Nebraska-based Besler Industries is a family-owned company that builds bale loaders, pivot track closers, tillage equipment, and other machines well known to irrigated farmers. Another of its most popular products is its pickup truck flatbed. The flatbeds are customizable and can accommodate a number of modular boxes according to the user’s needs. Best of all, they’re so durable that they often outlive the trucks they’re installed on. Besler’s flatbeds will be of interest to any irrigation district or organization with a fleet of pickups.
In this interview, Herb Besler, the owner of Besler Industries; Roland Besler, the production manager; and Cliff Kester, the inside sales manager, speak with Irrigation Leader about the many advantages of the company’s flatbeds.
Irrigation Leader: Please tell us about Besler Industries and its history.
Cliff Kester: Besler Industries is located in Cambridge, Nebraska. Herb Besler started the company in 1973. He started out making loading chutes and corral panels. What really got him going later on was stover wagons. At the beginning, the company was just Herb and one other guy. He also had two investors. Now, we average around 25 employees.
Irrigation Leader: Herb, would you tell us about your background?
Herb Besler: I grew up on a family farm near Bison, South Dakota. I came to Cambridge, Nebraska, in April 1963, when I was 19 years old. I got a call from Walt Dewey, the manager of the new alfalfa mill being built in Cambridge, who asked if I would come work there and help get the mill ready for the first cutting of alfalfa. After that, I worked as a mill operator for a year and then as a field foreman, keeping the equipment running in the field. I did a little welding, both on the farm and when I worked at the alfalfa mill. I moved to Grand Island, Nebraska, in fall 1966. While I was there, I worked for the New Holland Combine Factory as a welder. I joined the Army Reserve in February 1967 and did basic training and advanced individual training. After
that, I moved back to Cambridge, and in June 1967 I went to work for Lester Johnson of Johnson International. I was a tractor mechanic there for 5 years. In April 1973, I went into business with two other partners, and we started a manufacturing company building farm equipment. One and a half years, later I bought the two partners out and started Besler Industries, Inc.
Irrigation Leader: Flatbeds for pickup trucks are a growing trend in agriculture. What features set your flatbeds apart from others in the market?
Cliff Kester: The module boxes set us apart from the others. On most other flatbeds, the boxes on top or underneath are welded into the bed or onto the bed. That limits your ability to customize the bed. On ours, if you want to add a welder or another type of box up front, you can still get the full utility bed. The other advantage is that if the bed suffers damage at some point, you can remove the box and fix or replace it.
Irrigation Leader: Do you make your boxes?
Roland Besler: Yes, we make all our boxes. There was a guy in McCook who bought a skirted bed and then bought the rest of the boxes the next year. You can have a full contractor bed and add to it a year down the road so that it looks just like the fully dressed-up one that we sell. You can add as you go. That is something nobody else offers.
Irrigation Leader: What gauge of steel do you use for your boxes?
Roland Besler: Eleven gauge, which is ⅛ inch or .120 inch. Most competitors use 14 gauge, which is .075 inch.
Irrigation Leader: What are the advantages for an irrigation district of using your flatbeds on its vehicles?
Roland Besler: A full contractor bed would allow district employees to haul all their tools and equipment. Our flatbeds are durable and adaptable. They can fit any set of needs. Their durability means that they are a good investment. The flatbed can outlast the truck it is on. We have people who buy a new pickup and switch the bed over. There are flatbeds from the early 1990s that are still running around.
Cliff Kester: They can also save money on insurance. Typically, the insurance on a flatbed truck is much less than it would be if you had the standard box on it.
Roland Besler: To replace the box on your pickup is actually more expensive than buying a flatbed and putting it on. With my old insurance company, I reduced my rate from $125 a month to $75 by putting a flatbed on a newer pickup. If your truck gets hit when it has a flatbed, you’re not going to have as much damage. Also, if it hails, you’re not going to get hail dents on a bed. That’s why the insurance goes down,
Irrigation Leader: What is the expected lifespan of your flatbeds?
Cliff Kester: Some of the first flatbeds we made in the early 1990s are still going. In areas with more salt, they may not last as long, but in general they’re very durable.
Irrigation Leader: Some districts have lots of pickups. Do you offer special rates for group sales?
Roland Besler: For something like that, we would have group sales.
Irrigation Leader: How many of your flatbeds would fit on a standard tractor-trailer?
Cliff Kester: You can stack them 7 high and you can usually get 3–4 rows, so around 20–25. If there are a lot of toolboxes, you can probably only fit a half dozen. Sixteen is standard on the bale beds. We could go higher—we used to do 20—but we’ve capped the number out of concern for safety during loading and unloading.
Irrigation Leader: What is the best way for people to contact you for more information?
Cliff Kester: Calling is the best. We can be reached at (308) 697-4698. The contact section on beslerindustries.com is another good way to contact us.