Boydstun trailers on a rainy day in Portland.

I call this one: Rainbow of Carhaulers. Not to be confused with the rainbow coalition.

More Boydstun Pictures

A rainbow of Petes at Boydstun Metal Works in Portland, Oregon

Auto Assembly in China

If you don't think more and more of the upstream parts sourcing for carmakers is moving overseas, take a look at this site:
They're selling e-books for hundreds (if not thousands) of dollars each that contain information on the best practices for setting up plants. China Automotive
Assembler Industry US$2,550.

OK, that's an e-book for over $2500.

Whether you like it or not, moving cars made in part or in whole in China is part of the future economic pie for the auto transport industry.

Remember back in the early days, when Toyota was barely a "blip" on anybody's radar?

The good news is that the future is rarely the way you think it's going to be. Nobody in the car business would have predicted Toyota's rise. Nobody would have predicted that Toyota would be building more and more plants and hiring American labor. It is interesting how such hybridized solutions will develop in a free economy. By locating their plants closer to the market, Toyota minimizes attendant costs. They also diversify their supply logistics, which is a good hedge against adverse conditions such as war, supply bottlenecks, market "hiccups" and things of that nature. You will remember from your high school World History class that Japan is not a nation with many abundant raw materials such as natural gas, coal, iron ore, etc.

What does all this mean for folks in the auto transport industry? Everything and nothing. More foreign car makers entering the North American market means more business to go after at the ports. More domestic production means more business at the railheads and vehicle assembly plants. If America is truly undergoing a structural (vs. cyclic) shift in the economics of the auto business, then we will see more plant closings and more plant openings. Ford, GM, Daimler-Chrysler et. al. are saddled with a lot of obligations they made to unions regarding health benefits. Think about how much longer people are living today. Think about all those union widows getting their cataract surgeries done in a hospital for a co-pay of $3! (I'm not making this up, I swear!) Somebody is paying for that.

There will always be opportunities presenting themselves-- both the opportunity to fail and the opportunity to succeed. As the structural economics of car manufacturing changes, the nature of auto transportation will change: everything from trailers and auto tie-down methods (wheel straps, anyone?) to the way accounts are won and serviced. Look at what happened to Allied and Volkswagen of America a couple summers ago. So in conclusion, expect more change, faster, and with less predictibility. The future just ain't what it used to be.

Port of Tacoma Auto Transport News

Nov 22 2006 (From the Tacoma Daily Index)

The Port of Tacoma recently selected Andre L. Elmaleh as Director of Auto Business.

“Andre brings to the Port wide-ranging operational experience in the marine transportation segment of the auto industry,” said John Wolfe, the Port’s Deputy Executive Director. “He has the energy and knowledge to grow this thriving area of our business.”

The Port of Tacoma is projected to handle more than 160,000 vehicles in 2006. Major auto customers include Isuzu, Kia, Mazda, Mitsubishi and Suzuki. The Port also handles medium-duty commercial trucks for Isuzu and Fuso.

Before joining the Port, Elmaleh spent 10 years in the marine transportation segment of the auto industry, most recently serving as Port Operations Manager for Glovis America in Tacoma. Previously, he was Port Manager in Tacoma for Kia Motors America, responsible for vehicle inventory and dock-to-dealer transport. Early in his career, Elmaleh was Port Operations Supervisor in Portland, Oregon for Tacoma-based Auto Warehousing Company.

Elmaleh holds a Bachelors degree in Marketing (1994) from Portland State University, Portland, Oregon.

Boydstun Auto Transport Trailer

On Wednesday, I met with the folks up at Boydstun Metal Works in sunny Portland, Oregon. Once I get back to the office, I'll get the pictures downloaded to my computer and then uploaded to the Car Hauler News. I checked out the new screw actuator trailer side-by-side with the hydraulic trailer. It was pretty interesting to compare the hydraulic trailer next to the screw trailer like that. Once I get all my facts and figures organized, I'll post it here.

Care and maintenance of auto transport trailers with screw actuator technology.

Was talking to someone up at Selland Auto Transport last week, and he said that the screw units they have are doing quite well. (I think they have one from Boydstun and one from Cottrell.)

He said that the initial preventive maintenance to the screws was "a bit intensive", but that after the first couple months or so, it isn't too bad. The screw gear requires a special gear oil to lubricate the gear that raises and lowers the decks of the car hauler trailer.

I spoke with someone from Toyota Logistics, and he said that one of the main benefits of this type of trailer is much-impoved driver safety. By lowering the top positions down, the cars can be tied-down at (more or less) ground level. When this is complete, the positions are raised, and then the cars that go on the bottom deck can be loaded and tied down.

Seems to me there would also be pretty good improvement in terms of less damage to the cars-- less pillars for doors to smack!

Not sure how they weigh out, but the Toyota trailers running all straps for the tie-down system must save quite a bit of weight over cluster chains!

