Volume 5 | Issue 6 | Year 2002


Think of them as portable garages for hauling motorcycles, machinery, snowmobiles and other recreation vehicles. Or, if you prefer, railroad cars.

Says Chairman Terry Whitesell of United Expressline, a leading manufacturer of specialty racing, cargo, snowmobile and ATV trailers, any number of uses have been devised by customers for the company’s high-quality lines of trailers. “I met a customer buying a trailer who has a collection of small train items from amusement parks that he displays; another has a small riding, gas-powered rail car he owns for recreational use – he and others get together and lease a track and ride the cars on the track. He bought a trailer to transport the car. These trailers are utilized every conceivable way.”

And the creativity in use and design doesn’t end for a company that, effectively, has taken a blank slate and looked at myriad ways in which that slate can be utilized, how it can be appointed and made more functional for both the casual and professional user.

With roots that extend to 1989, United Expressline has built a solid reputation on building the best trailers in the industry, particularly for racecar professionals and enthusiasts. Founded by Warren Johnson, United was purchased by Obsidian Enterprises in July 2001, a publicly traded holding company headquartered in Indianapolis, Ind., that invests in small and mid-cap companies in basic industries such as manufacturing and transportation.

A former executive in a similar industry, Johnson had elected to start his own business and built his firm on dependable product quality and the ability to meet customer demands.

“He grew the company to where it became one of the largest and most successful manufacturers in the country by providing dependable delivery and meeting customer requests for special designs,” says Whitesell, president of Obsidian at the time of the United purchase. Whitesell had spoken highly of the company then, as he does now, describing it as a business with “an outstanding reputation in the industry. Its business has grown tremendously in the past five years. Our goal is to increase market share for United by capitalizing on its strengths, such as its extensive national dealer network.”

From that point, business has continued to grow from customer needs, says Whitesell. “The market is extremely competitive and dependent on prompt delivery,” he explains. “These trailers are used by businesses such as landscape firms, for concessions at special events, by racing teams, for drivers who need to move professional teams with sponsorships. They’re also used for recreational purposes, such as a snowmobile enthusiast who wants to haul it out to snow country or professional snowmobile racers. There’s a vast market out there which adds to our ability to follow through on orders in a timely manner with high quality.”

Production spans breadth of business

United produces a range of high-quality, steel-framed trailers ranging in size from 4-foot-wide by 10-foot-long for a residential trailer to 102 inches by 53 feet long for a tractor-trailer. With business primary in North America, the company has seen revenues in excess of $36 million for 2002, a result of the construction of more than 10,000 trailers that can offer simple, utilitarian features or amenities such as cabinetry, closets, sinks and toilet facilities. When your canvas is blank, the sky’s the limit.

To support its operation, United operates a 60,000-square-foot manufacturing facility in Bristol, Ind., and in White Pigeon, Mich., where the company produces a line of trailers under the Southwest label. An additional manufacturing facility in Hagerstown, Md., of 35,000 square feet is for cargo trailers; in Elkhart, Ind., the company operates a 40,000-square-foot plant that focuses on trailers with higher options. These trailers are customer specific; most are utilized by racecar transporters and some provide living quarters.

Always innovating

True to a promise to keep the innovations coming, United has just expanded its offering of cargo-trailer models and has introduced new options for its cargo trailer line which includes trailers that have a wider width and increased rear-door opening sizes as well as wider rear-ramp doors. Aluminum extruded floors have been added for greater durability.
Additionally, new options recently introduced to its modified, 4-foot-wide cargo trailer at the National Landscape show in Louisville, Ken., were produced in direct response to customer requests. These trailers now come with more options, says Whitesell, including a small bathroom, wash basin and an eyewash area. “A lot of landscaping firms are in areas where there are no rest facilities,” he says. United delivered what the landscapers wanted and the result has been resounding approval. “This went over real well; it came about as result of dealer observations and sales observations and listening to needs,” he says.

In the area of racecar hauling, United has introduced trailers incorporated with more options for securing equipment, Whitesell says. These options include cabinets, tire racks, fuel storage, computer and test equipment storage areas.

A brand of trailers with a clear-cut edge

Modifications are consistently made to United’s line of trailers to make them the best on the market. The company’s cargo trailer line offers tag and fifth wheel models. Five- and 6-foot-wide cargo trailers come with frame rails of two-inch by three-inch tube on single axle trailers. Trailers that are 7-, 8- and 8.5-foot wide offer fifth wheel and gooseneck units available up to 53 feet in length with an I-Beam frame doubled up on lengths 18 feet and longer. On all models, the Dexter Torflex(r) (or comparable) rubber torsion axles with E-Z Lube(r) hubs are standard. Trailer-rated Goodyear(r) radial tires (or equivalent) also are provided for maximum performance and safety.

United also prides itself on manufacturing the best racing trailer in the industry, providing tag models, fifth wheels, goosenecks as well as sprint car trailers. United’s racecar models feature state-of-the-art running gear with smooth-hauling Torflex rubber torsion axles from Dexter axle and E-Z lube hubs for easy wheel bearing lubrication. Only the best materials are used to make sure each trailer meets the highest standards. All fifth wheel/gooseneck trailers come with enhanced aerodynamics leading to better on-the-road performance. United’s bull nose gooseneck design is a pleasure to pull; a lower stone guard protects the front from road debris.

Tag trailers are “the best buy for your buck.” Available in lengths from 16 feet to 32 feet, these trailers are rugged enough to stand up to years of over-the-road use while keeping a high resale value.

With United’s line of sprint car trailers, there’s no need to remove the top wing of the sprint car thanks to United’s roof design. The functional, heavy-duty trailer is available in tag, fifth wheel, and gooseneck models in lengths from 28 feet to 48 feet.

The company also offers an Xtreme model trailer for the racing industry, featuring a split double door that opens easily, “no matter how close your neighbor is.” The optional all-aluminum foldout step provides safety and convenience when entering and exiting – just one of the things that makes the Xtreme that much better. Standard features include a one-piece all-aluminum roof, a one-piece aluminum top rail, beavertail with spring assist ramp door, white vinyl ceiling, bright aluminum front corners and rear hoop aluminum exterior, in white, red, or black; recessed rear cam locks, break-away switch, 12-volt lighting package (two dome lights with switch), 16-inch centers throughout and recessed running lights.

These assorted amenities, configurations and standard features are the ways in which United keeps pace with the competition in its industry. The company also employs value-added wisdom inherent in its capabilities even before the days the phrase became a manufacturing emblem. That wisdom is evident in the way in which it consistently responds to customer requests. Explains Whitesell, “We respond to customer needs very well. If you want a cab installed in a certain form, or more hold-down devices, or any number of additional items. We have extensive dealer organizations that deal with the customer. They’ll come in and say they need the door here or the cabinetry in this area and they’ll contact us. If it’s within the engineering guidelines we’ll do it.”

As Whitesell speaks highly of the company founded by Johnson he voices equal regard for the staff of 200 employees. “We have an excellent work staff,” he says. “The employees have grown with the company. They understand the product and take an interest in it, they have contributed to our success.”

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