50 YEARS OF INNOVATION, Part 4
In the 90s, sports cars and the proliferation of other low-slung vehicles became more of a problem. With a standard flat deck carrier, towers had to build wooden ramps to create a suitable angle to load those low-profile vehicles. To address this issue, in 1992 Jerr-Dan designed, patented, and released the shark dual-angle rollback to the market. The angled end of the deck allowed it to load a lower-profile automobile without requiring a homemade ramp. Of course, in the 30 years since its introduction, Jerr-Dan has continued to add features and other improvements to the product.
By this time, the company had been in business for twenty years and was looking for a new growth opportunity. Jerr-Dan was building wreckers rated for light and medium duty but did not really have the experience or technology to enter the heavy duty wrecker market. However, that all changed in 1995 when the company bought DeWalt Manufacturing, a Texas-based company that built strictly heavy duty equipment for the recovery industry. The DeWalt acquisition brought with it the company’s patented hydraulic underlift. DeWalt product specialists brought their experience, skill, and knowledge as well. Jerr-Dan engineers credit the DeWalt designs for improving Jerr-Dan’s boom technology. With this key acquisition under its belt, Jerr-Dan was able to enter the 50ton heavy duty wrecker market with a fully developed product that had an established reputation.
The very next year, Jerr-Dan was able to build its original 25 ton heavy duty wrecker, that is, one not based on DeWalt’s design. It incorporated some new ideas about wrecker architecture that are a part of Jerr-Dan’s “DNA” to this day. The new wrecker was one of the first to introduce a composite body to the market on a commercial scale. It may seem obvious now, perhaps, but using an aluminum alloy frame with fiberglass panels to construct the body clearly results in less corrosion and a lighter and longer-lasting body. That added product longevity lowers total cost of ownership, then and now.
In 1997 Jerr-Dan launched a zero-degree underlift for carriers. It was a godsend to towers that had to contend with low-profile cars on steep surfaces—think the famously up and down streets of San Francisco. While most other lifts had a high loading angle, this new feature allowed the operator to put the wheel lift all the way down on the ground.
Around this same time, Jerr-Dan managers and engineers committed to overhauling their entire carrier line, and they wanted to have an internal standard for any resultant changes. They took a hard look at the carriers of their main competitors and realized right away that all had strong and weak points. So, they went out and bought a variety of other companies’ carriers and measured performance in key components and systems, the utility of various features, and so on.
After carrying out a full analysis of what could be viewed as the industry’s state of the art in carriers, Jerr-Dan created its Best in Class (BIC) carrier line. This new line of carriers was benchmarked to the best performance in each category of operation and was built to meet or exceed them. Introduced in 1998, Jerr-Dan felt confident that “BIC” carriers set the standard. Future improvements to Jerr-Dan carriers would be based on the BIC platform and philosophy.
In 1999 Jerr-Dan launched its first 14- and 16-ton heavy duty wreckers. These new wreckers fit on a class 7 chassis, giving them more flexibility in the market.
1999 brought even more changes to Jerr-Dan when it was acquired by Littlejohn & Company. Littlejohn & Company was, and still is, a private equity firm that makes control equity investments in mid-sized companies that can benefit from its operational and strategic experience. Jerr-Dan was ready to open a new chapter in its story just as the world was poised to open a new century.
See how we kicked off the 21st century in Part 5 of our story!