October 12, 2020
A Q&A with TowHaul General Manager Chris Friedel
TowHaul Corporation based in Belgrade, Montana (USA) is the leading manufacturer of off-road lowboy trailers designed specifically for the mining industry. Since their founder Frank Smith built his first 100-ton trailer in 1977, he and his team have been focused on improving the mobility of heavy equipment on surface mines all over the world.
Today, the company’s flagship product is the front-loading, low-profile modular trailer which connects to the versatile TowHaul Gooseneck. By making the trailer front loading and detachable from the Gooseneck, the machine can perform other duties. The most popular of these other duties is the recovery of disabled haul trucks. With trailer payload capacities from 100 tons to over 600 tons and the ability to recover even the largest ultra-class trucks found in surface mines today, TowHaul can truly help decrease your costs and increase your mobility.
Today we sit down with Chris Friedel, Vice President and General Manager of TowHaul to discuss guiding principles, navigating challenging times and the future of the company.
Q: What makes a TowHaul a TowHaul?
A: In a word: Versatility. As a pioneer in the industry, Frank knew he was asking a lot for a mine to incorporate a large capacity trailer into their operation and dedicate a haul truck to pull it. Lowboys themselves were not new however the concept of using a lowboy to haul production equipment like dozers, drills and excavators in a mine was certainly “outside the box”. Throughout the late 1970’s and the 1980’s, Frank was successful in selling lowboys and tow hooks (for haul truck recovery) to mines. However, he always thought, “why can’t the Gooseneck be the tow hook”? When he came up with the idea of a retractable hydraulic Grab Hook, he knew he had something different. With this innovation, he could now make the lowboy front-loading and the Gooseneck could be disconnected from the trailer allowing it to be used for other things. Chief among them for his clients was haul truck recovery. With a single haul truck, his customers could perform two critical operations on a mine site with his equipment: hauling tracked equipment and safely recovering a disabled haul truck.
Q: Can you share a bit about TowHaul’s guiding principles?
A: I am proud of the first two lines of our corporate mission statement which are, “We are a company of integrity. Always.” Those few words are a perfect summary of our principles. Being guided by this mantra has helped us become a globally recognized company in the mining industry. Because we manufacture custom equipment, we require a deposit on an equipment order. With few exceptions, our customers from all corners of the globe have entrusted us with a deposit on little more than a handshake and a promise. That is a pretty powerful statement of trust and we take that very seriously. Always.
Another guiding principle is designing equipment to help get the job done. Frank always thought of the operator working the night shift in -20C temperatures (Frank is from Canada) with snow and wind hampering visibility and dexterity. How do I make this machine easy for them to operate in those conditions to help get the job done? That mindset has been passed on to the next generation of TowHaul engineers and is still top of mind during the design phase of our equipment.
Q: What sort of impact has the covid-19 pandemic had on TowHaul?
A: Our number 1 goal during this pandemic has been to keep our employees, their families, customers and our vendors safe. As a company, we have taken all of the recommended mitigation strategies and incorporated them into our everyday operations. For the most part our suppliers have weathered the storm and we have had few disruptions. This has enabled us to continue to support our customers as well as build new machines for delivery.
By far the biggest challenge has been the travel restrictions and having to remotely assist our customers when they need technical support. Thankfully, TowHaul has a network of trusted business alliances in key markets that have helped us navigate these trying times and keep our equipment operating. Combine that with digital technology and we have been able to continue supporting our clients no matter where they are with technical assistance, parts and troubleshooting.
Q: What does the future hold?
A: Our main focus in the coming years will be better supporting our customers through business alliances around the globe, new product offerings and harnessing the power of technology to make life easier for our clients. These areas include an interactive, web-based parts manual with easier parts procurement. Our new website, www.towhaul.com has recently been updated and in the future will include a customer portal for easy access to technical documents, FAQ’s, planned maintenance schedules, “how to” videos and much more. No matter where we go, we will never forget our principles of versatility, integrity and simplicity.