The associations of the independent aftermarket

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Updated Jan 16, 2019

The independent aftermarket has a wide selection of industry organizations that can be beneficial to a business owner or executive. Here’s a quick rundown on each.

HDA Truck Pride

Though the New Year’s Day merger of HD America and Truck Pride in 2011 was the official formation of HDA Truck Pride, the group has roots dating back to 1982, making it the longest tenured sales and marketing group in North America.

And the organization defines itself as such. HD America might have started as a buying group, but HDA Truck Pride Vice President of Sales and Marketing Tina Hubbard says today’s organization does so much more.

“The group has taken on a different tone and purpose,” she says. “Our goal is to do things for our members that they individually cannot do for themselves.”

She says the organization’s current list of initiatives in that area include regional and national marketing, the creation of a product training library, an online sales portal, employee recruitment, an expansive service provider network, national account management and, of course, supplier purchasing negotiations.

“We have a saying, most of our members spend more time in their business than on their business, and we try to help them by looking up and seeing and doing some of those other things,” Hubbard says.

VIPAR Heavy Duty Family of Companies

VIPAR Heavy Duty was founded as a distributor buying group in 1989 and with the acquisition of Power Heavy Duty in 2014 has since evolved into the VIPAR Heavy Duty Family of Companies. The group provides national purchasing, marketing and additional support for its 120 stockholder companies under the VIPAR Heavy Duty brand and more than 125 member companies under the Power Heavy Duty brand.

VIPAR Heavy Duty develops programs, products and solutions that best enable its distribution/service professionals to remain competitive and successful in the aftermarket while serving their various customers, says Jeff Paul, vice president of marketing.

One of the group’s unique features is its expanding presence in the global aftermarket community. The group has distributor companies in the U.S., Puerto Rico, Canada, Mexico and Venezuela, and is a member of NEXUS North America and NEXUS Automotive International, an association that promotes after-market cooperation and information sharing throughout the world.

The VIPAR Heavy Duty Family of Companies also features Global Parts Network (GPN), a wholly owned subsidiary operating brake manufacturing production and parts distribution centers supporting the needs of its family of distributors.

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American Council of Frame and Alignment Specialists (ACOFAS)

Technician training is priority number one for ACOFAS. Founded by a group of independent service providers that were unsatisfied with the technical training being offered by other organizations, ACOFAS has grown to 42 members and is now the owner of the annual Service Opportunities Learning Days (SOLD) held at Heavy Duty Aftermarket Week. It also organizes three training clinics each year held explicitly to maximize a technician’s learning time.

“We’re not a social organization,” says ACOFAS Education Chairman Gordon Botts. “Our trainings can be good networking opportunities for technicians, but our goal with each event is for them to learn as much as possible.”

Association of Diesel Specialists (ADS)

The proper assembly and service of diesel engine components is the main focus of ADS. As one of the aftermarket’s oldest organizations, ADS brings engine and engine component manufacturers together with officially licensed dealers and service centers to “share information” and discuss challenges facing the engine service industry, says Executive Director David Fehling. The organization addresses all classes of diesel engines, and Fehling lists some of the association’s biggest member benefits as being the training pro-grams offered through its manufacturing and independent trainer members, as well as its all-encompassing annual convention.

“We give our members access to the movers and shakers of our industry,” Fehling says.

Commercial Vehicle Solutions Network (CVSN)

Fostering cooperation between industry sup-pliers and distributors while speaking out to legislators on behalf of the aftermarket has become the calling card of CVSN. Created through the merger of the National Wheel and Rim Association and Council of Fleet Specialists, CVSN was a founding member of the Commercial Vehicle Right to Repair Coalition, is a co-owner of Heavy Duty Aftermarket Week (HDAW) and, through its partnership with GenNext, has be-come one of the aftermarket’s leading training organizations.

“CVSN seeks to create an industrywide forum for professional development, legislative aware-ness and business opportunities by utilizing broad industry cooperation, education and the exchange of information throughout the channel,” says Angelo Volpe, executive director.


GenNext entered the independent aftermarket earlier this decade with a clear purpose: To educate, mentor and recruit the next generation of aftermarket leaders. Though most of GenNext’s educational events (including the popular Distributor Training Expo) were developed with younger aftermarket professionals in mind, the organization accepts members of all ages from the supplier and distributor community. GenNext also uses mixers, mentoring programs and networking events to facilitate knowledge sharing and encourage discussion by all members of the aftermarket.

