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When it comes to the annual trucking calendar, few events rival the HD Repair Forum in terms of focus and significance. This year, the forum made a triumphant return to Fort Worth, Texas, after a two-year collaboration with the ATA's Technology & Maintenance Council (TMC). The relocation back to Texas was warmly welcomed, as evidenced by the impressive turnout of attendees and the exceptional educational program that unfolded.

Geared towards providing business guidance and technical support to the medium- and heavy-duty body shop and collision repair industry, the HD Repair Forum offers a remarkable opportunity for service operations to enhance their shop throughput, optimize technician performance, improve operational efficiency, and stay abreast of emerging products and technologies that will shape the industry's future.

The Ace Truck Body and Trailer Repair team were in attendance to capture the highlights. Here are some of the notable moments from the HD Repair Forum, as compiled by the team.

A standout session during this year's forum centered on the service and maintenance of advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS). Led by Bendix's Joe Lauritzen, the discussion delved into the intricate technical complexities of ADAS components and sensors. Lauritzen emphasized the crucial need for careful handling during all service events, highlighting how a seemingly minor error, such as reattaching a sensor at an incorrect angle, can significantly diminish system performance and increase the risk of road accidents. Lauritzen reassured attendees that ADAS manufacturers offer an abundance of technical information and support lines, ensuring that technicians can access the necessary guidance to execute repairs accurately every time.

Workplace culture also took center stage, with an enlightening presentation by AzkoNobel's Jeff Rhoads. Rhoads shed light on how a service shop's internal dynamics can profoundly impact employee morale and performance. Stressing the importance of cultivating a positive work environment, Rhoads cautioned against toxic workplaces, citing them as the primary reason employees leave a business. Given the acute shortage of skilled workers in the heavy-duty collision industry, Rhoads emphasized the need for shops to go above and beyond to create a workplace that employees genuinely want to be part of. He provided actionable guidance, including strategies to increase employee engagement, foster personal connections with workers, and the significance of leaders sharing their corporate vision with their team members.

On the conference's second day, Jim Barber from Bendix built upon Lauritzen's presentation by highlighting the imperative for service shops to adapt their capabilities to handle newer equipment. Barber underscored the rapid advancement of truck technology, predicting that the next five years will witness more significant progress than the past two decades. Independent shops, Barber argued, cannot shy away from challenging work if they aim to sustain their long-term viability. Encouragingly, original equipment (OE) suppliers actively support the survival of the independent service channel, offering diagnostic equipment, technical training, and other resources to keep shops up to date with the latest equipment on the roads. Barber concluded by cautioning that facilities exclusively focused on mechanical repairs would become obsolete in the industry's evolving landscape.

Undoubtedly, one of the most well-attended sessions of the event was a panel discussion featuring three insurance experts. The panel addressed the critical topic of how service shops should capture and submit photos during the insurance claims process. This session proved invaluable as the panelists shared common mistakes made by technicians and service shops when photographing damages, often leading to delays and friction in the claims process. A key takeaway from the discussion was the importance of submitted photos aligning with the shop's estimate. The panelists stressed that comprehensive visual documentation of all damages prevents unnecessary hostilities during the claims process and expedites resolution.