Tuesday, 02 April 2019 15:27

Truck Topics: Truck Vs. Auto Collision Repair – An Overview

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Chris Sterwerf is the chief finance and operations officer for Fairfield Auto and Truck Service in Fairfield, OH, the chairman of TMC’s Heavy Duty Collision Repair Guideline Task Force and a noted industry leader.


When asked about the issue of repair information, Sterwerf agreed with Legler that it was hard to come by.


He noted, “About 20 years ago when the auto repair shops were pushing for the ‘Right to Repair’ act, nobody on the heavy duty side went to their party, so we were left out.”


He said the problem might have been due to the great diversity in the industry.


“Under the umbrella of heavy duty, we have shops that fix only semi-trucks, or only buses, or only RVs,” he said. “Some shops can handle a heavy wreck from soup to nuts; some only do cosmetic work. The industry is very fragmented, and it shows. It makes things tough sometimes.”


Collision shops on the auto side are still somewhat fragmented but nowhere near as much as they were before the advent of industry associations in the 1950s and trade magazines as a means of communication in the 1960s and 1970s.


Sterwerf continued, “And then there are all the shops that don’t look like shops---large fleets that repair their own trucks that are not visible to the public or even within the industry.”


On the auto side, it’s pretty easy to find an independent repair shop using an internet search engine. On the heavy truck side, some large fleets maintain their own mechanical and collision shops, which tend to stay off the “commercial radar.”


When asked what the biggest challenges were in the industry, Sterwerf replied, “There are a few things. One is the challenge of getting parts and repair information. Conversely, some component manufacturers, such as Bendix has all kinds of information online---and it’s all free. Sadly, few people use it.


“The other issue I hear from a lot of shop owners is finding people. It’s tough to work in an industry that is so dependent on experience and knowledge when you don’t have any. but it may be the culture of the shop.