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 Come on in 1626  Folks on-line
      

  October  2003

Sooner Trailer Review

 

Update November 3, 2003

SOONER JOINS UNIVERSAL TRAILER CORPORATION

 

Sooner Trailer Manufacturing Company is pleased to announce that it will become part of the Universal Trailer Corporation team.  Universal Trailer was formed in the fall of 2001 with Exiss Aluminum Trailers, Inc. as the first member.  Exiss is one of the three largest horse and livestock trailer manufacturers in the industry.  Exiss was joined at Universal Trailer by Haulmark Industries, Inc. in the spring of 2002.  Haulmark, with its 25 year history, is the largest enclosed cargo trailer manufacturer in the country. 

 

Sooner was founded in 1956 and has been one of the premium brands in the trailer industry for many years.  Commenting on the decision, Jim Garis, CEO of Sooner, said:

“We are pleased with the opportunity this merger can bring.  Joining Sooner with Universal Trailer will rank the combined company as the largest specialty trailer manufacturer in the U.S.  Further, Sooner products can now access much broader markets and Universal gains entry into the custom and high end trailer market with a strong brand.” 

 

Tom Frey, CEO of Universal Trailer, added that “the company now has three great brands, manufacturing facilities in seven states and the broadest product range in the industry. Universal plans to further enhance its position in the industry by adding to its family of “Best Brands”. 

 

UTC is a leading manufacturer of specialty trailers headquartered in Cincinnati, Ohio with 1,500 employees in seven states.  

January 16, 2004 Update

Sooner makes plans to move production from Duncan Oklahoma to El Reno, Oklahoma - The advantage is better use of production plants already in place and consolidation of materials and labor.  Sooner emphasizes the two brands, Exiss and Sooner, will remain seperate and distinct, both in name and in production. 

 

Sooner invited me to their dealer convention in September and let me take a look "inside" their culture in Duncan, Oklahoma.  There's been a lot of "buzz" about the Sooner name - how they were bought by a big company outside of Oklahoma and it's impact - and it's subsequent ownership returning to a local family about three years ago - which has been a very good thing for the company, the employees, the town, and hopefully, those who buy Sooner trailers in the future.

They were kind enough to send a trailer home with me . . . and for the past two months I've had the full "Sooner" experience.  There's a lot to be said about a company surviving in this business for nearly 50 years. 

I'll be honest, Sooner has taken their share of knocks as their ownership changed over the past decade.  So I was excited when they invited me to their annual dealer awards convention in September.  I was looking for more than a re-engineered namesake.  I wanted to see how the company was doing - and how the employees felt.  After-all, name one person who doesn't recognize the Sooner brand.  I thought it would make good reading.

For those of you with RAD, (reading attention disorder),  let me sum up my whole review right from the beginning - then you can read on for more detail.

Sooner is back - and the Sooner you consider one of their trailers the quicker you'll shorten your "short" list to include them.

What do YOU look for?

People will often have a tough time explaining why they like a trailer, or if they are honest with themselves, they are too embarrassed to tell you.  I'm not.  

Many will make a final buying decision based on looks, functionality and price.  And in that order.  Surprised?  I've taken too many informal surveys.  You can take all the "formal" survey's you like.  It won't change my mind.

I like the way the new Sooners look over past models.  My review trailer is plain jane . . but I took a photo of the new graphics package.  Very nicely done.  If you don't care about looks, keep it in mind anyway.  The next guy who buys YOUR trailer will probably be concerned that it looks good.

And I have to admit.  I like the Sooner logo.  I'm sorry.  Cosmetic I know. . . . but when I'm done here, I want you to have new confidence that the Sooner logo is more than just a pretty face.  It will also add value to your trailer in the future.

 


My review trailer was smooth painted aluminum, but I prefer a combination of smooth and extruded.  When I tie a horse, I normally drop the halter against the side of the trailer when I put on a bridle . . . . and  . . ..  I leave halters dangling from the tie rings and they tend to mark up a smooth side more easily.  A product like Streakmaster will remove most of these marks, but it's personal choice.  Extruded will lose luster too and you have to acid wash to get it looking like new again.  So there are pros and cons to either one.  Actual sales indicate close to a 50/50 split on what people prefer.

