‘Entrepreneurial Spirit’ Leads Nation’s Truck Dealers through Crisis, ATD Chairman Says

ORLANDO, Fla. (April 24, 2010) - Like many in the U.S. trucking industry, the nation's new heavy- and medium-duty truck dealers were hit hard by the recession, the chairman of the American Truck Dealers (ATD) said today.

But the dealers' “incredible entrepreneurial spirit” led them through the worst, said ATD Chairman Kyle Treadway, president of Kenworth Sales Co. in Salt Lake City, Utah.

“We're here today because each of us learned over the past three years to assess the situation, inventory our resources, prioritize the needs and plan accordingly,” Treadway said in remarks to attendees at the 47th annual ATD Convention & Expo in Orlando, Fla., which runs through Monday, April 26. 

“That entrepreneurial spirit is challenged by a host of serious issues: none more important than the devalued used truck market,” Treadway said. “Commercial lenders have been reluctant to put marginal customers out of business for fear of being saddled with more repossessed used trucks.”

Treadway said the lack of available credit also looms large, and dealers have access to fewer lenders who are also fighting for survival. “We face critical needs for not only operational and flooring lines, but retail credit for our customers,” he said.

Another significant issue facing dealers is how to better manage customer expectations when it comes to delivering real-time information, Treadway said.

“Our customers are on the vanguard, and expect us to keep up the pace: the commercial aspects of social media continue to unfold,” Treadway said. “Twitter and Facebook pages are being used by major fleets to network and recruit drivers.”

Though sales of heavy- and medium-duty trucks declined more than 50 percent since 2006, only 123 dealerships or about four percent of the national network were forced to close last year, said Treadway.

And despite the many hardships still facing the industry - with more than 4,000 fleets in bankruptcy and 160,000 trucks sidelined - truck dealers have emerged stronger and better positioned to succeed, he said. “The crisis also afforded dealers a rare opportunity to shed light on the important role they play in their communities, states and the nation as a whole,” he said.

“Dealers spoke up and made themselves heard on a national scale,” said Treadway. “Not only did our elected leaders in Washington experience some backlash, but the media and the public learned how significant we dealers are to the national and local economies.”

To help businesses thrive and survive, Treadway urged his fellow dealers to enroll in the new NADA-ATD University, which provides online courses, convention workshops and other seminars.

“The launch of NADA University is just the beginning,” he said. “It will continually grow with more courses, more online resources and more of what [dealers] need to build a winning dealership team.”

In an earlier meeting, Treadway said ATD is concerned about new regulatory challenges, including a potentially harmful Senate proposal that would transfer the authority of the Department of Transportation to the Environmental Protection Agency when determining fuel economy rules for medium- and heavy-duty trucks.

Treadway represents the third generation of his family to run three dealership groups in seven Western states. He spends his time between 19 locations in Utah, Nevada, Wyoming, Washington, Oregon, Montana and Idaho. The dealerships employ 650 people.

Before taking over the family business, Treadway served as associate counsel for the law firm of Mooney and Smith. He's a member of the American Bar Association, as well as the state bar associations of Utah, Washington and Idaho.