124 Years Strong

    And we’re just getting started. Click through the years to learn more about our history and the innovations that have helped make us a leading goods mobility company.

    A LEGACY OF LEADING

    Explore Great Dane’s pivotal role in producing high-quality products during the Great Depression.

    Crafters of Sheet Metal

    By 1916, Great Dane is no longer simply a blowpipe systems supplier. To meet growing customer demand, the company begins fabricating light structural steel and steel plate products at its new 10,000 square foot manufacturing facility in downtown Savannah.

    Lathrop Avenue

    The two dozen workers at the Lathrop plant would make effective use of a 10-ton traveling crane, a blacksmith facility, and the latest cutting and punching tools to form steel for its growing list of customers. The Lathrop Avenue location would run strong for the better part of a century. 

    This is an original image of the first blow pipe factory in Savannah, GA from the early 1900’s. 

    ROAD TO OPPORTUNITY

    With new American roads, came new opportunities to grow our company.

    Road to Opportunity

    It’s easy to take our nation’s highways for granted. But it wasn’t always that way. With our country still reeling from the Great Depression, President Franklin Roosevelt needed to get people working again. One way was by expanding our nation’s interstate system—something he believed was critical to our economy and national defense. Seizing the opportunity, our company chairman, George Mercer, approved the design of the original Great Dane trailer for over-the-road freight hauling. 

    Cutting Weight

    Responding to highway weight restrictions aimed at haulers, the company develops lightweight tank trailers and van trailers made from high-tensile steel. An exceptionally lightweight stressed skin van becomes the company’s flagship product. 

    Loyal Heritage

    To build its game-changing trailer, the company contacted the best trailer man in the business, William Lowndes from Greenville, South Carolina. Lowndes and his employees are credited with the name Great Dane. Known for hauling milk carts long distances, the loyal Belgium breed was the perfect embodiment of the company’s new breed of trailer, nicknamed “Great Danes.” 

    The first Great Dane trailers were 16- to 20-foot-long flatbeds, with single axles and payload capacities of three to six tons. 

    Sign of Things to Come

    The company changed its name to Steel Product Company to reflect its vast portfolio of steel-formed products. 

    ALWAYS A BETTER ANSWER

    When demand for farm-fresh food and produce rose in the 1940s, Great Dane reefers changed the way American families would eat dinner forever.

    Serving Our Country
    Our country has endured a lot over the years. Along the way, Great Dane has been trusted to keep it moving forward, even in times of war. During World War II, Great Dane was handpicked to manufacture military-grade trailers. With a reputation for building them out of high-tensile steel, Great Dane proved to be the right partner to have, especially with lives on the line. 

    Army Navy E for Excellence
    Scores of heavy-duty trailers aiding the war effort have earned Great Dane the prestigious Army Navy E For Excellence on five separate occasions. 

     

    Innovation on Ice
    As demand for U.S. produce increases, Great Dane innovates. Using a gas engine and blower system to circulate air over blocks of ice, Great Dane refrigerated trailers, known simply as reefers, make it possible for thousands of Americans to put fresh fruits and vegetables on the table. 

    TAKING ALTERNATE ROUTES

    The development of enhanced trailers opened up new possibilities for the transportation industry thanks to Great Dane’s American ingenuity.

    Always a Better Answer
    The National Interstate and Defense Highways Act set limits on the size and weight of trucks and trailers to help preserve our nation’s roadways. Great Dane was more than happy to comply. In fact, we not only began building our trailers longer and bigger to hold more payload, but we also made them lighter. 

    Westward Expansion
    By 1956, Great Dane would have sales outlets in 18 states and 31 U.S. cities. 

    A Brand is Born
    In 1958 we officially change our name from the Steel Products Company to Great Dane Trailers, a name that reflects our past and our future. To underscore the change, a red background is added to the signature Great Dane logo. 

    Going All In
    Comprised primarily of lightweight aluminum, Great Dane redesigned our line of van trailers and created a new line of tank trailers. They were so well received that we phased out all structural steel products. By decade’s end, Great Dane was 100% in the trailer business. 

    ACQUIRING AND EXPANDING

    When our company embraced the name Great Dane, we opened the door for acceleration of our brand across the globe.

    Taking Alternate Routes
    With companies finding new ways to carry freight—shipping “piggyback” trailers on railroad flatcars and “fishyback” containers for maritime cargo—Great Dane completed its first piggyback trailer order. We followed this up two years later with our first maritime container order. 

