Eye on the Industry: An inside look at heavy duty America

Once described as “The Big, Bad Wolf” in the industry, today HD America (HDA) is anything but. This marketing group was the first of a number of groups formed over the last 25 years, and although at first some saw it as intimidating, that image has been shed and replaced with one of respect, obvious by the 25th anniversary the group is celebrating this year.

Known as HD America, HDA or HDA Parts Network, the group has grown since its beginning. It was started in 1982 by 12 distributors, and has grown to more than 150 members with more than 500 locations in the U.S. and Canada. Pat Biermann, president, described HDA as “a marketing co-operative owned by our members. We offer parts programs and services for all of our members.”

The group’s headquarters is located in St. Louis and is staffed by about 20 employees. “Here, we do all the billing, fleet processing, pay the vendors and buy and establish purchasing programs,” he said.

“We also conduct marketing, which includes store design and layout, advertising, name brand recognition, web development and signage, among other things,” Biermann added.

Additionally, this staff of 20 manages the National Warranty and unit down programs. “We call on our members to make sure all the programs work and we assist with fleet calls. There also are people in the field who call on the fleets,” he explained.

Biermann said the members want to be the best and most efficient mechanism for the fleet users to deal with when they need parts or services around the country.

When asked why the association is so necessary in the industry, he responded, “In order to compete with the big name plates, independent aftermarket distributors have to be a part of a network that offers the same thing and even more.”

Biermann continued, “There has been consolidation at all levels of the marketplace and we feel it will continue. As fleets and distributors get bigger you have to be in a network in order to offer the necessary programs, warranty, technology, etc., otherwise, you are very hard pressed to compete and offer what the customer wants. We also make the distributor more profitable through our purchasing power and programs.”

According to the group’s web site, HDA Parts Network is dedicated to increasing the personal net worth of its distributors through the best programs, services and pricing to benefit the membership.

Its vision is to be recognized globally as the premier network of distributors providing the highest quality and most cost effective products and services to the transportation industry.

The group may be well on its way. Following are some of the offerings HDA’s members receive.

  • HDA special advantages
  • Complete product coverage
  • Marketing and product information
  • Competitive pricing
  • Annual membership meetings
  • National and regional recognition
  • Realization that HDA members are the leaders in the industry
  • National fleet programs
  • National warranty program
  • Service partner program

Biermann discussed the different facets of HDA. “We buy parts for our members, we offer ancillary services, such as property and casualty insurance, listings in the yellow pages, uniforms, vehicles, freight delivery, office supplies and business forms,” he said. “We also offer several software programs to help our members run their businesses, enter orders, cross-reference parts and help the fleets.

“Our National Fleet division is the fastest growing segment of our business. We can quote, bill and deliver programs for the national and regional fleets because of our footprint and technology advantages,” Biermann explained.

The fleet program also offers consistent pricing, a national warranty program and 24-hour on-call availability of parts. Members can receive employee training and certification assistance as well as product training and can attend professional clinics.

Billing can be done locally or nationally, and “the fleets love getting billed the same price for parts and getting billed centrally for their parts-it makes life easier for them,” according to Biermann.

The service business also is growing, but a big deterrent is finding and retaining technicians. “That does not mean that the members are not trying to grow and enter the service business, it just means it is difficult. People want to be in service because margins are higher and you can help pull through additional business,” he added.

Biermann defined the issues impacting HDA and its members. “Consolidation at all levels, getting and keeping good people in the business, training and keeping skilled technicians, the Right to Repair Act and succession planning are issues affecting all of us in the aftermarket,” he said.

In a 2001 Truck Parts & Service interview, Biermann said that improvements in training and technology would be big issues for HDA in the future. Now, six years later, we asked him if that prediction was on target.

“The training has been very difficult. We still use vendors on product training but we are ready to hire our own trainer for skills and habits,” he said. “Technology has been steadily improving, and we’re still making it a priority. We now have electronic catalogs and pricing, we receive and send 80% of all billing electronically, we have electronic cross-reference materials and we are working on getting all our membership on the same software.

HDA Technology Advantage
(HDATA) provides members the ability to place orders, get quotes, post requests for hard-to-find parts and access Internet specials. (See associated sidebar for more information on HDATA).

Through its commitment to further develop available technology, training and programs to its members, HDA has gained momentum. Its increased membership is a testament to its 25 years of service, and from the look of things, it will continue to do what its been doing for another 25 years.

Technology Improvement
HD America offers HDA Technology Advantage (HDATA), designed to improve profitability by managing its members’ business transactions electronically and eliminating time-consuming paperwork and tracking.

HDATA executes transactions in real-time for parts ordering, parts status, monitoring and financial data, according to HDA. Below are the main features of HDATA.

  • Place orders on-line
  • Application information
  • Part number searches
  • Cross-reference
  • Tech tips
  • Fleet programs
  • Access supplier electronic catalogs
  • Create specials and flyers

Service Partner Program
Pat Biermann, president, HD America, defined the Service Partner Program as a “complete program designed to support and strengthen the relationship between our members and the heavy-duty service outlets, or installers, in their markets,” he said.

The group’s web site explained, “This program allows the installer to become part of an international organization. HDA Service Partners are set up to buy at our customers’ “A” level pricing all the time, and they have access to products and other items previously unavailable as an independent.”

Benefits of this program are highlighted on the web site:

  • National warranty program
  • Local advertising materials
  • National advertising
  • Internet listing
  • Marketing support
  • Technical training
  • Identification program
  • Quarterly communications
  • National roadside service
  • National image
Learn how to move your used trucks faster
With unsold used inventory depreciating at a rate of more than 2% monthly, efficient inventory turnover is a must for dealers. Download this eBook to access proven strategies for selling used trucks faster.
Used Truck Guide Cover