Executives at Titan Trailers are asking themselves when the good times will end.
North American trailer production tends to rise and fall in six-year cycles.
By their reckoning, the economic turnaround that began after the financial collapse of 2008 should have stalled around the end of 2015.
More than three years have passed since then and business across the continent remains strong.
“Last year was the highest year of (truck) trailer production in North America,” Dave Holmes, Titan’s head of business development, said during a plant tour on March 13.
“More than 500,000 trailers were produced – the most ever. We’re small potatoes in the mix but we’re the largest producer of non-grain trailers in Canada.”
Like copper and other basic commodities, truck trailer production is a leading indicator of economic health. When demand for basic building blocks of the economy begins to flag, that is usually a sign that a growth cycle is past its peak.
Because Titan designs and builds speciality trailers, Holmes says orders in Courtland are not as good an indicator as demand for general purpose trailers and refrigerated reefers.
Whatever is happening, Titan Trailers founder Mike Kloepfer is happy to take the occasion of this bull market to expand his business and workforce and put down roots in Great Britain and Australia.
Kloepfer started in Harley in the 1970s building custom trailers and hoppers for agricultural purposes. Today, his workforce has grown to 265 employees.
“When you see trailer orders falling off the map, eight times out of 10 it is bad news,” Kloepfer said.
“Two years ago I was waiting for things to take a downturn, but we’ve never been busier. (U.S. President) Donald Trump must be doing a good job.”
All is not sweetness and light. Trump has imposed tariffs on Canadian steel and aluminum. Canada has replied with tariffs of its own.
Michelle Kloepfer, Titan’s manager of international sales and special projects, says these tit-for-tat trade measures have impacted the bottom line.
“They are absolutely affecting us,” she said. “We hope some of this money comes back to us through the `Department of Retaliatory Affairs.’”
The March 13 tour was organized by the Delhi and District Chamber of Commerce. President Jim Norman extended an invitation to other local chambers and the Port Dover Board of Trade. Nearly 50 people answered the call.
The tour was part of the Delhi chamber’s Business After 5 social agenda. Business After 5 events provide local business operators an opportunity to get together, share information and learn something about the communities they serve.
“We are honoured to have Titan Trailers hosting this event considering the company is such a Norfolk success story and is a prime example of the entrepreneurial spirit that is so alive in the county,” Norman said.