    Serving the Eastern Seaboard
    Great Dane blanketed the Eastern U.S. with sales outlets in 24 states. Direct piggyback and maritime container partnerships were made with companies like the Fruit Growers Express Company, the Chesapeake & Ohio R.R. Co., Xtra, Inc. and the Grace Line. 

    Expanding Into Europe
    In 1966, Great Dane entered into European manufacturing agreements with Adamson & Hatchett, Ltd. of Dukinfield, Cheshire, England, to serve the British Commonwealth nations and with Van Hool & Fils of Koningshooikt, Belgium, to serve the European market. This same year, Great Dane announced a $2M expansion program that doubled trailer production. 

    Freight Forwarding
    In 1967, Great Dane became a subsidiary of United States Freight Company (soon to become Transway International Corporation), the world’s largest freight forwarder. 

    UP TO THE TEST

    This chapter in American history saw great growth and opportunity for our company and set a new path for our business that continues today.

    Acquiring Arrow
    With the purchase of Arrow Trailers in Memphis, Tennessee, we now have our second manufacturing facility. Dedicated to platform trailers, the Memphis plant increased production nearly twofold. 

    Putting Brazil on the Map
    Great Dane built a new dry van manufacturing plant in Brazil, Indiana—an ideal location for serving Western and Midwestern trailer markets. The plant would then double its output in 1978 with the addition of refrigerated trailer production. 

    Up to the Test
    In I974 Great Dane broke new ground with its Research & Development Lab. Here, space-age road simulation equipment exposes trailers to 10 years’ worth of wear and tear in a matter of weeks. 

    Savannah Surges
    With our Brazil plant taking on production of straight frame, aluminum, and FRP dry freight vans, Savannah steps up its reefer van capacity. New insulating technology adds to the increase. 

    RAMPING UP PRODUCTION AND TECHNOLOGY

    During this pivotal decade, Great Dane’s reach spread across the globe, while company engineers developed cutting-edge technology during the country’s tech boom.

    Ramping up Production
    In a period of explosive growth, Great Dane expanded into international markets, including Canada, England, Turkey, Mexico, and South America.     

    Massive Expansion
    Our Brazil plant expanded in 1984 to include a large order line for trailers and, one year later, a Composite Panel Plant to manufacture Fiberglass Reinforced Panels and similar products. A new Parts Distribution Center also began serving the Western aftermarket. 

    Robotic Technology
    Robotic welding was introduced to our Memphis plant. Plasma arch cutting followed soon after. 

    Growing Commitment
    International Controls Corp acquires Great Dane’s parent company in 1986, making an even deeper commitment to truck-trailer manufacturing. 

    Gathering Data  
    Experimental trailers undergo over-the-road service to gain data prior to the introduction of the ThermaCube reefer in January of 1988. 

    SuperSeal
    In 1988, Great Dane acquired the SuperSeal reefer production plant in Wayne, Nebraska—a move that created the broadest line of reefers in the industry. 

     

    State-of-the-Art Testing & Design
    Computer-driven Road Simulation Equipment was installed at the company’s Research & Development Lab—the only one of its kind still operating today. This was followed closely by the introduction of Finite Element Analysis software, which proved essential in achieving optimum strength-to-weight product design. 

    Merging Interests
    International Controls Corp merged with Checker Holding Corp in 1989. Meanwhile, another Parts Distribution Center opens in Memphis. 

    Continued Growth

    As Great Dane’s network expanded, the company entered a new era of growth and possibility.

    Terre Haute
    The 90’s are an ambitious period for Great Dane. In 1996 the company opens a dry van plant and parts distribution center in Terre Haute, Indiana.

    World’s Largest
    The 90’s were an ambitious period for Great Dane. In 1996, we opened a dry van plant and parts distribution center in Terre Haute, Indiana. 

    Full-Service Approach
    Nearing 100 years in business, Great Dane began modernizing its branches. In the process, our Little Rock location went from a sales office to a full-service branch, complete with parts and service bays. Branches in Charlotte, North Carolina, Lancaster, Pennsylvania, and Dallas, Texas, soon followed. 

    CELEBRATING 100 YEARS

    As the globe celebrated a new millennium, Great Dane too celebrated a century in business.

