J&J Truck Bodies & Trailers Builds for the Long Haul

Tue November 02, 2004 - Northeast Edition

It’s easy to use the cliche “in business for the long haul” when referring to a trailer/dump truck manufacturing company, but it’s not nearly as easy for a company to actually do the things to make it true.

J&J Truck Bodies & Trailers, however, with its sights set squarely on emerging technologies, engineering innovation and evolving customer needs, is not only a contemporary success story, but also should prove to be one far into the future.

J&J Truck Bodies & Trailers, a division of Somerset Welding & Steel Inc. and a subsidiary of Riggs Industries Inc., manufactures transfer trailers for solid waste, agricultural, recycling and municipal applications. The company also builds dump truck bodies and dump trailers that are primarily used in construction and demolition, paving, material hauling and road maintenance.

J&J Truck Bodies & Trailers employs more than 250 and boasts approximately 207,000 sq. ft. of administrative and manufacturing space; a 97,000 sq. ft. facility for trailer manufacturing and a 110,000 sq. ft. facility for dump body manufacturing.

Three generations of family members are involved in the business: Sidney W. Riggs, who is chairman of Riggs Industries; S. William Riggs, who is CEO of Somerset Welding & Steel (J&J); and Michael Riggs, who is product development manager.

Sidney Riggs purchased J&J Truck Bodies & Trailers in 1972 to add diversity to his core construction businesses. At the time, J&J primarily supplied steel dump bodies to coal haulers and farmers, which were the backbone of the local economy. Shortly after, the company also began to focus on aluminum dump bodies due to aluminum’s lighter weight and resistance to corrosion. J&J’s success and reputation as a manufacturer is a direct result of being pioneers in aluminum fabrication for the dump body industry, according to Michael Riggs.

In the late 1970s, under the leadership of Sidney Riggs’ son, William, J&J began to focus on acquiring contracts for state and municipal snow removal equipment. J&J quickly became a sought after equipment supplier for state and municipal agencies for its high quality dump bodies and sophisticated hydraulic packages.

Today, J&J is a leader in dump truck and trailer manufacturing and has teamed up with companies such as Parker Hannifin Corp. and leading OEM truck chassis manufacturers to produce some of the most technologically-advanced truck equipment in the country.

In June 1997, J&J earned its ISO 9001 certification and transitioned to ISO 9001:2000 in February 2003, becoming one of the first dump body and trailer manufacturers in the country to achieve this certification.

In 2001, J&J added a 110,000-sq.-ft. manufacturing facility that includes a computer lab, fitness center and a cafeteria.

Using the Latest Technology

J&J prides itself in being an industry leader in technology and innovation. Its engineering department currently uses Pro Engineer, Auto Desk Inventor, and Auto Cad for all computer-aided design.

J&J uses Pro Engineer Mechanica for complex real world finite element analysis. These packages enable the company to build and test virtual designs and shorten new product development time. J&J has an 18-station computer lab for training new employees and for skills development of the existing work force.

J&J also utilizes robotic welders, CNC plasma torches, water jet cutting equipment, and milling machines in its production process.

What’s Coming Down the Pike?

William Riggs said that the hauling industry is requiring lightweight durable products that allow haulers to carry more payload and still maintain the same product life cycle as the older heavier designs.

“We’ve reacted to this trend by designing lighter, flexible dump bodies, such as the Light Weight Crossmemberless (LWC) steel dump body, that utilizes ultra high strength steel alloys,” he said.

“The new designs do away with rigid cross members and structural supports and allow the dump bodies to disperse load shock through the actual flexing of the body. The LWC design utilizes HARDOX 450 steel that has a Brinell hardness of 425 to 475 and yield strength of approximately 175,000 psi. Older industry designs utilized high tensile steel with a Brinell hardness of approximately 143 and yield strength of approximately 50,000 psi,” said William Riggs.

The end result of this design, Riggs said, is a dump body that is much lighter and much more durable, which is a double bonus to the customer. The same principles are being applied to the waste and dump trailer products.

