The farm country surrounding Lima, Ohio, provides plenty of choices, but until a few years ago, where to buy truck and trailer parts was not one of them.
And when Calvin Roeder’s daughters sensed that they were paying too much for aftermarket parts, they decided to do something about it.
They got into the parts business.
Roeder had been operating Roeder Cartage Company (RCC) since 1974. He started it as a dry and refrigerated van carrier, but eventually transitioned the operation into transporting bulk liquid commodities such as sulfuric and hydrochloric acids.
Roeder decided to open a maintenance shop for his tank fleet in 1996. He bought 8.4 acres adjacent to his existing trucking company and built a 14,000-sq-ft building to house his newly incorporated North Dixie Truck and Trailer. While the impetus for starting the company was to meet the needs of his own fleet, Roeder quickly reached out to offer his services to others as well.
After operating North Dixie Truck and Trailer for 10 years, Roeder sold the company to his three daughters in 2006. Tina Anderson is president of the company; Teresa Shulaw, vice-president; and Tammy Orndorff, secretary-treasurer.
North Dixie Truck and Trailer sourced its parts locally the first four years that the sisters owned it. But they reached a point where they were convinced they could do better for their company by starting their own parts operation.
“We just felt we were being overcharged,” says Tina Anderson, president of North Dixie Truck & Trailer. “If that was happening to us, other parts customers had to be feeling the same way. We had an empty building that could accommodate our parts business, so we said ‘let’s do this.’”
They opened the North Dixie Truck and Trailer parts operation in 2010. But they didn’t stop there. In 2012, the company added van trailers, wheel balancing and alignment services.
Parts sales have grown sharply in the brief time that North Dixie Truck and Trailer has offered them. In spite of the head start, service and parts are almost equal now.
“How did we grow as fast as we did?” Anderson asks. “By knowing people. Our dad grew up with trucking. He knew the plight of small trucking operations. What is important to them? Knowledge. We need to be able to identify the customer’s need and know the part or parts needed to fix the problem. And when customers ask questions, we need to have answers. We may not be able to do that every time, but when we don’t know the answer, we have vendors who we can call to get it.
Availability is another key.
“If we don’t carry it, we will get it, and we will stock it for the next time the customer needs it,” Anderson says.
And not surprisingly for a company whose owners felt like they were being overcharged, they believe in charging a fair price for parts.
“We need to make money, but we don’t need a high profit margin,” Anderson says.
A bigger shop
North Dixie Truck and Trailer continued to expand after the company launched its parts operation. The company added 24,000 square feet to its shop in 2011. The expansion created more space for the growing parts department. It also provided a total of 16 maintenance bays, two alignment racks, and a wheel balancing machine, and three emergency road service trucks that are on call around the clock.
Technicians assigned to the service trucks are on call. Service calls coming into the North Dixie Truck and Trailer office after hours transfer to the emergency telephone numbers.
“We are committed to customer service,” Anderson says. “If a customer breaks down in the middle of the road, we will use our personal vehicles to take the driver to a hotel.”
Regardless of whether the call comes inside or outside normal business hours, the company’s service trucks will respond. The service vehicles work on trucks and trailers, either making the repair on the side of the road or towing the customer’s truck back to the shop for repairs.
The expanded shop offers the welding services required to keep trailers—especially tank trailers—in good shape. The shop offers custom sheet metal fabrication for aluminum, steel, and stainless sheet or plate.
North Dixie Truck and Trailer is certified by the National Board of Boiler and Pressure Vessel and is able to perform welding repair operations on pressure vessels according to the American Society of Mechanical Engineers codes. The National Board of Boiler and Pressure Vessel Inspectors has certified North Dixie Truck and Trailer Inc as an authorized “R” shop.
Technicians are certified testers authorized to perform such activities as HM 183 testing, MC330-331 testing, vapor recovery testing and wet mag testing.
A bigger parts department
With the expanded building, parts is playing a bigger role. North Dixie Truck and Trailer now has two in outside sales and two who work inside sales. In addition, the company recently hired someone to work the back parts counter.
The company has nearly tripled its semi-truck and trailer parts in recent years. Sales have been good for vans, flatbeds, tanks, dumps, and hopper trailers.
“We have a lot going on there,” Anderson says. “We have to stock the three service trucks plus the shop from the parts warehouse.”
North Dixie Truck and Trailer has a fleet of eight vans that it uses for parts delivery. Some of the company’s bestselling products include trailer suspension parts, oil filters, chrome parts, alternators, starters, seats, drums, and brakes.
The company takes an aggressive approach in selling parts in Lima and northwest Ohio. The local chamber of commerce, for example, compiles a list of the companies in the area that operate trucks. North Dixie Truck and Trailer receives those updates and acts upon them.
“But the big thing is just listening to what people are talking about,” Anderson says. “Farmers and others gather together in the morning and drink coffee. They talk, and word spreads.”
For one of its customers, the word doesn’t have far to travel. Roeder Cartage Company now operates a fleet of 90 late model Freightliners tractors, 155 tank trailers and 32 van trailers. The fleet operates in Canada and in all states in the United States except for Alaska and Hawaii.
Each of the three sisters have active roles to play in North Dixie Truck and Trailer and its sister company (sorry, but that’s the only term for it) Snappy’s Outdoor Equipment Sales and Service.
Tina Anderson is president of North Dixie Truck and Trailer. Teresa Shulaw runs the maintenance shop. And Tammy Orndorff runs the lawn and outdoor shop next door to North Dixie Truck and Trailer.
Snappy’s is a Ferris mower dealership that also carries chainsaws, generators, and other equipment manufactured by Husqvarna, Simplicity, and Echo. It also sells snowplows and spreaders built by Western, Sno-Way, and Boss.
The snow and ice control equipment and parts are complemented nicely by an array of warm-weather items such as lawnmowers and other lawn and garden equipment. Like its neighbor next door, Snappy’s is committed to customer service, which plays out in part by its active service and parts. The company repairs lawn equipment, regardless of where it was purchased.
For more information check out North Dixie Truck & Trailer Inc