I'll be posting some pictures from Boydstun after I go up there later this week.

To Veterans

Thank you very much for your service to our country. Happy Veterans Day. Even though the election is over, let's make sure we keep an eye on our politicians and make sure they take care of the people who put their lives at risk to take care of us! As the last three elections have shown us, every vote counts! Democrat or Republican or Independent-- we all have to take care of returning soldiers, as well as the ones that are currently in harm's way.

Auto Tie-Down Wheel Straps for Take 3, Kaufman, etc.

This is the sweetest set-up for securing cars to wedge trailers that I've ever seen!
I know a lot of guys like to use a ratchet and the 8 foot lasso straps with loop or steel ring, but that type of tie-down was originally designed to secure vehicles to a wheel lift while in tow. A wheel lift has a concave shape that the wheel fits inside,plus a towed vehicle is also secured by tow chains, so the lasso strap or wheel lift strap just keeps the wheel of the vehicle from bouncing out during transport.

If you have a wedge type carhauler, and you want to use wheel strap tie-downs, you have two basic choices if your trailer came with diamond plate decking.

1. Take a plasma cutter and cut holes in the deck so that you can use the wheel straps designed for open car haulers like Cottrell, Boydstun JM Trailer, Delavan, etc. This way, the vehicle is hooked directly into the structure of the trailer, and you're not securing by friction alone.

2. Use a double strap, cinch-style tie-down like the one pictured above. The advantage to a double cinch is that it will not loosen, and it is truly adjustable. The old-school style basket tire harnesses (or wheel bonnets as some call them) are not really one-size-fits-all. The larger basket strap gets hung up on the inside of the tire, and you run the risk of doing damage to brake lines on some low profile cars.

That picture above is of a strap manufactured by Starr Manufacturing. It is model SP-EBSIDESTRAP.

Toyota posts massive profits

Carhaulers, you'd better start learning how to tie down Toyotas!

This is from Reuters:
TOKYO, Nov 7 (Reuters) - Toyota Motor Corp. (7203.T: Quote, NEWS, Research) reported a 44 percent rise in quarterly operating profit on Tuesday as healthy sales, cost cuts and a soft yen offset higher raw materials prices, and it lifted its forecasts for the full year.

Operating profit at the world's second-biggest auto maker totalled 581.0 billion yen ($4.92 billion) for the July-September second quarter, outpacing an average estimate of 527.6 billion yen in a survey of six brokers by Reuters Estimates.

Net profit jumped 34 percent to 405.7 billion yen, compared with a market estimate for 372.5 billion yen.

Toyota, worth $215 billion and the world's most valuable car maker, now expects a full-year operating profit of 2.2 trillion yen and net profit of 1.55 trillion yen. Three months ago, it projected a record group operating profit of 1.9 trillion yen and net profit of 1.31 trillion yen for the year to March 2007.

Japan's top auto maker has been expanding rapidly in North America and Europe with popular cars such as the Camry sedan and Yaris subcompact, leaving big local brands struggling to defend market share.

Toyota shares gained 7.2 percent in July-September, in line with the transport sector subindex's (.ITEQP.T: Quote, NEWS, Research) 6.9 percent rise.

© Reuters 2006. All Rights Reserved.

Are you looking to get started as a car hauler?

Seems like about once or twice a month we get a call or email from someone interested in getting started as a car hauler. A lot of times, it can be that old "We can't hire you until you have experience." situation.

Whatever you do, make sure you check out this catalog of parts if you're fixing up an old car hauler that may need cluster chains or cylinders.

The fact of the matter is that car hauling is a profession that takes a lot of different skills. A good car hauler has good driving skills, plus he (or she) must be able to load and unload vehicles safely,and understand all the little details of hauling cars that can make or break an auto transport company.

There's tons of stuff you just wouldn't think of, for instance:

Clothing. No Levi's with rivets. Rivets might scuff leather upholstery or sctatych paint if you brush up against someone's prized vehicle in a tight spot. No belt buckles to scratch paint.

Companies like United Road Services have training for their drivers to help them with this stuff (in fact, that might be another outfit for you to try to get hired on with if you're a newbie).

Mabro Auto Transport is willing to train you if you have three years experience on your CDL. I checked out their website, and it looks like they offer some pretty decent pay, benefits and bonuses.

I think Blue Thunder and the Waggoner's Trucking Company will train you as well, but don't quote me on that!

Car hauling is not a good profession if you just want to get your hours in. Dealers don't show up when they're supposed to. Customers will complain that the scratch on their 1992 Ford Escort was caused by you. (Don't even get me started about Ebay) Sometimes cars won't start.

Having said all this, however, I do know that some folks make a darn good living hauling cars from point a to point b. If you're willing to pay attention and learn and pay your dues, you'll probably do OK.

So I guess car hauling is probably like any other profession, really. You've got to work hard, work smart, and a little luck doesn't hurt either!