Third generation boosts online sales and expansion for Active Truck Parts
Hudson, Colo.—Although Ryan Hochmiller admits that his viewpoint of the heavy-duty truck recycling business is different than his father’s, his goal is the same, to sell heavy-duty truck parts.
Hochmiller, a board director for the Colorado Auto Recyclers (CAR), said he represents the third generation of family members to work at Active Truck Parts Inc., a business his grandfather, John Hochmiller Sr., founded in 1976 and that he now runs with his father, John Hochmiller Jr.
Since entering the family business four years ago, Ryan Hochmiller said he learned to market his father’s business online, increasing the types of parts they sell and their geographic reach. His main responsibility is inventory control and sales, while his father oversees general operations and his grandfather works daily at the used-truck sales operation nearby.
“Our competitor isn’t down the street anymore, they’re nationwide,” said John Hochmiller Jr., who added that he mainly sells recycled OEM mechanical and body parts for Peterbilt, Freightliner, Ford, GMC, Mac Truck, and Sterling.
“We can confirm we have one of the top three most-viewed inventories in our sector in the country,” Ryan Hochmiller said.
Since the condition of recycled parts is subjective, Hochmiller said, the key to online sales is a good description and photos. Online sales now account for 18 percent of the yard’s overall business, he said.
“If my description is good enough, they don’t have to open the picture up,” he said. “In my description, I hide nothing.” Marketing recycled parts that way eliminates a chance that the buyer will reject the part and ship it back, he said.
Since the Hochmillers began switching from a pickup and medium-duty truck recycler to heavy-duty trucks in the early 2000s, John Hochmiller Jr. said the business has shifted from drivetrain components being the biggest sellers to more collision parts. The trucks now are fitted with more fiberglass and ground effects, he said.
When a truck arrives at the yard, the items pulled from it include the engine, transmission, and differential, Hochmiller said, adding that the cab is pulled off from the frame and left complete.
Since the yard is 40 acres and surrounded by farmland, he said they have ample room for all parts and, unlike some other recyclers, do not scrap the frames or any other parts, such as a cross-member, spring, or motor mount, which are all hard-to-find salable items.
To accommodate the increasing collision business segment, Hochmiller said he now carries Titan aftermarket fiberglass hoods, selling them to body shops who work on large rigs.
Since many owner-operator truckers are hanging on to their rigs longer, Hochmiller said his business has been experiencing double-digit growth since 2008, so much so that he now employs 10 people and plans to build a 16,000-square-foot warehouse for parts.
Hochmiller said his son was the one who really pushed for the construction of the warehouse, which will be completed by the end of the year.
Hochmiller said he enjoys working with his son because he is self-motivated and serious about working in the family business. “As long as we keep showing growth and he’s a part of that, he’ll remain interested.” The business really started to show growth when he came on board, the father said, adding that he’ll let his son implement many of his ideas.
A challenge Hochmiller said he faces is inventory acquisition. “There’s not as much out there to buy,” he said, adding that most of his inventory is purchased through insurance adjusters.
Of the inventory that’s acquired, he said they report all VINs to the federal government, which maintains a database with “dead” VINs that serves as a tool to track down thieves who apply “dead” VINs to stolen trucks and vehicles.
Another trend that Hochmiller said he’s noticed is competition from big consolidators, which bid more for trucks locally, then ship them to out-of-state facilities.
Focusing on heavy-duty truck parts creates a niche for the Hochmillers, who are quick to point out that they do not have much regional competition. That allows for greater gross profit margins, he said, adding that it is also challenging because there is no parts interchange software for heavy-duty trucks.