In April 2019, Load King, the well-known manufacturer of quality specialized equipment and trailers in the United States, expanded its product line in a most newsworthy way.
The company, acquired a range of prestige products from Terex Corporation, the diversified global manufacturer of lifting and material handling equipment with a presence spanning the Americas, Europe, Australia, and Asia.
The products changing hands were boom truck, crossover, and truck crane product lines. The designing and manufacturing of these products were shifted from Terex’s Okhlahoma City plant to Load King’s Kansas City location. They were rebranded under Load King’s `Stinger’ series and were assigned new model numbers that reflected capacity in US tons and maximum boom length in feet.
The transformation did not end there. Load King, a sister company of Custom Truck One Source, also announced robust plans to add new features, develop new models, and beef up the company’s legendary commitment to user support.
The company’s efforts have been spearheaded by John Lukow, Senior VP of the Crane Division. Below are excerpts from an interview Lukow recently gave to Crane Hot Line about Load King future plans vis-à-vis their crane business:
Q: Load King bought Terex’s boom truck, truck crane, and crossover product lines in April of 2019 and rebranded them as Load King Cranes. What are your top priorities and goals for each of those product lines?
A: Our top priority is to regain a position in the marketplace. We will do this by producing high quality machines and delivering a strong value proposition to our customers. Our second priority is to release new products under the Load King brand. We have two concurrent new product development teams running full time. We will introduce our first new product at ConExpo, eleven months after acquiring the assets from Terex. We are separating our strategy into three elements and thinking about them as follows:
Boom trucks 40 tons and under: These cranes need to be simple, cost effective, and highly reliable. We will resist adding complexity to these systems. Development will focus on expanding the number of markets accessible to these cranes. Full blown new crane projects are unlikely.
Boom trucks over 40 tons: New product development can be supported by the size of the market. We will leverage the x-style outriggers introduced on the Crossover line by Terex, combined with booms and superstructures designed Load King. These cranes require a higher level of sophistication to operate, and we will work to improve the operator experience with better metering and more feedback.
Truck cranes: Our addressable market is smaller for truck cranes, and so new product development will come, but it will be very precise. There are important niche markets for the product, and we will take some time to study these before launching projects. But our strategy will be similar to the larger boom trucks. We will start with the solid base provided from the acquired products and then add new mechanical and electronic features of our own design.
Q: What differentiates each of those Load King products from the many competitors in the market?
A: Differentiation in these markets is sometimes difficult. We all have access to similar supply bases. We are all using steel and hydraulic fluid to overcome gravity. Load King will differentiate itself first through quality, then through innovation, and finally though consistency. We have entered this market for the long-term. We will provide our customers with a good buying experience backed up by strong after-sale support.
Q: How are the Load King boom trucks, truck cranes, and crossovers being received by potential customers?
A: There has been a lot of good feedback thus far. Several customers have expressed their excitement that these products have found a home at a company that plans to invest and grow on the base. Many people remember the RO Stinger. We have that DNA. We can trace these cranes back to the beginning of the industry in the United States. This is not just nostalgia. The know-how and experience we bring is deep. Customers are also excited to see something new from Load King. We have had several existing and potential customers visit our factory. All have left impressed with our people, our facility, and most of all, our passion for this industry.
Q: Fred Ross, CEO of Custom Truck One Source, Load King’s parent company, said the Terex cranes were good, solid machines, but that Load King would modernize them, and add features that customers say they want. What kinds of features are customers asking for?
A: I covered this a bit in question 1. Customers want better diagnostics when making repairs. Customers want features like longer booms, out and down outriggers. Other markets are looking for tractor mounts, and specialized booms. They also want their interface with the machine to be intuitive. Customers want to feel more in control of the load – we can do this with electronic and hydraulic control system innovation. Customers would like to see weight reduction to increase payloads.
Q: At last October’s ICUEE, just five months after acquiring the former Terex product lines, Load King rolled out its first updated model, the Load King Stinger 25-92 boom truck. Now just a few months later, Load King will unveil the new 80-ton 80-126 boom truck at ConExpo. What lets Load King develop updated models at such a rapid pace?
A: When I tell you that things are different at Load King, it is hard for me to put into words just how different it is to work in this team. We move fast. We make fast (not hasty) decisions. We know this market well and we know where we want to go. Introducing a major new product in eleven months shows how quickly we can move. We have opened the battle on many fronts: production efficiency, sourcing of components, cost reductions, new products, new computer system…. And all with a very lean team and very few management layers. I am very fortunate to have such a strong team with such passion for this product.
Q: How are Load King boom trucks, truck cranes, and crossovers sold and supported?
A: In the United States, we will primarily sell the Load King crane product through Custom Truck One Source (CTOS) distribution and our sales force. We have dealer relationships in Canada and Mexico, and several agents around the world. Support will also come from CTOS. We have a 24/7 call center that will be available to Load King customers. In addition to the CTOS network of service locations and service trucks, we will also be signing Authorized Service Centers to work on the product. This will let us complete the coverage of North America, the primary market for our products.
Q: Terex committed to providing parts support for a year during the transition. How is the transition going, and what will sales and support look like when that year is up?
A: We will go live with the Load King customer care website and eCommerce platform in April. Customers of Load King and those who own Terex boom trucks, truck cranes, and crossovers will be able to do parts manual research, order parts, and receive technical help. This is another example of the speed things are moving at Load King. We believe customers will find this site useful and informative. We will also be relocating the parts warehouse during the month of March, and we plan to do so without reducing service levels to customer.
Q: What are the key features and benefits of the new 80-ton Load King 80-126 boom truck?
A: Our Load King Stinger model 80-160, introduced at the 2020 ConExpo, has a 160-foot full power boom. We are introducing our new double-keel boom design. This new design has allowed for a lighter stronger boom than the four-plate it replaced. We have two single-stage cylinders that provide two different operating modes: one focused on stability, the other on structural lifts, making a better chart throughout. We have increased the speed of our outriggers to reduce setup time at the job site. We have upgraded the winch motor to make operation smoother. We will also introduce a brand new bi-fold lattice swing-away jib with this model that is 58’ long and offers offsets of 0, 20 and 40 degrees. We upgraded the hydraulic performance and control through new valves. We retained the modern tilt-cab introduced with the 80-126 and the fast, reliable counterweight removal system. Our max tip height will be 170’ on the main boom and 228’ with the jib fully deployed. We will be offering a basket for this crane for versatility. We have redesigned the hydraulic tank to be more efficient. Joysticks and our crane control system remain the same.