After tucking into smokies and burgers at a noon barbecue last week, the men and women of Intercontinental Truck Body posed for a photograph next to their 10,000th unit – a step van bound for the City of New Westminster.
It’s a proud tradition that began in 1986 with the completion of the family-run company’s first unit built at the Surrey plant.
The photo will join 10 others just like it in the lunchroom upstairs at the plant at 5285 192 Street, which today boasts more than 100 employees.
Step vans – like the one that’s headed to the Royal City – are the Cloverdale company’s bread and butter.
Their custom, hand-built truck bodies and trailers aren’t typically found on a car lot.
Their clients are in the transportation, service, TV and film, energy and emergency response sectors, and include governments and utilities.
Their products are as diverse as their clientele – ranging from mobile dressing room trailers for the stars to the Surrey RCMP’s emergency command vehicle.
And they can end up anywhere from Alaska (where there are ITB-built generator buildings at an airfield) to a South Pole research station used by scientists in Antarctica. They call it “BOB,” or Big Orange Box, and it sits on skis.
“It’s the world’s most compact nuclear detection system,” according to sales manager John Van Seters, whose grandfather started the business 40 years ago in Alberta, later expanding to B.C. and more recently to Ferndale, WA.
The film industry has been a major part of the business since the 1980s.
Aren Van Dyke, the original production manager (now retired), remembers that first client – a supplier to a production company filming the action-adventure TV series MacGyver, starring Richard Dean Anderson as “surely the single most resourceful individual in television history,” as one YouTube commenter noted.
“He only needed a Swiss army knife and a paperclip to get out of even the stickiest of situations.”
Nowadays, there’s no order too tall; a double-decker “star trailer” is a recent innovation, Van Dyke said.
A MacGyver-like ingenuity has helped keep the B.C. business strong and growing.
The longest-serving employee, Albert Gelderman of Langley, can’t recall any layoffs over the past 28 years – a claim any business will rightfully envy.
“It’s been really good,” he smiled.
He met one of the company’s founders in Alberta and landed a job.
“I came here on a Wednesday afternoon and on Thursday, I was on the plane to Cloverdale,” he said.
Another employee who’s visible in that initial group photo in 1986 was Cloverdale’s Ron Peters, then production foreman.
He was sidelined by a stroke in 2002 that left him paralyzed on his right side. After eight and a half years recovery, he returned to ITB to drive trucks and is still happily employed today.
The 10,000th unit bound for the Royal City isn’t much different from the other step vans currently in production at the plant, but it represents an important milestone that’s worth celebrating.
Addressing staff gathered at the barbecue, current general manager Nathan Van Seters spoke of the satisfaction that comes with making a product that people need, use, and can be seen driving around on the streets everywhere you go.
“We’re building something people want, something useful,” he said.
“It’s stuff we can be proud of, top to bottom.”