Local firm develops handy height-measuring stick
by: DALE SPOTSWOOD Steve Rowe of Oak Grove with his $149.95

Steve Rowe speaks softly and carries a long, relatively pricey, glow-in-the-dark stick. The Oak Grove entrepreneur has developed a new driver's height-measuring stick that he claims is the best yet in the heavy trucking industry and worth every penny.

All commercial trucks west of the Mississippi have a height limit of less than 14 feet to safely drive through freeway underpasses. In estimating the height limit, some truckers will just guess instead of using a low-quality measuring stick or tape measure.

'It's something you probably wouldn't think about on a day-to-day basis for trucks to be under the height limit, but it really bedevils truckers,' Rowe said.

The $149.95 'Life Saver' stick, which went on the market in August, expands to 16 feet tall, is produced in a day-glow orange and has reflective strips, making the trucker highly visible when measuring a vehicle load at night.

Rowe, who is co-owner of AutoHauler Supply, developed the new measuring stick over a four-year period after gathering feedback from his customers on a similar product that had a lot of problems and drawbacks.

Made of thicker and more durable fiberglass, the new stick collapses to 58 inches, making it easier for a trucker to store it in a sleeper cab. It costs less to ship, so Rowe notes that the customer pays less.

It also includes both metric and American standard measuring marks and comes in a cloth storage bag with a drawstring. Most other sticks have only metric or standard marks and come in a plastic bag.

Rowe said his company sold more than 50 of the new sticks in the first week of going on the market.

Rowe got his start in the industry working at a truck sales and service company in Portland. When the company went out of business in 2004, Rowe decided to start his own firm.

AutoHauler Supply now has five employees. Including Rowe, there's another local sales representative and a software programmer in Sweden; the other managing partner and sales rep. are both based in Michigan.

The firm operates with extremely low overhead, Rowe said. It doesn't own warehouses, forklift trucks or delivery trucks. It markets its products through its web site and by word of mouth to customers throughout the nation.

Rowe added that he doesn't sell a lot of different items, but large volumes in the items that he does sell make it possible to negotiate deals with manufacturers and discounts from shipping companies.

In the hopper for the company's innovation, Rowe hopes, are improvements to a tie-down system for trailers to haul cars.

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