Fruehauf returns to US, manufacturing trailers in Kentucky

Bowling Green plant to produce 5,000 trailers a year, creating 290 jobs

Fruehauf North America recently held a grand opening for the company’s $15 million plant in Bowling Green, Kentucky, signifying the iconic semi-trailer manufacturer’s return to production in the United States.

The 125,000-square-foot facility will house dry van manufacturing and assembly operations, with a goal of building 5,000 trailers annually, said Eugenio Clariond, chairman of Fruehauf North America.

“[The Bowling Green] facility adds 5,000 units of capacity for a total of 13,000 units for Fruehauf North America,” Clariond said in a release.

The plant, which aims to hire up to 290 workers, currently employs 75 people.

The new Fruehauf trailer plant in Bowling Green, Kentucky, could add up to 290 jobs at full capacity. (Photo: Fruehauf)

The plant allows Fruehauf to better serve customers in the U.S. and Canada with components primarily manufactured off-site and assembled at the Kentucky plant, officials said.

Prior to opening the Kentucky factory, Fruehauf’s North American production operations were located exclusively in Mexico. It had closed its U.S. facilities in 1997.

Fruehauf North America traces its lineage to Fruehauf Trailer Co. and its founder, August Fruehauf (1868-1930), who is widely credited with inventing the semi-trailer. By the 1960s, Fruehauf was a global company with 16 manufacturing plants, including facilities in the U.S., Mexico, Europe, Latin America and Asia.

By the 1990s, Fruehauf’s business had declined, and the company filed for bankruptcy protection. Fruehauf’s U.S. trailer manufacturing and sales units were sold to Wabash National in 1997.

After the sale to Wabash, the company’s international divisions (in France, Japan, Mexico and New Zealand) became independent and continued to operate under the Fruehauf name. 

The Fruehauf plant in Bowling Green is owned by Fultra, a Mexico-based commercial transportation corporation that owns Fruehauf de Mexico. The company has produced trailers since the 1960s.