The O.F. Steffen Body Company was formed in 1914 by Otto Steffen, G Van Steenwyk, and H. Vanderburg. The purpose of the company was the building and repair of truck bodies and auto springs.
During the beginning of the car and truck industry, the tires that they rode on were steel bands around wood rims. Every few hundred miles, the steel bands would wear out and need to be replaced. Also, because of the bad roads and the newness of technology of making car and truck springs, the tempered steel springs were subject to breaking as well.
From this humble beginning, the Steffen-Van Steenwvk Company entered the truck equipment industry. The next, and natural progression for the company to enter was the body building business.
In the early time of trucks, all the buyer got was the bare chassis. This included the frame, engine, transmission and driveline components. Everything else was custom built, including the cab. This work involved skilled woodworkers and craftsmen.
As time progressed, however, more and more customers wanted metal rather than wood bodies. This was achieved by wrapping the woodwork in very thin (26-28 ga.) sheet metal.
The Steffen-Van Steenwyk Body Company acclaim ran far and wide.
Sometime during the period of the early 1920s, H. Vanderburg left the company for reasons unknown.
Around the same time, a customer came to the Steffen Van-Steenwyk office to dispute billing and Mr. Van-Steenwyk invited him to “step outside” to resolve the dispute like gentlemen. In the process of resolving the dispute, Mr. Van-Steenwyk was shot and mortally wounded. The company was then renamed the O. F. Steffen Body Company.
During the time period of the late 1930s, Otto Steffen went into partnership with Mr. Wilson. While the details of the partnership aren’t clear, we do know that, while Steffen believed straight truck bodies were the way of the future, Wilson felt the same way about trailer bodies.
The two were unable to come to an agreement, and soon split up. Wilson formed the Wilson Trailer Company, one of the largest and successful livestock trailer companies to this day.
Steffen continued to redesign and build a combination farm body for straight trucks. The body was designed to carry not only livestock but also grains. This farm body became the mainstay and life-blood of the O. F. Steffen Body Company.
As production on the family farms grew and the farmer had more and more product to haul, sales of the Steffen Body flourished, with sales increasing every year. In 1958 Otto died leaving the company to his wife
In 1963 I. E. Kaplan bought the company and incorporated it under the laws of the State of Iowa under the name Steffen Inc. In 1963 Mr. Kaplan hired L. F. Kohl as president of Steffen.
As Steffen’s sales grew, so did the company, until it occupied one square block in downtown Sioux City. Under Mr. Kohl’s management, the company continued to grow until the late 1970’s.
During the mid-to-late 1970s, Steffen experienced the manufacturing “growing pains” that gobbled up the vast majority of small-to-medium Truck and Truck Body manufacturers.
The very complex problems could be over simplified into three things: less Straight Truck Mounted Equipment, changing availability of Raw Materials, and a dramatically changing available work force.
Farms were going to Tractor Trailers.
Hardwoods — the heart of the Steffen body — were vanishing as was the all encompassing artisan.
Hiring that guy — the one with the rural background who could weld, was mechanical, and/or was an accomplished carpenter — became almost impossible.
In the scope of half a decade, all of these historically plentiful things began to vanish, and businesses like Steffen Body disappeared at staggering rates. So, as has happened many times in the 101 years we’ve been in business, Steffen was re-invented.
Lou Kohl, our long-time President, pushed forward into the Upfitter Installer business. In the 1980’s & 1990’s Steffen had an unprecedented relationship with Iowa Public Service, MUD in Omaha, OPPD in Omaha and western Nebraska, building bare chassis units into Utility Work Trucks.
Hundreds of Aerial Trucks, Ladder and Digger Trucks, as well as a variety of Service Trucks, were upfited and supplied by Steffen every year. It was during this time that David Kaplan and Adam Feiges pushed municipal business to new levels here, building groups of 40-40 & 80 Dump Trucks for the States of Nebraska & South Dakota, respectively.
During those days, Steffen stepped up the Repair and Custom Machine and Fabricating business, which is a great anchor to this day. As a MTI (Holan) Aerial Truck Distributor, Steffen was in many ways foreshadowing things to come.
As more and more Trucks were built, more and more Trade-In units became available for sale. These Trades were the seeds of today’s Used Utility Truck Sales business at Steffen. In many ways the Used Truck / Trade-in business was a better deal than selling the installed new unit, despite that new unit requiring months of hands-on work in most cases. As these units were built and finished, hydraulic tools rigging and sundries were indeed a plus, thus came the Stanley Tool side of the business.
In the late ’90s, we first began to see the Steffen of today: Truck Repairs, Hydraulic Tool Sales, Used Utility Truck Sales, High Tech Hydraulic Wet Kits designed and installed for all kinds of in-the-field applications, and light Manufacturing of a number of products.
By specializing in Pumps, Power Take-off’s, Drive Shaft Repair and Building, as well as Hydraulic Systems Development, Steffen fills a need within a niche market. Used Utility Truck sales of 50-75 units annually, going to all parts of the US, Canada, and recently Australia, keeps the wheels turning and the doors open for business, as we stay poised for the NEXT 100 years.