FRANKFORT, KY. In a formal ceremony before employees, dignitaries, customers and media, officials from Meritor presented the 10 millionth trailer axle produced to Wabash National, which will ultimately deliver the axle on a new trailer to Werner Enterprises.

The event included a tour of the 195,000-sq.-ft. manufacturing plant here.

In between the ceremony and tour, Pedro Ferro, vice president and president of Aftermarket & Trailer, took a minute to discuss with Fleet Owner how the recession and the resulting extended trade cycles of fleets have affected Meritor.

The extended trade cycles have not only meant fleets have kept vehicles longer, it has also affected components, Ferro said.

He particularly pointed to drum brakes as a wear item that is being pushed to the limits by fleets. Before, he said, fleets would trade in their vehicles before the drum brakes needed replacing, but with the extended cycles that have been seen in recent years, some fleets are left to deal with replacing the brakes.

“The challenge is, how do we capture that market?” he said.

One way is through more price points, he said, along with a focus on reman’d products that provide value and all-makes parts. It’s about “capturing the entire lifecycle” of the vehicle, Ferro noted.

Ferro does see the economy improving and expects continued improvement over the next two years.

“The market is recovering at a nice pace,” he told Fleet Owner. “We don’t see a recovery like back in 2006 where it really exploded, but a gradual, steady improvement.”

Meritor has tried to position itself to take advantage of that steady recovery. Ferro pointed out that the Aftermarket & Trailer division accounts for 21% of Meritor’s global business “and almost all of it is here in Kentucky.”

In the past five years, said Craig Frohock, Meritor has introduced five new products in its MTA suspension line for vocational vehicles alone and the company also recently displayed its new SmarTandem axle. SmarTandem aims to combine the benefits, including fuel economy and weight savings, of 6x4 and 6x2 axle designs into a single 6x2 package.

But on this day, the real news for Meritor was the occasion of the milestone axle.

During the official ceremony, Meritor displayed a replica model that will be signed by all 181 employees of the facility and left on display at the plant. The actual axle has already been shipped off to Wabash for inclusion in the Werner trailer.

“We are proud that Meritor trailer axles are produced using American-made steel, formed into American-made tubing and fabricated into finished axles in our Frankfort, Ky. plant,” said Craig Frohock, general manager, North America Aftermarket & Trailer. “Since we opened our first facility dedicated to trailer products in Kenton, OH, in 1948, Meritor has taken great pride in its American heritage, as well as in offering the most complete commercial axle portfolio with a wide breadth of solutions for global trailer applications.”

“I’m here to bring my congratulations, and offer my congratulations, on this unbelievable milestone,” first-term U.S. Rep. Andy Barr (R), said to the assembled guests and employees. “It’s a credit to all of you.”