Trailer Talk

Beall ‘Bullet’ Survives Bankruptcy

February 21, 2013

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Smooth-sided Bullet belly dump products were acquired from bankrupt Beall by Nebraska-based ShirAul LLC, and continue to be built in the same plant in Washington state.
Smooth-sided Bullet belly dump products were acquired from bankrupt Beall by Nebraska-based ShirAul LLC, and continue to be built in the same plant in Washington state.

A unique bottom-dump design widely used in the West and elsewhere is the Beall Bullet, fashioned of aluminum sheeting and interior bracing that is attractive in appearance and aerodynamic in performance.

Beall the company is now in bankruptcy and liquidating its assets, but the Bullet survives and will be produced by a new owner. I had a journalistic encounter with some Bullets years ago, which I’ll get to in a bit.
 
Beall’s Bullet operations, including a plant in Sunnyside, Wash., have been bought by ShirAul LLC, of Scotts Bluff, Neb. Lanny Lucara, vice president of sales and marketing at Aulick Leasing, a ShirAul arm in Billings, Mont., said the acquisition was effective January 7.

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“We acquired a backlog of orders, and in this last month we’ve taken some additional orders,” he said in mid February. “Some demand was out there, kind of on hold, and customers were waiting to see what happened with Beall. We make numerous axle configurations and capacities, (for use in) from 80,000- to 140,000-pound states. It’s mostly a western-states trailer, but some are in eastern states where they were taken by customers. The majority there are in power-generation roles, hauling coal and limestone to power plants, and other types of bio fuels, and then hauling ash out of the plants.
 
“It’s an expensive trailer to build, including the aluminum material, compared to a steel trailer, but you will see up to 3,000 pounds in weight differential. It will last a long time -- 20, 25 years. Durability – parts are covered in the end areas and it just doesn’t have maintenance issues. We tell customers that you have to look at the Bullet package and compare it to a steel trailer, and what each will do.”
 
The Bullet’s aero design saves fuel because the trailer is easier to pull, Lucara said, but Beall couldn’t use “aerodynamic” in its claims since a competitor complained in 2007. Beall never tested the trailer, but some customers reported 10% to 14% better fuel economy with it.
 
For me that was verified years ago by the owner of a small fleet in Salt Lake City that was hauling dirt and gravel for a major reconstruction of Interstate 15 through town. He ran several sets of Beall Bullets and said that even with slow speeds needed to lay down rows of material on site, his high-speed running was enough to benefit from the Bullets’ aero design. He was making payments on the then-new trailers from fuel savings alone.
 
It’s a much sadder story about Beall, based in Portland, Ore. It got into financial trouble during the recession and declared bankruptcy last fall. Liquidation has also included its tank trailer operations, bought by Wabash National through Wabash’s recently acquired Walker Group, another tank-trailer and body manufacturer. And Beall’s widespread parts and service business went to Polar Corp. Those two transactions were announced in January by Polar and Wabash.
 
Rusty Watson, a former Beall salesman in Tennessee, was among people who lost their jobs with the Beall’s demise.
 
“I’ve only been with them for a few years, so I don’t know what happened,” Watson said of the bankruptcy. “It’s a 100-year-old company. Maybe it was mismanaged. On January 11th, they contacted all the sales people and told us that the company had been sold to the Walker Group and our services were no longer needed. They’re good people and I hate to see it happen to ‘em.”

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Author Bio

Tom Berg

Senior Editor

Journalist since 1965, truck writer and editor since 1978. CDL-qualified; conducts road tests on new heavy-, medium- and light-duty tractors and trucks. Specializes in vocational and hybrid vehicles.

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