Bob Dudley is the project manager for the U-Haul Truck Product Group. Here, in his own words, he explains how he ended up at U-Haul and why he’s stayed with the Company for more than 40 years.
An Accidental Career
By Bob Dudley
Forty-one years ago, I helped my father move from Somers Point, New Jersey, to Council Bluffs, Iowa, where he was starting a new job with U-Haul. His first assignment was to open up a new claims office for Repwest Insurance Company. My plan was to help him get settled in Iowa and go back to Somers Point, where I grew up. My father suggested that I stop by the U-Haul Repair Shop in Council Bluffs and put in an application. At the time I was not looking for a permanent job, but I applied anyway.
I interviewed with Dennis Brinton, who was the shop supervisor. I got the job and started out on the night crew; my first job was repacking Group-13 wheel bearings, turning brake drums and grinding brake shoes. Several months later I was removing damaged front and side panels from trailers and taking them into the shot blast booth to remove old paint and rust from the metal surfaces before they were reboarded and painted.
I really liked this job, so I changed my plans and decided to stick around a while longer. I was very impressed with how well organized the shop was and how repair was set up in such a production-line manner. New personnel would always start at the bottom until management felt you had full knowledge of that position, and then you would be moved up to learn another position or step in the repair production line. We made our own trailer roofs and welded tongue assemblies together, both using fixtures that were supplied to us from U-Haul, so you had to be a craftsman who knew how to weld and fabricate.
After about five years in Council Bluffs, I found out about a job opening at the U-Haul Technical Center in Tempe, Arizona, so I applied for it. I loved working on the equipment and wanted to be part of the development process. I was able to set up an interview at the Tech Center with Marv Turnlund, who was looking to add someone to his Repair Research Group who had U-Haul repair shop experience. I was hired the next day.
Marv assigned me to work with trailer and truck van bodies, which is what I spent most of my time with in Council Bluffs. I was asked to research ways to improve our trailer brake system. One task I accomplished was replacing our existing copper brake lines with pre-formed steel brake lines. Today, we have steel brake lines on all our trailers. I also added the wear sleeve to all trailer axle hub seal journals, saving the cost of replacing axles. At that time we used them on our trucks, so I figured, “Why not trailers?”
Several years later, I started working with truck chassis and drivetrains. I also spent time with our engineering group, development prototype shop and production division. Having the chance to work with all of these groups helped me gain the knowledge I needed to get the job done.
Today, I am a project manager for the Truck Product Group. I perform failure analysis on various subjects that come to us from the field. I’ve now been at the Tech Center longer than anyone else, and I sit across from Dennis Brinton, the guy who initially hired me!
U-Haul has come a long way, from using drafting tables to draw blueprints by hand to using computer automated design (CAD) technology. It’s very important that we keep up with technology to stay ahead of the competition.
I strongly believe that regardless of what position we hold with U-Haul, we must always support the customer and the front line, and provide our customers with the finest and safest products and service the industry has to offer. I love this Company and am very proud to be a part of it. And to think, I started this career 42 years ago as a short-term job.
If you’re interested in joining the U-Haul team, take a look at our current job openings.