COMMERCE CITY, CO. One of the latest additions to the Rush Truck Centers (RTC) dealership network – a 83,300 sq.-ft. facility located just outside Denver, CO – represents the culmination of a new reality in the truck maintenance and repair business: due to the electronics and computers being built into commercial vehicles today, they must be fixed in conditions that need to resemble “doctor’s offices” more than anything else.
“Dealerships are almost becoming like doctors’ offices. You cannot take [truck] engines apart in a dirty environment. You have to be extremely clean,” explained Mike Barr, vice president-on highway support for Cummins Inc., to Fleet Owner during a special “grand opening” event here at the Rush Truck Centers-Denver location – though in reality the site has been open and working for over a year.
“Dealerships put a ridiculous amount of money into the training of technicians and purchasing of their tooling,” Barr pointed out. “[Truck] engines are put together by scientists and almost taken apart and put back together by scientists. [And] you can‘t dissect these transmissions in your backyard garage anymore. There’s a degree of expectation that comes with purchasing these vehicles. You pay $200,000 for one; you expect $200,000-quality service when it breaks.”
W.M. “Rusty” Rush, chairman and CEO of Rush Enterprises – RTC’s parent company – was on hand at the grand opening ceremony, along with Tony Stewart, legendary NASCAR driver and co-owner of the Rush-sponsored Stewart-Haas Racing team, as well as a variety of customers and other trucking industry executives.
“It’s hard to explain having so many great employees,” Rush told Fleet Owner. “It makes your heart want to jump out of your chest. I love the industry, it’s a tight industry. These are people you do business with all your life.”
He added that to build an organization like RTC to its current size – 108 locations in 21 states selling and supporting both heavy- and medium-duty trucks across North America with 6,300 employees – is something “not given to you.” Rather, it must be earned from the customer base.
“We have the best and brightest people in the U.S. when it comes to our industry,” Rush said. “The results they produce day in and day out speak for themselves. It’s not me. I’m just waving a flag, counting on all these folks to get it done.”
And “getting it done” is big business for Rush in the trucking industry. RTC sells and service Peterbilt, International, Mitsubishi Fuso, Ford, Hino, and Isuzu trucks largely across the southern U.S., all backed by a $130+ million parts inventory.
Meanwhile, Rush Enterprises as a whole reported revenues of $1.045 billion and net income of $14.5 million in the first quarter this year and RTC sold 2,706 Class 8 trucks in the first quarter, which accounted for 7.1% of all the U.S. Class 8 trucks sold within the industry during that three-month period.
For 2016 overall, Rush generated revenues of $4.2 billion and net income of $40.6 million.
At RTC’s open house ceremony, guests had the opportunity to walk around the grounds, check out new trucks and get information on truck products and services from various company representatives at 20 or so tables flanking a tent that housed a DJ playing music and a barbeque lunch.
“This is a great opportunity for us to showcase our new dealership,” noted Justin Goree, RTC’s regional general manager for Colorado. “It’s also great for our employees to be able to come together. We host these kinds of events to show our customer base what we’re able to do.”
He said it has taken four years to finish building the Denver center, which covers 83,000 sq. ft. on 13.5 acres, features over 50 service bays, and is currently staffed by 55 technicians.
“We moved here April 1, 2016, but chose to have the open house now because the weather and timing was just right,” Goree noted.
Alongside several Class 8 units getting worked on in the facility’s service bays, several Rush technicians explained to Fleet Owner how the design of the RTC-Denver facility represents a big improvement in working conditions.
“This new facility makes working here easy,” said Brian Luyk. “It’s bright and the floors are nice. There’s a lot of room so you can get more work done. It’s a pleasure to work here.”
Asked how many trucks he would service in a day, Mike Medina stressed that it depended on the size of the jobs.
“A small fender repair, you get that knocked out and move on to the next job,” he said. “But some repairs take weeks, depending on what’s needed. We get a lot of semis that are rolled over from the wind, blown over. Sometimes you have to do the whole side of a truck.”
“The lighting makes a big difference too,” noted John Beall. “You walk in to some shops with fluorescent bulbs that have been in for 10 years, it’s like working in a dungeon. Here it’s high-tech LED [light emitting diode] lighting.”
Cummins had a trailer at the event, inside of which were several of its distinct and recently redesigned red-colored engines. Cummins’ Barr noted that his company is happy to be working with RTC as both benefit from an improved focus on the service end of the trucking business.
“This is true partnership,” he pointed out. “We can be angry with each other because our product didn’t work, or didn’t get the truck in and out quickly, but we still shake hands every day. We just want to solve people’s problems as quickly as we can.”
Kyle Quinn, general manager of Peterbilt Motors Co. – the main truck brand RTC represents – explained that the OEM is “really excited” to see Rush expand and grow its capabilities.
“To us it means better service for customers and overall a bigger footprint in the area,” he noted. “This is a consistent theme across Peterbilt. We’ve expanded by more than 25 locations in the last year and it’s something we’re continuing to do.”
Tony Stewart had the most practical answer when asked by Fleet Owner why he chose to work with Rusty Rush and his company.
“With Rush we’re taken care of,” he said, speaking about the importance of the vehicles that transport his cars, machinery, computer electronics and tools from race to race.
“That’s the best part, the peace of mind,” Stewart explained. “I’m not joking when I tell people that the trucks are the most important piece of our equipment. You could spend 10,000 hours on a [race] car, but if something happens and it doesn’t get to the racetrack on time, all that work is for nothing.”