Allied Truck Equipment in Grand Rapids Expands Business in Western Michigan

ALLIED Truck Equipment Company increased gross sales to over $5 million annually primarily by promoting truck body sales to commercial truck dealers and by opening a 2,400-sq-ft showroom at its 22,000-sq-ft facility in Grand Rapids, Michigan.

"Some customers that have been coming to Allied Truck for 10 years walked into the showroom and said, `I didn't know you sold that,'" says Charlie Kimmel, president of Allied. "Parts sales doubled after we opened the showroom."

In the two-year-old showroom, Allied displays toolboxes, an Adrian Steel full-size van interior, lighting products, hitches, tailgate material spreaders, and other truck equipment. The distributor carries a full line of parts for snowplows, tailgate lifts, stake racks, and accessories for pickup trucks.

Most of Allied's growth has occurred in the past three or four years, Kimmel says. The distributor has experienced an even amount of growth in all areas of business.

In the past 12 months, sales of utility trailers have contributed significantly to Allied's growth, he says. The distributor displays trailers at county fairs and advertises in local trade publications. Western Michigan is a good market for the utility trailers sold by Allied because of the many horse ranches and farms in the area.

Chassis Sales Seminars To increase truck body sales, Allied and Dodge conduct seminars for commercial truck dealers, Kimmel says. The distributor operates a Dodge truck pool and finds that sales training seminars are often helpful for commercial truck salesmen.

"We teach them how to match a truck body and chassis," Kimmel says. "Many are former car salesmen who don't know much about truck equipment or chassis. We teach them how to find customers for commercial trucks."

A lot of time is spent showing salesmen how to properly specify a truck chassis, Kimmel says. Allied often recommends a wheelbase for the chassis and helps salesmen to configure the completed truck for proper weight distribution.

"The two most important things we need to get salesmen through is wheelbase and weight distribution," Kimmel says.

Allied wants to expand truck body sales by forming alliances with truck dealers, rather than competing with them, Kimmel says. The distributor sees greater benefits in educating truck dealers about how to sell truck bodies with commercial vehicles.

"Allied wants to create a non competitive environment so we can accompany truck dealers on salescalls," Kimmel says. "Dodge dealers in Michigan aren't oriented towards commercial truck sales."

Equipping Service Trucks Allied sells a substantial number of service bodies from Knapheide and Iowa Mold & Tooling (IMT). The distributor equips them to service heavy equipment such as bulldozers, earth movers, and front-end loaders, Kimmel says. The service trucks often are equipped with Maxon or Thieman tailgate lifts. Allied mounts the service bodies and installs cranes, compressors, and tailgate lifts on the cab chassis.

Other truck bodies mounted by the distributor include Rugby, Galion, and Henderson Chief dump bodies. Allied mounts dry freight and refrigerated van bodies manufactured by Morgan. Each year, the distributor mounts up to 600 truck bodies and installs up to 500 Western snowplows.

For snow and ice control, Allied manufactures its own pull-plow for pickup trucks. The pull-plow has a double-acting Monarch hydraulic cylinder that provides power-up and power-down operation. Each winter, the company manufactures and installs about 50 pull-plows.

Allied added four bays for installation of truck equipment and service work, Kimmel says. The 16,000-sq-ft service area has five drive-through workbays. Three additional bays in another area are used for installation of snowplows and pickup truck accessories.

The newly constructed extends from the original building to an enclosed wash bay for tank trailers. Allied converted the wash bay into a 54-ft spray booth for trailers and truck bodies.

New Spray Booth The ABS Inc down-draft spray booth, large enough for a 48-ft trailer, was installed by Finish Masters in Grand Rapids, Michigan. The spray booth has a fire-suppression system that can remove oxygen from the booth.

Kimmel says he worked with city, state, and federal inspectors while the booth was installed. Each inspector had different requirements the distributor needed to satisfy. "Each of the three inspectors wanted things done differently."

The city inspector required Allied to install a make-up air unit on the down-draft spray booth, Kimmel says. The distributor complied with the city's requirement even though make-up air defeats the down-draft function of the spray booth.

"The make-up air unit replaces the air in the booth every two minutes," Kimmel says. "We only operate the make-up air only when we're not painting because it will suck out the overspray". The make-up air defeats the purpose of the down-draft."

Allied operates the spray booth 24 hours a day, seven days a week, he says. Full-time operation is needed to keep pace with the distributor's increasing business.

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