High Positions: Trail King President Joe Kolb

In our interview series ‘High Positions’ we ask leaders who shape the business to give us their honest, unfiltered opinion about the state of the industry.

This time, Christoph Kolbel, CEO of 1Truck America, talked to Joe Kolb, President of Trail King, about the challenges of today’s market, the biggest milestones of the last 50 years and if trailers will drive autonomously.

Christoph Kolbel:

What are the biggest challenges in today’s market?

Joe Kolb:

Workforce is our biggest challenge.  The increases in sales and managing a diversified product line, lead to production capability demands. These demands require additions to our highly skilled workforce in a tight labor market.

Christoph Kolbel:

What are the differences in managing a company today compared to 2010?

Joe Kolb:

More players have entered the market over the years and are offering competitive alternatives.  The market is moving faster than ever, and speed of change seems to always increase.  We need to innovate constantly to lead in our markets.  Trail King is heavily investing in new production technologies while developing our workforce to have the necessary skills as well. 

Christoph Kolbel:

Will trailers drive autonomously in the future without the need of a semi-truck pulling them?

Joe Kolb:

I think in some instances, yes, this will happen. In other cases, such as within the specialized markets that we produce trailers for, autonomous vehicles will not be a realistic solution. Unique loads, varying terrain, weather conditions and remote locations will likely always require semi-trucks and drivers. 

Christoph Kolbel:

What were the biggest innovation milestones of the last 50 years in the trailer industry?

Joe Kolb:

Over the course of its history, Trail King’s track record as the leader in specialized hauling has added many personal company milestones and record-breaking hauls. The introduction of the hydraulic detachable gooseneck was key for Trail King industries. Many at the time considered this the best hydraulic detachable gooseneck in the industry: a system that made hooking up and unhooking a simple, one-person “60-second connection.” In 1986, the company would be witness to its first super trailer Schnable set-up, and 10 years later, it built its largest trailer to date: a one-million-pound autoclave hauler. In the early 2000s Trail King identified an emerging market need: trailers to transport wind turbine blades. Trail King “EFX” Extendable Blade Hauler was born. With a capacity of 70,000 pounds and the ability to haul two blades at once, the EFX was the proverbial game changer the wind energy industry needed.

Joe Kolb – President of Trail King Industries

In 2005, Kolb began his career with the trailer manufacturer’s parent company, CC Industries, as the director of strategic sourcing. He was promoted to vice president of supply chain at Trail King in 2011. Prior to joining the organization, he held leadership positions at Bain & Company as well as Maytag and Skil-Bosch. In 2017 he was appointed President of Trail King Industries.

Kolb has a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering from the University of Illinois at Chicago and a master’s of management from the J.L. Kellogg Graduate School at Northwestern University. Additionally, he served in the Illinois Air National Guard for 11 years.

About Trail King:

Trail King Industries, Inc., headquartered in Mitchell, SD, is the leading North American manufacturer of a complete line of trailers. We design, engineer, and manufacture trailers to serve a wide variety of applications for diverse markets, including construction, agriculture, transportation, waste and recycling, and specialized hauling. Over the years, Trail King has built a reputation for quality, reliability, and performance that is unsurpassed.

1Truck America, April 18th 2023