For many years, people in the heavy-duty collision repair industry were a part of the larger automotive collision repair industry. But trucks aren’t cars, and the needs of heavy-duty collision repair specialists are different from their automotive counterparts.
Several years ago, Brian Nessen, president and co-founder of the HD Repair Forum, started hearing “a steady drumbeat” that there was a need for a separate conference for businesses involved in heavy-duty collision repair. Enter the HD Repair Forum, an annual gathering of the key people in the heavy-duty collision repair market.
The group met for the first time last April, and the next conference is April 2-3 in Fort Worth, Texas.
One of the issues Nessen recognized early on was the lack of information available that specifically addressed the needs of the heavy-duty segment of collision repair. Whether it is information on estimating, parts, labor, equipment, training or even repair procedures, there just are not as many resources available to those involved in repairing big trucks following an accident.
Nessen says the goal of the HD Repair Forum “is to bring together industry leadership — the best and brightest minds in the industry — including collision shops, insurance companies, parts manufacturers, truck makers, trailer manufacturers, equipment distributors and independent appraisers.”
He adds, “It is incumbent on everyone as industry stakeholders to ask themselves how they can help solve the problems the industry faces.”
Jennie Lenk, communications manager, sees the job of the group as “getting the industry leaders in a room so they can talk about the issues they face. Our forum won’t necessarily resolve the problems in that room, but we will be the conduit for bringing people together.”
“The forum is one time a year,” Nessen says, “so the rest of the year we are hoping that by connecting people they will work on solutions that will eventually help the industry as a whole advance.”
The format for the conference includes two half days of “broad topics that appeal to everyone in the industry,” Lenk says. The balance of each day takes a more detailed look at human resources, legal, and technical issues to help owners run their businesses more effectively.
“It is also a great networking opportunity and a way for people to discuss what is going on in the collision industry and in the broader trucking industry that might affect collision repair,” Lenk explains.
Whether a fleet handles its collision repair internally or outsources the work to a dealer or independent collision repair specialist, “they need to understand what is happening when it comes to repairing their vehicles and making sure the repairs are done properly and efficiently,” Nessen says. “Time is money for fleets, so anything that is going to reduce the cycle time when the truck is being repaired following a crash puts money in their pocket.”
In addition to the conference, the group has a monthly newsletter and a website, www.hdrepairforum.com, “designed to get information out to all of our collision facilities and the industry in general, and to keep them up to date and current on any developments that may be occurring,” Lenk says.
Nessen and Lenk say they are looking for input from fleets and invite them to attend the next conference, where they expect 250 to 275 people. “We want industry leaders there, and we want them to give guidance and direction to help determine what the heavy-duty collision space is going to look like and to develop an approach for making improvements,” Nessen says.
“If you are interested in helping improve the heavy-duty collision industry, come to the conference and participate, because that is what we are all about.”