Dorsey Trailers - 1905-present - Elba, Alabama - Cartersville, Georgia - Dillon, South Carolina - Northumberland, Pennsylvania

    Atlanta GA-based Dorsey Trailers has announced that filing a bankruptcy petition is "a distinct possibility" - after having laid off most of its employees and halting production while it meets with its largest lender to renegotiate its debt.

Dorsey has suspended operations at its three manufacturing plants in Elba AL, Cartersville GA, and Dillon SC.

In a company-issued press release, John L Pugh, chief executive officer, said, "Some limited production will take place in order to finish trailers that are near completion, but substantially all production is suspended as we evaluate our options."

Pugh said about 250 employees have been laid off at the company's factory in Elba, and about 50 more at its plant in Cartersville. The layoffs came a day after union employees at the Elba plant rejected a tentative contract that would have cut their wages about 25%.

About 95 employees continued working recently to finish partially completed trailers at the two plants and the company's third factory in Dillon, Pugh said.

Dorsey Trailers, Inc. was in the business of designing, manufacturing, and marketing one of the broadest lines of high quality, customized truck trailers through three plants located in Alabama, Georgia, and South Carolina.

Mfg. flatbeds, dump trailers, refridgerator vans, and dry frieght vans.

Elba plant is still open as of 2002

had a plant in Northumberland, PA closed in 1998

Dorsey Trailers, a company with a long history in the trailer business, is the second major trailer manufacturer that Street Asset Management has bought off the scrap heap. The company did the same thing with Fruehauf in 1996. Although Street Asset Management sold Fruehauf's domestic operation to Wabash National in 1997, it kept Fruehauf de Mexico and a lot of real estate — including much of the harbor area in Jacksonville that currently is being transformed. And Fruehauf de Mexico, which had been losing money when Street bought it, is now turning a handsome profit.


ad in 1963 GMC Truck Equipment Catalog pp108-109

It all started in 1905, in a converted livery stable located  in Elba, Alabama. Pete and Henry Dorsey established a small machine shop to repair the power saws, boilers and trucks of the booming timber business. It wasn’t long before the Dorsey boys started designing and building their own products.
Dorsey Turns to Trailers

Early on, the Dorsey boys began experimenting with building log skidders to support their logging customer needs.  Soon the word got out that Dorsey produced durable products that were designed by people in the  business and the sales took off.  By 1920 the little company that started off in a stable had moved into a large building and were producing 25 to 30 logging units a day.  By 1930, Dorsey engineers had developed the company’s first commercial freight trailers. Dorsey's sales increased every year, even during the depression, and by the end of the decade truckers coast-to-coast identified the trade name "Dorsey" with  durability and safety.

Stump Puller

 In the early 1920's, the Dorsey boys built the first successful mechanical stump puller.  The machines were a huge success, with demand spreading across the US and were eventually exported to Europe, Asia, and South America.  Large quantities were even exported to the new Soviet Union following the Russian Revolution. 

Dorsey, in 1939, was one of a small group of companies selected by the U.S Government  to design specialized military trailers as our country was moved to War.  Following the attack on Pearl Harbor, the Dorsey plant was completely mobilized to build ammo trailers.  The facility doubled in size and railroad tracks were brought into the plant to speed deliveries of the thousands of trailers to transport ships waiting in Mobile Bay.

Dorsey Goes To War 

After a short interlude of peace in the late 1940's, military production was resumed during the Korean Conflict.  The plant was relocated and  expanded to meet military and commercial demands. 

As the Cold War took the U.S into the missile age in the 1960's,  Dorsey was called upon again to design and build the rocket transporters, erection equipment, and electronic vans for ground support for various missile programs.

Fortune 500 Dorsey merged in the 1960s and grew into a Fortune 500 company manufacturing and selling products for transportation and packaging industries.  The company continued to grow and acquired Trailco Manufacturing of Pennsylvania in 1971, Highway Trailer of Wisconsin in 1978 and Holan Equipment of Georgia in 1981.  During this entire period,  the name Dorsey was respected for  innovation and quality.
A GOOD THING DOESN’T LAST FOREVER By the late 1980's, Dorsey lost its focus. New management was brought in  that had very little hands-on experience in the trailer industry. Most of the  advice the took came from lawyers and bankers. To make matters worse, Dorsey suffered from three devastating floods in the 1990's that resulted in losses of sales and market share.  Eventually, the company became over-reliant on debt to bail out operational weaknesses. This was not the Dorsey that America had come to know and love.   

THE NEW DORSEY TRAILER In 2001 Dorsey was reborn as a debt free company.  The new leadership is very experienced in the trailer business. Management  appreciates and supports the highly experienced work force by providing  the necessary financial support on the factory floor, while beating down unproductive overhead costs . 



For more information please read:

G.N. Georgano & G. Marshall Naul - The Complete Encyclopedia of Commercial Vehicles

Albert Mroz - Illustrated Encyclopedia of American Trucks & Commercial Vehicles

Denis Miller - The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Trucks and Buses

Tad Burness - American Truck Spotter's Guide, 1920-1970

Tad Burness - American Truck & Bus Spotter's Guide, 1920-1985

Robert M Roll - American trucking: A seventy-five year odyssey

David Jacobs - American Trucks: A photographic essay of American Trucks and Trucking

David Jacobs - American Trucks: More Colour Photographs of Truck & Trucking

John Gunnell - American Work Trucks: A Pictorial History of Commercial Trucks 1900-1994

George W. Green - Special-Use Vehicles: An Illustrated History of Unconventional Cars and Trucks

Daniel D. Hutchins - Wheels Across America: Carriage Art & Craftsmanship

Ronald G. Adams - 100 Years of Semi Trucks

Stan Holtzman - Big Rigs: The Complete History of the American Semi Truck

Stan Holtzman & Jeremy Harris Lipschultz - Classic American Semi Trucks

Stan Holtzman - Semi Truck Color History

Donald F. Wood - American Beer Trucks

Donald F. Wood - Beverage Trucks: Photo Archive

Donald F. Wood - Commercial Trucks

Donald F. Wood - Delivery Trucks

Donald F. Wood - Dump Trucks

Donald F. Wood - Gas & Oil Trucks

Donald F. Wood - Logging Trucks 1915 Through 1970: Photo Archive

Donald F. Wood - New Car Carriers 1910-1998 Photo Album

Donald F. Wood - RVs & Campers 1900-2000: An Illustrated History

Donald F. Wood - Wreckers and Tow Trucks

Gini Rice - Relics of the Road

Gini Rice - Relics of the Road - Impressive International Trucks 1907-1947

Gini Rice - Relics of the Road - Keen Kenworth Trucks - 1915-1955

Richard J. Copello - American Car Haulers

Niels Jansen - Pictorial History of American Trucks

John B. Montville - Refuse Trucks: Photo Archive

Bill Rhodes - Circus and Carnival Trucks 1941-2000: Photo Archive

Howard L. Applegate - Coca-Cola: Its Vehicles in Photographs 1930 Through 1969: Photo Archive

James T. Lenzke & Karen E. O'Brien - Standard Catalog of American Light-Duty Trucks: 1896-2000

James K. Wagner - Ford Trucks since 1905

Don Bunn - Dodge Trucks

Fred Crismon - International Trucks

Don Bunn - Encyclopedia of Chevrolet Trucks


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