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Made in Athens: Heil Trailers International

Next time you come across a tank trailer, check the area where the license plate is for four big red letters.  The tanker may have been made at a company in Athens.]

For the past 35 years, Heil Trailer International and its 500-plus employees, have been busy, providing the business world with tankers, hauling around a variety of commodities that people everywhere, need and use every day.

Those tank trailers are MADE IN ATHENS.

The employees at Heil Trailer International are proud of their work.  "Heil Trailer is the largest tank trailer manufacturer in the world," says Bob Foster, the company Chairman of the Board.

The process to make a tank trailer begins here with sheets of aluminum.  "We are a major user of aluminum," he says, "millions of pounds of it."  Sheet after sheet is gently loaded into place, and cut where doors and valves will be located.  At this point, a side, a bottom and a side are all welded together.  "They are then rolled into a rounded shape, that becomes one half the trailer," says Foster.  Another side is done at the same time.. Those TWO sides are then welded together to form a long tube. That's the tank portion. 

In another part of the factory, heads are also being formed from aluminum sheets.. A thousand pounds of water pressure against the sheet gives the head, a "dish" look..  Two dished heads are then welded to both ends of the tank, with several in between.  "There will be about 12 heads inside the tank, with maybe four compartments," he says.

When that's finished, the tank moves down the assembly line.  The top is semi-automatically welded with a special welder from one end to the other in one smooth, continuous operation.

Other attachments, like ladders, tracks, valves and doors are put on.. so is the running gear, wheels, tires and axles.  Lastly, wiring and lights are added.  At this point, the tank trailer is about 99 per cent complete.  "We build about 25-hundred to 3-thousand a year," Foster says.  "That's about 10 to 15 per day, depending on the type of trailer."

After adding decals for some customers, and testing the units, they're off.. General Manager Carol McNutt keeps up with the inventory.  She points to a line of finished tank trailers, including one bound for  Canada, one to Texas, one to the Carolina's, and and another to the Pennsylvania area.

Among the many awards Heil Trailer International has, is one for hiring veterans, and, also a safety award for the tank trailers that you just saw, being made.

Two years ago, a sister company, Heil Environmental, spent six million dollars to expand its factory that makes garbage trucks, in Fort Payne, Alabama.

Made in Athens: Heil Trailers International

Saturday, August 3 2013, 06:34 PM EDT

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