Active Truck Parts streamlines sales with part accessibility

Hudson, Colo.—Even though a truck is capable of sheltering its salable parts, that method of outdoor storage delays a sale, especially with engines and transmissions, said Ryan Hochmiller, who works in the family heavy-duty truck recycling business, Active Truck Parts.

“In the whole scheme of things, we wanted to dismantle more trucks, but had nowhere to put the parts,” Hochmiller’s father, John Hochmiller Jr., said.   

“Rather than using the vehicle as storage, we can move scrap quicker,” he said. And when scrap steel prices rise, they can purge the yard of unwanted inventory and get the best possible price for it, he added.

The Hochmillers estimate that their 40-acre yard contains nearly 1,000 heavy- and medium-duty trucks, mainly International trucks, Sterlings, Peterbilts, and Freightliners, as well as Fords and GMCs, but they maintain a calculated pace of dismantling them. “We have a lot of room left to decide what else to put in there,” the elder Hochmiller said. “We could keep tearing down (trucks) forever.”

Ryan Hochmiller said their new 16,000-square-foot warehouse, which was completed this fall, is currently at 25-percent capacity, leaving plenty of room for growth.  D&S Steel of Greeley was contracted to construct the warehouse, he said, while Denver’s Conesco supplied the business with a pallet-rack shelving system.

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 the frame and left complete.  Although the powertrains were pulled in the past at the point of sale, they were stored outdoors; now engines and transmissions are tested and rest indoors on pallets until they’re sold. 

Because of the large property located in the country, he said they still have ample room for outdoor storage, unlike some other recyclers, and do not scrap the frames or any other parts, such as cross-members, springs, and motor mounts, which are all hard-to-find but salable items.

“Right now we’re focusing on getting the engines out and into the warehouse,” Hochmiller said, adding that additional parts are also being pulled, cataloged, and inventoried indoors.  In the past, callers would request a part, and a salesman had to seek out the truck and confirm that the part was there, then  another employee would pull the part.

“Now, we take the parts that we want out of the cab,” Hochmiller said, expediting the sales cycle with pulled inventory waiting to be sold, saving customers from having to wait for parts to be located and pulled.

Moving inventory indoors also allows Hochmiller to take better photos, clearly depicting the condition of the part to online buyers.  Additional items planned to be stored indoors include differentials, seats, electronic components, hoods, and radiators.  Engine and transmission cores have also been moved indoors, he said, adding that they ship cores cross-country if need be.

Since the condition of recycled parts is subjective, Hochmiller said, the key to online sales is a good description and photos.  Online sales have increased to account for 15 percent of the yard’s overall business over the last two years, he said.      “If my description is good enough, they don’t have to open the picture up,” he said.  “In my description, we try to disclose everything.”

When the U.S. economy dipped in 2008, used-parts sales increased, Hochmiller said, enabling them to begin purchasing new aftermarket mechanical and collision inventory.  The business is well positioned to capitalize on the shift toward greater use of new aftermarket parts, he said.  

Back then, the father-son duo expanded their inventory to include Dorman headlamps, window regulator motors, and door handles, and they have now added PFV Mex fiberglass body panels, hoods, fairings, and grills.  Now, he said, people are able to spend a little more on new aftermarket parts, putting Active in an ideal position to capture the sale.

“We’ve been selling aftermarket hoods for 20 years, but couldn’t get good enough pricing,” the elder Hochmiller said, because they bought from other distributors.  Since they’re now buying direct from two manufacturers, they can extend wholesale and jobber pricing because of their volume purchases.

In all, the sale of new parts now accounts for approximately 10 percent of overall sales, he said, a 400-percent increase from two years ago.  In addition to posting used inventory on Active’s website, he said they use traditional print advertising in several trucking publications and trade journals, such as Parts & People.

After construction of their new warehouse, the Hochmillers decided to close Active’s used-truck sales office in downtown Hudson, which was manned by the company’s founder, John Hochmiller Sr., 83, who is now retired.  The Colorado Auto Recyclers (CAR) recognized Hochmiller Jr.’s diligence in continuing the family business with their Lifetime Achievement award earlier this year.

Parts & People

Parts & People is published monthly by Automotive Counseling and Publishing Company, Inc., a Colorado corporation, P.O. Box 18731 Denver, CO 80203, 303-765-4664. President-Lance Buchner. Founded by Lance Buchner and Dave Lucia.

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