I also look immediately for creature comforts -  which I define as operating details I have to contend with every time I use my trailer.  I think any trailer you have should include these: 

1.  The tiny step  - In the dressing room to help you crawl up into the goose-neck area.
2.  Easy latch windows - some are easy to open - but you have to slam them to close.  
3.  Memory springs on the horse dividers.  Highly recommended.
4.  Double-walled Smooth interior walls - I hate manure stuck in the grooves and verticals.
5.  Hold back latches on loading doors - these have to be easy to use and heavy duty.
6.  Breeze Bars - You know.  The removable bars in the windows.
7.  Individual air vents for each horse.

Sooner has them all.  Thank you.

Now for three more items on my basic wish list which I would like to have if possible in a competitively priced rig.

1.  One handed trailer lift - Send me an email if this isn't clear to you.
2.  Insulated ceiling - For horses, not me, but both is preferred.
3.  Removable rear tack and center bar.

Sooner has two out of three as standard.  My demo model did not have an insulated roof, but unless you live closer to Minnesota than Texas, I would look into this option.  Insulated roofs are the nicest thing you can do for your horses next to drop down windows.  Most of us haul in the summer - we don't know where we might get stuck - and with an insulated roof and removable tack and dividers - you have a passable box stall for emergencies. Or room for your draft horses.

Heavy duty mats in the dressing room?  Yup.  No more trying to sweep "artificial gray turf" with a broom.  And the dressing room door goes "FUMP" instead of "BANG" when you close it.  You can hear quality.

Things you can't see

The floor in your trailer will take a beating - and often receives the least amount of attention from the owner after the day you buy it.  So you should make sure you have a good one to begin with.  The Sooner folks use an all-aluminum interlocking deck floor with "J" channel cross members ever 4 inches to eliminate any future "dip" between supports.

They also offer a lifetime warranty on their floor mats, which are ribbed on the bottom, so moisture won't collect.  The other hidden work horse is your axle.

Sooner uses the Nev-R-Lube axles by Dexter.  They are sealed at the factory and virtually maintenance free - and Dexter adds a 5 year or 100,000 mile warranty against defects in material or workmanship.  Not sure how you would track your mileage however.  

Few companies set out to make an inferior product you argue - every trailer you look at has "unique" features - so what sets the leaders off from the rest of the pack?  My answer?

Look at the company.  Few of us do.  I did.

Sooner is "small town" in every sense of the word - and to me that means pride and accountability.  Unfortunately they lost the small town pride and accountability when they sold out years ago to "out-of-towners" and were guided by the accountants only.  Mergers can be good if local control and autonomy remains with the business. Recent information suggests that Sooner may again have merged in the last week of October and I'll update this article as the facts are learned.

I had dinner with the current owner - and his wife.  They live in Duncan.  They didn't need the company, but were convinced the community wanted it back.  They were right, and I saw it in the enthusiasm of every employee, (and dealer),  I met.  It was a three year turn around, and the new Sooner appears better poised to address market needs.  You won't be able to pick that up in the brochures you gather for the next trailer you buy.  So take my word for it with Sooner.  They will go the extra mile to make you a happy customer - or you can call me to complain. 

 

Some additional features on my review trailer.  It's for sale by the way.

1.  New z-beam construction offers an unparalleled frame structure.

2.  New windows and doors from Creation offer a larger handle and a clamp ring assembly which
     is aesthetically pleasing and creates a better operating door.

3.  Mats on the floor in the dressing room replace the carpet allowing for easier cleaning.

4.  Lifetime guarantee floor mats stand up to the maximum in wear and tear.

5.  Additional horizontal structure added resists torque in the trailer body which keeps windows
     and dividers operating better.

6.  White skin above the kick plate in the stall areas brightens the stall area, scuffs less, and allows for easier cleaning.

7.  A riveted roof system vs. a crimped assembly adds structure and durability.

Hungry for more information?  Click here
Sooner is also giving away a  free trailer on November 22 - go for it.   

www.soonertrailer.com

Story by 

Dave Mattern
Editor/Owner
Horse Trailer World

 

 

 

 

 

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