By utilizing high strength alloys, J&J has been able to reduce the weight and increase the strength of their bodies and components like the fifth wheel assembly and suspension frames, creating lighter stronger trailers.

Michael Riggs, head of product development, oversees the company’s waste trailer project, which already achieved its first goal by producing the ClassicLITE, a conventional 48-ft., 102-in. wide aluminum tipper trailer under 12,000 lbs. The team was able to take 1,200 lbs. out of the existing tipper trailer design by engineering lightweight, high strength steel and aluminum alloys into the trailer subassemblies.

The team is now working on a lightweight, smooth side trailer design, which will utilize the standard lightweight assemblies developed for the ClassicLITE trailer, but this trailer will have very strong, aerodynamic sidewalls. The sidewall is a double panel design that will not show dents or damage from material loaded on the inside. The sidewall also is much less labor intensive to manufacture than the conventional trailers.

Michael Riggs said the hauling industry also is demanding faster pricing and delivery of dump bodies and trailers.

“In the hauling industry, a customer may bid a contract and need to have dump bodies or trailers in 30 to 45 days,” he said. “For many dump body manufacturers lead times can go out eight to 12 weeks in peak buying season. J&J is responding to the need for faster delivery with programs such as our Quick Turn Program. This program allows truck dealers to order J&J’s most popular dump body models installed and delivered back to them in 15 working days.”

Lastly, Michael Riggs said that the hauling industry is looking to purchase products off of the Internet.

“J&J is working on projects that will allow truck dealers and J&J distributors to quote and purchase dump bodies, trailers, and parts directly from their Web site,” he said. “Customers also will have Web access to service information and parts catalogues that are custom generated from the serial numbers off their products.”

Controlling Quality

Attention to quality never wavers at J&J.

“We take great pains to assure that we are sending high quality products to the market place,” William Riggs said. “

“That becomes very apparent when you consider that we were one of the first dump and waste equipment manufactures in the industry to obtain an ISO 9001:2000 certification. We spend considerable time reviewing and taking corrective action on nonconforming supplier products and internal issues that are identified by production personnel.

“Warranty claims are well documented, reviewed frequently and monitored for trends. We gather feedback directly from customers and report this information directly to executive level management during management review meetings,” he said.

William Riggs said that component suppliers are closely monitored through the quality system for defective products and swift action is taken to correct and eliminate any defective components from the assembly lines.

“We do not take short cuts with inexpensive components,” he said. “From the premium Sherwin Williams Genesis paint that is applied in final assembly, to the custom cylinders and Aero tarp systems, to the hydraulic hose clamps, J&J uses high quality components.”

And, he said, J&J has what he calls “bulldogs” for final quality inspectors.

“If something is wrong, the product is corrected, period.”

Listening to Customers

The evolving demands of customers are invariably at the root of any new product, but a company needs to be attuned to its customers’ needs and J&J is always poised to fill them.

William Riggs provided examples: “Take steel and aluminum ejector trailers for example. While a majority of the waste haulers carry high-tonnage loads in tipper trailers or live floor trailers, certain customers require a trailer that uses a ram to eject the load out the back of the trailer.

“The ejector trailer in its various forms is a highly complex product with limited market share. Most waste trailer manufactures have discontinued them. We embraced them. We have the diversity, skill, and equipment to set up and manufacture these complex units efficiently creating a niche market for ourselves,” he said.

Moving Forward

J&J now has been establishing market share in the commercial and municipal dump body market and producing trailers to even out valleys in dump body buying cycles. With a well-established line of dump bodies, CEO William Riggs is shifting gears to focus on the transfer trailer market. J&J has established the goal to be one of the top three waste trailer manufacturers in the United States by 2006.

“We’ve always had a good reputation with our existing line of waste trailers, but we plan to get much more aggressive in capturing the attention of the major players in the waste transfer business,” William Riggs said. And, based on all the other successful moves the company has made over the years, there’s no reason J&J won’t be able to reach its goals.