It was 75 years ago that the Freighter products rolled onto Australian roads. Now, as the trailer brand celebrates its latest milestone, it reflects on a long and rich history.
A truly national trailer brand, before many other manufacturers dreamed it was even possible, the company didn’t limit itself to producing high quality trailers. It also made boats, buoys, buses, forklifts, caravans, starting gates for racing tracks, wood heaters and even had a crack at building its own four-wheel drive.
According to MaxiTRANS, it’s said that during the 1970s, nine out of every ten heavy-duty trailers on the road were Freighter.
Freighter was officially created in 1945, but the first of its products hit Australian roads in February 1946. The story of Freighter all began with a man from Melbourne named John McGrath, who went on to become the biggest trailer manufacturer in the country.
Following World War II, new roads and new regulations were created to formalise the transport industry. As the developments didn’t suit McGrath’s operations or stage of life, he decided to sell out of his burgeoning, but somewhat ramshackle operation. An enterprising man named Noel Peel saw things another way – with more structure around the already impressive operations, surely McGrath’s team of engineers, welders, fixers and makers could really shine.
They named the company Freighters Ltd (apparently after a champion racehorse of the time) and held their first AGM in late 1945. The main order of business? Buying McGrath Trailer Equipment.
Peter White, an experienced industry professional, purchased the business in late December 1982 and it was renamed Freighter Australia Manufacturing.
With White’s laser focus on costs and product innovation, as well as some inspired licensing arrangements, by 1985 the new Freighter celebrated the manufacture of 600 trailers in two years. It saw continued growth through the 1990s.
More geographic and product diversification followed, and by the late 1990s Freighter’s performance drew the attention of a respected industry performer, Jim Curtis, who created Maxi-CUBE, which had been ASX-listed in 1994. He was looking for a big step forward to achieve his growth aims. Freighter was a much bigger fish than Maxi-CUBE, but that didn’t stop him. In 1998, Freighter was acquired by Curtis’ business and later that year, MaxiTRANS was established.
Freighter’s standing was so well-established that its name was retained and Freighter products became a key component of the MaxiTRANS business. Its status continued throughout the 2000s, as MaxiTRANS underwent a period of significant acquisitions and growth.
Today, Freighter is celebrating 75 years as Australia’s longest standing trailer brand. While it has gone through significant changes through its journey, the brand continues to deliver on its promise of high quality, high performance trailing equipment with an unmatched network of national back up support.
“Freighter’s long and successful history is owed to our loyal customers. Many of our customers are two or three generation Freighter loyalists. It is this on-going support that has helped build the legacy that Freighter prides itself on and will continue to be a part of every locally manufactured high quality trailer that is produced,” said Dean Jenkins, MaxiTRANS Managing Director & CEO.
“We sit here today reflecting on the great achievements of Freighter, from introducing the first curtain sided trailer into the Australian market, known in the Freighter family as the Tautliner, through to continuing to push the boundaries on Performance-Based Standards.”
Jenkins said that finding innovative ways for customers to get more out of their equipment has been a common theme of the brand over the years.
To celebrate its 75th birthday, a limited edition Freighter 75th year Diamond Pack has been released, available across the Freighter range throughout 2021.