MIDWAY | Greg Tesh grew tired of turning away customers because his family-owned trailer hitch business didn’t make a product that power wheelchair and car dealers kept calling to ask him for, so he decided to start making one.
In fact, no one was making a hitch or trailer that could be attached to small or midsize cars that was safe to haul mobility scooters and power wheelchairs.
“They wanted us to install hitches on the back of a vehicle for these mobility chairs,” Tesh said. “Eighty-five percent of the vehicles on the road today cannot accept a lift or a hitch on the back. As the economy continues to decline and the gas crisis continues, people want a vehicle that gets 30 to 40 miles per gallon. These cars cannot accept hitches.”
Tesh’s answer to the problem was ScootaTrailer, a compact trailer that can haul any mobility scooter or power wheelchair behind cars like a Ford Focus or Honda Civic. Large trailers are too cumbersome for parking at shopping centers and grocery stores and too high off the ground for easy loading and unloading of wheelchairs, Tesh said. In addition, everyone with mobility issues does not qualify through Medicare, Medicaid or other insurance companies for a large conversion van.
Tesh told his idea to his brother and business partner, Keith Tesh, at Tesh and Sons Trailer Hitch Center, who in turn drew the prototype for the trailer in 2002. After some revisions, the ScootaTrailer was being built and shipped from their business on Payne Road by 2004.
“The dealers selling chairs said we would have a solid moneymaker if it worked,” he said.
In late September, the brothers completed the process to make ScootaTrailer a limited liability corporation and hired Martin Sinozich, a product coordinator from Greensboro, to help market their product nationwide.
Fred Tesh, the brothers’ grandfather, began Tesh & Sons as a traditional trailer hitch business in 1948. The brothers learned at the side of their grandfather and father, Kenneth Tesh. Business was brisk for many years until Tesh noticed the office phone wasn’t ringing quite as much in late 2001. They soon realized why.
Hitches had traditionally been an after-manufacturing option installed once someone bought a truck, van or SUV. But car manufacturers had begun making these vehicles with the hitches already attached.
So the idea for ScootaTrailer couldn’t have come at a better time. The Teshes needed a new product if their 60-year-old business was going to survive.
The Teshes have taken their ScootaTrailer to trade shows in Atlanta and Nevada where it was well-received. Customers do not order the trailers directly from the Teshes. The Teshes sell their product to power wheelchair and scooter dealers and some car dealerships who specialize in vehicle conversions for the handicapped.
Most of the ScootaTrailers sold are paid for through workers comp claims, the Veterans Administration, vocational rehabilitation or the U.S. Department of Developmental Disabilities.
Fully equipped, the ScootaTrailer sells for about $4,500 or with less options about $2,400. To date, about 600 ScootaTrailers have been sold. The Teshes said they hope Sinozich is able to take ScootaTrailer to the next level with a marketing plan.
“We’d like to sell 1,200 a year,” Tesh said.
ScootaTrailer is easy to use and has taken mobility limitations into consideration, Greg Tesh said of the design. For example, the ramp used to load and unload the chairs uses pistons so the door can be pushed up easily without bending over by gently nudging it with the foot.
The basic model weighs about 285 pounds or 360 if the optional aluminum, diamond plate cover is purchased. The cover also uses pistons for easy opening and shutting. The trailer is 48 inches wide and 60 inches long. The platform is only eight inches off the ground.
“Twenty-four million wheelchairs and scooters are in use in America,” Greg Tesh said. “About three-fourths of the power wheelchair and scooter users would not leave their home because they have no way to transport their scooter or wheelchair. Our feeling is everyone should be able to get out using a ScootaTrailer. We’re not only passionate about our product, but compassionate about people.”
Scoota Trailer is available from Access Mobility Equipment at www.accessmobilityequipment.com or 866-717-0808