    Celebrating the Century Mark

    With the new millennium, Great Dane reached a rare milestone: 100 years. 

    One year later the company acquired Strick’s Eastern Van Manufacturing facilities in Danville, Pennsylvania and Abbeville, South Carolina and two of Trailmobile’s manufacturing facilities in Jonesboro, Arkansas and Charleston, Illinois. Their proximity to existing plants helped our company better serve the Northeastern U.S. and Canada. 

    SSL Dry Freight Van Makes Its Debut
    Offering considerably less maintenance than plate and composite wall trailers, the SSL dry freight van’s sheet-and-post construction with patented steel-lined interior walls offered unmatched durability and cargo protection. Introduced in 2002, the versatile interior lining can be converted based on the products being hauled. 

    One-Stop-Shop
    Charlotte’s complete service experience featuring a high-tech paint booth, more service bays, expanded parts warehouses, and plenty of yard space, set the pace for all to follow. This led to grand openings in Mount Joy, Pennsylvania, and Dallas, Texas. 

    Huntsville
    In 2004 Great Dane announced the acquisition of a Huntsville, Tennessee plant previously owned by Wabash National Corporation. Within the year, the Freedom line and other platform trailers kicked off production. 

    All-time Company Record
    By 2006 nearly 33 percent of the market demand for refrigerated vans and more than 28 percent for dry freight vans were fulfilled by Great Dane. In total, more than 60,000 trailers were shipped from our nine factories. Regarding dry freight sales, SSL models made up nearly 15 percent of the industry’s total shipments. 

    Saying Goodbye
    For nearly a century the Savannah plant supplied the transportation industry with the most innovative, highestquality reefers available. But economic strains and the need for more efficient production factored into the decision to close the Savannah manufacturing plant and build a new plant in nearby Statesboro, Georgia. 

    THE FUTURE

    With a legacy of 120 years of pioneering innovations, we sought new ways to meet our customers’ needs and accelerate technology. 

    Goods Mobility
    Great Dane dropped the word “trailers” from our name to reflect our complete lineup of transportation solutions—offering the Alpine and Sahara truck bodies, with dry vans as Champion, reefers as Everest, and flatbeds as Freedom. A new oval logo was added to all reefers and dry vans. 

    Growing By Leaps & Bounds
    Always finding ways to grow, Great Dane opened a reefer plant in Statesboro, Georgia, in 2010 and then acquired Johnson Refrigerated Truck Bodies. In 2016, we took another step forward, opening our sixth dry van plant, locatedin Elysburg, Pennsylvania. 

    Great Dane returned to its original home city of Savannah, Georgia, in 2016, opening a new corporate office. The office showed our company’s commitment to our people and customers, including the industry’s most advanced research and development lab.  

    New Corporate Office in Savannah
    Great Dane returned to its original home city of Savannah, Georgia, in 2016 by opening a new corporate office.

    The new office, which includes the industry’s most advanced research and development lab, shows Great Dane’s commitment to its people and customers.

    The Future of Goods Mobility
    Great Dane is in the midst of yet another transformation: from a trailer company to a goods mobility company. Driven by data, our FleetPulse Smart Trailer System is putting all the information you need right at your fingertips, from yard operations and delivery to cargo protection and compliance. Now more than ever, running with Great Dane means running smarter—year upon year, mile after mile.

    A BRIGHT TOMORROW

    With almost 125 of history, Great Dane continues to innovate ways to meet our customers’ needs and accelerate technology.

    New Look, New Brand, Same Great Dane

    In February 2022, the company unveiled a new brand evolution – including an update to the iconic Great Dane logo. 

    The new brand identity, which includes an update to Champ, represents our collective focus on providing end-to-end solutions for the transportation industry. It embodies our shared values of strength, pride, and a forward-thinking approach. 

    This new brand identity helps connect Great Dane’s historic past to the company’s exciting future.

    Women In Trucking

    Top Place For Women To Work In Transportation

    In 2023, Great Dane was honored with a prestigious award named a Top Company for Women to Work For in Transportation by the Women in Trucking Association. This award is an incredible honor for Great Dane and a testament to the talented, hard-working women on the Great Dane team.

    FleetPulse Steps Out On Its Own

    Five years after launching our smart trailer solution, FleetPulse branched out from the Great Dane umbrella to a standalone business entity in 2023.

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