Meeting the 2018 Distributor of the Year finalists: Royal Truck and Trailer

When glancing at the map of Royal Truck and Trailer’s facilities, one location stands out. President Ken Bumgardner says there’s a reason for that.

Royal Truck and Trailer was founded as a two-bay service garage in Dearborn, Mich., in 1970. For nearly five decades the business has grown steadily (and now rapidly) in the greater Detroit area, adding products and services to better assist its increasingly diverse customer base.

Bumgardner attributes the company’s expanded footprint to its recent business acquisitions; but even as an executive with a growth plan in mind, Bumgardner says he never anticipated expanding as far north as Gaylord, Mich.

He says Royal Truck and Trailer’s reputation did that for him.

“We’ve always been known as a company that takes care of its people, and the gentlemen who owned that facility [in Gaylord] knew that and approached us,” Bumgardner says. “He wanted to exit the business and he wanted to sell to us. He wouldn’t take no for an answer. We talked about it and eventually we agreed.

“I take a lot of pride in that because it shows others [in the aftermarket] are aware of what we are doing.”

Indeed, they are, as for the first time in its history, Royal Truck and Trailer has been nominated as a finalist for the Truck Parts & Service Distributor of the Year Award in 2018.

A third-generation family business (Ken and his sister, Chief Financial Officer Julie Igielski, followed their father, Carl, and grandfather, Roy, into the trucking industry) Royal Truck and Trailer is a true one-stop shop for its customer base. In addition to a strong parts department, the company offers drive-in and bench service, sells new and used trailers and truck bodies and provides aluminum wheel refinishing. It has four locations and employs 155 people.

Ken Bumgardner says several of the company’s services — such as its truck body division — are new additions. Royal Truck and Trailer is a company on the rise.

“I don’t think a lot of people realize exactly how much we’ve grown in the last five or six years,” he says, adding the company’s total sales last year were eight times larger than they were at the beginning of the decade.

Bumgardner says the business is evolving behind the counter as well.

Royal Truck and Trailer is developing an employee retention and career development program for its workforce to ensure the business remains well-staffed to support its expansion. Coupled with the company’s existing training program and one of the youngest executive teams in the aftermarket, Bumgardner believes Royal Truck and Trailer is taking the steps necessary to address the industry’s largest challenge: quality employees.

“We have a really young team. I don’t think that happened on purpose but I think it is going to help us,” he says. “I believe young people are more inclined to work for some-one younger who they can identify with. When we hire, I tell people, ‘I’m not going anywhere. Let’s build this business together.’”

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