New Distributor Specializes in Vans

ACTION is something a new truck equipment distributor has seen plenty of in just over a year of operation.

Action Fleet & Truck Equipment has been in business since March 1997. But before it had been in business a full year, Morgan Corporation named Action the top parts distributor in the Southwest Region for 1997. Action's parts sales in 10 months was tops among all Morgan distributors in the five-state region.

The Houston, Texas, company specializes in selling van bodies and parts for Morgan. Action also handles related products such as doors and liftgates.

"Our biggest problem so far has just been keeping up with the growth we have experienced," says Eddie Boyde, president. "The first few months we were in business, business was steady. In the fifth month, though, sales just exploded. We have had our entire yard filled with van bodies that are sold and waiting on chassis."

Boyde's original idea in starting Action was to sell used equipment, perform maintenance work (including mobile service), and offer custom manufacturing of products such as platform bodies. While the company still does all of those functions, the emphasis changed quickly when the Morgan line became available last year.

Action now is almost an extension of the Morgantown, Pennsylvania, van body manufacturer. John Lyons, regional sales manager for Morgan, has an office at the Action facility. Truck bodies sold in his area-roughly a 100-mile radius around Houston-funnel through the Action shop to be installed and serviced. His efforts complement those of Boyde, whose background is in installation and service.

"It has been a good partnership," Lyons says. "It allows both of us to do what we do best."

Lyons usually is in the office at the Action shop briefly in the morning before making sales calls the rest of the day.

Action Fleet & Truck Equipment is located on the north side of Houston in three 5,000-sq-ft buildings. One nearest the back of the property handles Morgan installation and repairs. The middle building is for manufacturing platform bodies, and the building closest to the street is being set up for parts sales.

"We see a lot of potential in the parts business," Boyde says. "Our area includes Victoria and Brenham, Texas, to the south and west, Nacogdoches to the north, and east to Louisiana. Anyone in this area that calls Morgan for parts gets referred to us."

Action maintains an inventory of proprietary parts for Morgan van bodies, along with items such as aluminum sheet and laminated hardwood flooring. The company also stocks parts for such products as Anthony, Maxon and Waltco liftgates and Todco and Whiting doors.

Also located in the Action facility is a 1,200-sq-ft office area. The office includes a large conference room equipped with a "convertible" conference table. The table can be used for meetings, but beneath the removable top is a pool table.

"This business is built on relationships," Boyde says. "We want to take care of our customers and have fun doing it."

According to Plan Action continues to offer the services Boyde had planned when he started Action Fleet & Truck Equipment last year. Part of that plan was to sell used equipment.

"Many manufacturers don't take trades, but we do," he says. "We sell a lot of used equipment into Latin America. I know several brokers who specialize in that market. They are in contact with customers throughout the region and try to find used equipment in the US that their customers need."

Mobile service was another part of Boyde's original plan. The company accomplishes this with a mobile mechanic and a Ford F-350 equipped with 12-ft platform body, generator, air compressor, welding machine, and oxy-acetylene bottles. Action's mobile mechanic performs a variety of services, including liftgate and door adjustments and minor body repairs.

"It makes sense to send a mechanic out to the customer's location," Boyde says. "It saves the customer a lot of downtime."

The response to Action's products and services has been greater than anticipated.

"We've had our share of growing pains," Boyde said. "What started as a simple business with a forklift and welding machine has turned into one that has required more forklifts, more welding machines, and more people."

Employment is up to nine now, including Boyde, an office manager, a working shop foreman, and six me-chanics. In today's competitive job market, meeting staffing needs is not always easy.

"We still need a sales trainee for parts, sales, and service," Boyde says. "But we have been able to hire some good mechanics. We recently started an insurance program that pays 100% of the employee's health coverage. Plus, we pay a little better than other companies. That has helped. It's important to attract and keep good employees, because this company is off to a faster start than we ever imagined."

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