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Aftermarket parts firm caters to heavy-duty truck operatorsSmall Business Week 2013

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John Lowry, left, and James Kraybill co-own Class 8 Parts Inc. The Lancaster County supplier of heavy-duty truck parts is celebrating its 15th year in business. Photo/Amy Spangler
John Lowry, left, and James Kraybill co-own Class 8 Parts Inc. The Lancaster County supplier of heavy-duty truck parts is celebrating its 15th year in business. Photo/Amy Spangler

Fueled by local truck fleet and repair shop demand, Earl Township-based Class 8 Parts Inc. has shown no signs of pumping the brakes on its growing aftermarket and replacement parts business.

The Lancaster County company, which was founded in 1998 by two area salesmen, has evolved from a five-employee shop with 6,000 square feet of warehouse space to 30 employees and a 21,000-square-foot facility on Orlan Road just outside of New Holland.

"We've been fortunate to have growth (every year) since we started," said James "Fats" Kraybill, Class 8's vice president and co-owner.

Even with a prolonged dip in the economy, the company has consistently grown sales about 4 to 9 percent per year, he said. Today its sales are more than $6 million annually.

And Class 8 isn't looking to downshift any time soon, Kraybill said. The company currently works with about 100 vendors and suppliers who cater to heavy-duty truck operators.

"When we see an opportunity to help (our customers) save money or make it easier for them, that's what we look towards," he said of the company's inventory, which continues to expand.

More than half of that demand is consumer-driven, he said. And technology, especially in areas such as lighting, is paving the way for new options.

"Customers are keeping trucks and equipment longer, so they are spending more money to maintain them," Kraybill said.

Go-to source

Class 8 has cornered the market within a 60- to 70-mile radius of New Holland, with daily deliveries throughout Lancaster County and into surrounding counties, including Berks, Chester, Lebanon and York.

"With us, we need good parts and price needs to be competitive," said Vic Martin, corporate fleet manager for Dart Container Corp., which has operations in Lancaster County. "That's the name of the game when you run a fleet."

Dart routinely buys parts from Class 8 because it's a reliable and honest company with reasonable prices, Martin said.

"If it wasn't for a company like them, you would have to deal with the dealers all the time," said Larry Fetter, farm manager for Penn Township-based Kreider Farms.

Kreider relies on Class 8 for its wide selection of aftermarket options and attractive prices, he said.

"The prices are often better than the dealers," he said.

About 80 percent of Class 8's sales come from business customers, including a loyal owner-operator base, Kraybill said. Much of it is for agriculture-related entities — milk haulers and other liquid materials — as well as flat-bed trucks for machinery and general freight haulers.

Expansion

The owners have plans to expand beyond their current delivery territory, Kraybill said. However, the challenge is finding the right people who understand trucks and the needs of customers.

"It's a unique business," he said. "You don't just pick it up and become good in six, nine or 12 months. It takes two to four years to get comfortable."

Kraybill said the goal would be to expand the delivery service to 100 miles and potentially open up branch locations.

"It's more of not having experienced personnel," he said. "It's hard to attract people to get into this kind of industry. We're always looking for guys that want to get involved."

Having the people in place would open up possibilities in markets such as Sunbury and Allentown or near the Maryland line, Kraybill said.

An expanded staff of knowledgeable and experienced people also could create the potential for part sales in the medium-duty truck classes, he added.

But for now, continued success will be dependent on quality service and strong array of products, Kraybill said.

In 2012, aftermarket sales totaled $307.7 billion, or 3.5 percent over the previous year, according to the Automotive Aftermarket Industry Association. Heavy-duty vehicle aftermarket sales made up $76.5 billion of that total.

Jason Scott

Jason Scott

Jason Scott covers state government, real estate and construction, media and marketing, and Dauphin County. Have a tip or question for him? Email him at jasons@cpbj.com. Follow him on Twitter, @JScottJournal. Circle Jason Scott on .

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