“From the outside looking in, heavy-duty parts sales aren’t all that attractive,” says Steve Hansen, founder and former GenNext president. “GenNext helps to engage students and younger employees to ramp up their careers.”

HDDA: Heavy Duty

HDDA: Heavy Duty represents the full sup-ply chain for the independent heavy-duty aftermarket. The organization exists under the umbrella of the Auto Care Association, the largest entity dedicated to the support of the independent aftermarket in North America, says Sheila Andrews, director, heavy duty markets and liaison. Among the HDDA’s most visible engagements is a current data standards project to streamline parts classification for the entire channel. HDDA also is a co-owner of HDAW and, through Auto Care, is one of the aftermarket’s loudest voices on Capitol Hill. HDDA was formerly known as the Heavy Duty Distribution Association.

“We exist to represent and advocate for all members of the aftermarket in all classes,” says Andrews.

Heavy Duty Reman Group (HDRG)

A spinoff of the global Automotive Parts Remanufacturers Association (APRA), HDRG members are businesses predominately engaged in the remanufacturing of products for Class 4-8 trucks, though the organization does not discriminate regarding on- or off-road parts. One of HDRG’s main initiatives is providing access to tools and components required in the remanufacturing process. This is done through networking at HDRG events and alliances developed between members. HDRG also aids APRA in advocating remanufacturing among government officials and the public at large.

Heavy Duty Repair Forum (HD Repair Forum)

The HD Repair Forum was founded by a collection of businesses engaged in the collision repair industry. The group chose to create the organization to provide a community where Class 5-8 collision centers could engage in business conversation, share best practices and address common challenges faced in their businesses. Technical guidance on repair processes and service shop productivity highlight the organization’s earliest educational commitments, both at its events and in its monthly newsletter.

“The goal is to grow and improve the industry through networking, education, communication and collaboration,” says Jennie Link, communications manager. “The HD Repair Forum makes the future a little clearer while encouraging improvement of current business practices.”

International Truck Parts Association (ITPA)

With nearly 120 members, the ITPA is the industry’s preeminent networking and relationship building organization for salvage yards, independent rebuilders and their component suppliers. The organization holds two meetings each year that feature a combination of leadership and business management presentations and networking opportunities, as well as regular tours of member locations when a facility is near a meeting location. Each feature is designed to stimulate member interaction and business relationships.

“I think our organization does a great job of making people feel welcome,” says Scott Tetz, executive director. “The relationships our members make often last a lifetime.”

MERA – The Association for Sustainable Manufacturing

Operating under the umbrella of the Motor and Equipment Manufacturers Association (MEMA), MERA represents all businesses engaged in remanufacturing in the automotive and commercial trucking markets. Members include reman executives from some of the nation’s largest OE suppliers as well as small, independent reman businesses throughout North America.

“Companies join MERA for effective government advocacy focused on advancing and protecting sustainable manufacturing interests, both with policymakers and regulators, in addition to supporting the association’s prominent role in changing the narrative about remanufactured goods with buyers. Members also join to engage with influencers and their peers during valuable industry events,” says David McGuire, director of membership and business development.

Service Specialists Association (SSA)

Built as a “forum for the dissemination and understanding of technical information,” SSA remains primarily a knowledge sharing vehicle for the independent service provider community, says Executive Director Craig Fry. In addition to networking events that enable members to share service best practices, business management and operations train-ing are becoming common educational topics at the organization’s annual convention.

Additionally, Fry says SSA recently introduced its COACH training program that “outlines how a local shop can get involved with nearby schools to implement training programs for future technicians.” He adds, “When these folks get together at our annual convention, the topic of conversation is business.”

Truck Frame and Axle Repair Association (TARA)

Another group with a focus on specific repairs, TARA has served the independent aftermarket for many years. The organization’s commitment to information sharing echoes the values of many other groups, but TARA is unique in its quest to develop universal repair standards for its section of the service industry. TARA member facilities are required to meet technical training, equipment and performance standards that not only far exceed industry norms, but also meet or exceed insurance regulations.

To return to September’s cover story on industry associations, please CLICK HERE.

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