Even after 20 years of working in Australia’s transport industry, Craig Stephenson has lost nothing of the inquisitiveness that made him become a renowned expert in trailer manufacturing. Seeing nothing but opportunity in the world around him, he now invented a miniature trailer that is likely to change the world of light commercial transport.
The story of Craig’s life is one of hard work, but also one of unbending determination and creativeness. Starting off as a workshop cleaner, Craig has made his way all the way up to the management level, leading the operations department of a renowned Victorian trailer manufacturing company.
“I know the business inside out, from scrubbing the toilet floor to managing the entire production process,” he says. In a story which echoes the plot of the film Good Will Hunting, he has graduated from lowly cleaner to executive after a colleague, David West, realized that the mathematical logic behind suspension geometry and wheel alignment just came naturally to young Craig.
In Good Will Hunting, Matt Damon plays a university cleaner who happens to be a mathematical genius and is discovered by a professor while solving an equation that had puzzled the finest minds at the university. Craig’s unmasking as a talented engineer might be less Hollywood-esque, but it has undoubtedly changed both his life and career.
Ever since, Craig has experienced almost every facet of trailer manufacturing first hand, making him a sought-after production expert. In mid-2011, however, Craig decided to break with volume production and focus on a passion project he had thought about for a while.
“I’ve been around in the industry for more than 20 years, and I thought it is time to go out there and share my wisdom,” he says. “I originally planned to capitalise on my knowledge and start a mobile trailer repair and maintenance service, but along the way, that plan changed.
“I started building a miniature trailer to use as a mobile workshop, but soon realised that the trailer itself was a great project, too. As people kept encouraging me to pursue the idea on a larger scale, I decided to start up a manufacturing business myself.”
The result is a boutique business named Curtain Topper Trailers (CTT), and the company’s first prototype has just debuted at the Whittlesea Show north of Melbourne. The idea behind CTT is simple, yet ingenious – Craig managed to translate commercial semi-trailer design into a lightweight transport solution.
“At the end of the day, it’s nothing but downsizing a common commercial trailer,” he says. “There is a niche between the classic semi-trailer and the lightweight transport vehicle you see everywhere, so I think the miniature solution is a real novelty.
“I wanted to create a product that can be pulled by a standard car, but still represent serious transport,” he adds. “A semi-trailer is a familiar sight all around the country and people can relate to it, so I wanted to capture that feeling in a light commercial format.”
According to Craig, the miniature trailer is a great tool to handle overflow in local delivery instead of leaving it to a courier service, and has huge potential for the retail sector. “The feedback at the Whittlesea Show was unbelievable, people just loved the concept. Especially the retail sector showed great interest, and people also encouraged me to build a truck body version.”
According to Craig, CTT is not only able to miniaturise a classic curtain sider, but also a dry or refrigerated van. “We’re a young, flexible business, and we can offer every variation you can image,” says Craig. “In fact, that made-to-measure approach turned to be a real plus at the Whittlesea Show, for instance.”
With a gross weight of 1990kg (unladen ca. 880kg), CTT’s standard model is suitable for most vehicles that are sturdy enough to attach a tow bar. Equipped with a state-of-the-art braking and suspension system, as well as Tenacitex load-restraint rated curtains and Media rear doors, the specification is no different to a real-size semi-trailer. “It’s a great looking piece of equipment and an awesome addition to every fleet,” says Craig.
“We can also upgrade to a gross weight rating of 3 tonne. In addition, we’re just developing a show/ retail version, just like a mobile stall. Even a wind bubble is in development.”
So far, the industry’s feedback has been overwhelming, says Craig. “Nobody has ever reached a comparable quality level in this niche of the industry, regarding the complete package of build quality, wiring, and components. I basically provide the material as standard that others only offer as an option.”
It is such determination that has made Craig become an industry professional in the first place. That’s why he is not afraid to carve out a whole new career path, being CEO, chief engineer and salesman at once. “Opening a trailer manufacturing business, no matter what size, is a daunting task. But, I am convinced that my idea has the potential to revolutionise the industry, and I am happy to go the extra mile to make it happen.”