In 1983, Neil Cooper joined a Victorian trailer manufacturer where he worked building trailers and truck bodies and learning his craft. At this early stage in his career, Neil wouldn’t have imagined that he would eventually be starting his own trailer building business from scratch – but 26 years later this has in fact became a reality.
Australian Trailer Manufacturers (ATM) officially opened for business on 5 October 2009, set up in the quiet town of Moe, in Victoria’s Gippsland region, approximately 140 kilometres east of Melbourne. About three years ago, Neil moved from his 720-square-metre factory to a purpose-built facility in Trafalgar, manufacturing trailers that are “customised to suit the customer’s requirements”.
He explains, “I could see that there was a good opportunity in the industry for custom built trailers and tilt trays so I decided to take the plunge. I left my job and started out on my own.
“I’ve had a few businesses over the years including running my own trucks for interstate transport – but this was one of those things where I left and thought ‘yep, it’s time to do it’. I had already spent such a large part of my life in the trailer building industry and it really felt like it was the right time to start ATM.”
The company, which has already gained a great deal of respect in the industry in only a short timeframe, started out with only four staff. Fast forward to just over a year later, and this has more than doubled to 10 staff including a vibrant mix of fully skilled manufacturers, engineers and apprentices. Today, the business has 17 staff.
The current facility has the capacity to produce up to 12 trailers at the one time, using all of the latest equipment. Tilt trays currently account for approximately 50 per cent of the production that takes place at ATM, with widening drop decks and extendable drop decks also popular amongst the company’s expanding customer base – yet its capabilities stretch much further.
Neil says that he receives great feedback from his customers, with repeat business – adding that Dandenong Heavy Haulage, in particular, have invested in 22 of their custom spec’d tilt trays and seven floats. “We can basically build anything requested of us by our customers when it comes to flat tops, wideners, extendables, tilt trays and rigid tilt trays which says a lot about the quality of the product that comes out of the factory.”
Made possible by Smedley’s Engineers, Industry Icon, is a series dedicated to honouring the unsung heroes of the commercial road transport industry.