfit smaller trucks for local deliveries, make mobile clean-rooms for remote medical work, and build giant storage containers for the petrochemical industry. However, trailers remain the core of their business. They company continue to innovate with new technology like the recently introduced Cold Chain encapsulated foam insulation for refrigerated trailers. They also maintain ISO certification for sustainability, and their company has been on Industry Week’s Top 50 Manufacturers List 6 times. It’s no wonder why they’re the largest trailer company in America.