New Liskeard truck driver Ray Berthelette built his own sleeper cab 37 years ago to address the uncomfortable resting space he and others endured on long hauls.
“I built it in a small garage next to my house,” he said. “I knew what I wanted and then I built one for my brother.”
They attracted attention and when one was built for display at a local truck stop, he ended up getting five orders from a trucking line.
Since 1975, Mik Mak Fabrications has created custom cabs and other accessories such as cab shields, moose bumpers, tool boxes, hood and roof turbo wings, stainless steel tank covers and custom fenders.
Ray’s sons, Michel and Marc – whom the business is named after – have joined forces with their father.
In 2003, the business moved to Dymond Industrial Park while a second location is still maintained.
“Basically there were only three truck companies that had their own sleeping berths,” said Marc. “The rest of them had none.”
None were made for Northern Ontario’s weather and were not insulated.
“We make very high quality, and really do overkill on everything we do,” Marc said. “Basically, we make whatever someone wants.”
Currently, options in sleeper cabs can include TVs, chemical toilets, central vacuum, running water, fridges, stereo systems and microwave ovens.
The majority of the business is with truck dealers, but owners of all sizes of trucks still seek custom-made accessories.
Since the 1980s, the company has manufactured moose bumpers, which originated in Australia where they are known as roo bumpers.
“These front protectors keep the cost of insurance down,” said Ray. “There are five radiators in the front that can be damaged if you hit something big, like a moose.
“You can end up walking away with at least light damage and save some downtime with repairs and about $30,000 getting the truck back in operation.”
The company has contracts with several companies from one end of the country to the other and organizations that operate fleets to provide the vehicles with the bumpers and other accessories. Bush cab shields may look “fancy” but they are built to protect the trucks.
“We really don’t build for show. We build them for abuse and we don’t compare our products like the bumpers to any others. We just do our own quality workmanship,” Ray said.
With the biggest inventory of aluminum in Northern Ontario, Mik Mak Fabrication has diversified its products throughout the years.
It manufactured foldable huts and aluminum boats that had both industrial and recreational uses due to their portability.
“The huts could be used for ice fishing or by diamond drillers and rescue and recovery,” Marc said.
Picnic tables were made for underground mines which consisted of aluminum and plastic boards so they wouldn’t be affected by rust. Aluminum drafting tables were sold to various industries.
“I used to make weather blankets for the front of the trucks,” Ray said. “But that part of the business was sold to another company. They were popular back then but now you don’t need them. The trucks don’t freeze like they used to.”
The company’s specialty is aluminum and its work attracts customers from across Canada and from the U.S.
“We add to the local economy because our customers come here and while we work on their trucks, they stay in motels and eat in the restaurants. So we aren’t just bringing in business for us, but also to the local area,” Marc said. “We are creating spinoffs, especially since trucking is one of the major industries.”
If the products Mik Mak manufactures aren’t installed at its shop, they are shipped all over the country.
With a workforce of 25, employees are hard to find since the company must compete with area mines for skilled tradespeople.
“It’s hard finding good talent and keeping it because of the mines and it is affecting our business,” Marc said.
“But we have been here for 37 years and we are good at what we do. That part will never change.”