Business city’s ‘best kept secret’

Mirror photo by Gary M. Baranec / Allegheny Trucks mechanic Bryan Benton makes repairs to a diesel engine on Thursday.

Allegheny Trucks has been called one of the best kept secrets in Altoona.

The family-owned-and-operated full-service International truck dealership is celebrating its 40th year of servicing the trucking industry.

The business began in 1978 when Larry Hale and partner George Riley bought the International Harvester factory branch in Altoona and opened at 3100 Seventh Ave., the longtime site of King’s Family Restaurant, which is a Rutters convenience store today.

In 1982, Peterman’s Garage GMC dealership was purchased and Allegheny Trucks Inc. moved to the 239 Greenwood Road location, where it remains today.

In the early 1990s, Larry Hale became sole owner of the business.

Mirror photo by Gary M. Baranec / Allegheny Trucks employee Todd Srock cleans part of a truck emissions system on Thursday.

Hale passed away suddenly in 2011 and his son, Christopher Hale, who had joined the business in 1991, took over as owner.

Today, Allegheny Trucks is a complete shop for new and used commercial truck sales, service, parts, tires, body shop and towing/recovery to service all of their customers’ transportation needs.

Sales of commercial, vocational and municipal trucks, as well as tractors, make up a significant part of the business.

“In a good year, we sell about 100 commercial vehicles. We have gained 10 percent year over year in sales, rentals and leasing for the last four years,” said Jeff Schultz, general sales manager.

However, the parts and service departments — which are open seven days a week — are a critical part of the business, Schultz said.

Schultz brags about the service department.

“We get it done right the first time. We also have a wrecker operator or principal who will road test the truck to make sure it is fixed properly,” he said. “The quicker we get the truck up and running the happier they are. That makes things much smoother. Once the truck is here, there is nothing we can’t do on a truck. We do it right and stand behind our work.”

A “down” truck costs its owner money.

“‘Downtime’ is a bad word in our industry, it is a huge loss of revenue when a truck is broken. We have the parts ready when they need them, which makes them happy. We care about the customer. We are not a car store selling truck parts — this is what we do. The service department is the most critical part of the dealership,” Schultz said.

Allegheny Trucks has expanded its services over the years, adding tire sales in 1998.

“All of our customers were going to need tires for their trucks,” Hale said.

The addition of wrecker service in 2002 was also very significant.

Today, Allegheny Trucks has four Class 8 wreckers, which can tow large trucks.

“Our towing business is the backbone of the organization,” Schultz said.

“It was a service we felt we would do well at. This way we can control our customers experience from start to finish,” Hale said.

Also in 2002, Allegheny Trucks added a 15,000-square-foot addition to its building to accommodate its steady growth.

“It was a major expansion. It nearly doubled the size of the business,” Schultz said.

A local stable economy has been beneficial in enabling Allegheny Trucks to grow.

“The economy in this area has stabilized over the last five to ten years, which has helped. We have a tight-knit organization. If your truck breaks down we have the people to fix it,” Schultz said. “I think the recipe for growth is we service what we sell. Our hours and flexibility makes a huge difference. Our seven days a week policy is huge.”

Technology has led to some changes in the business.

“Trucks are more computerized and difficult to work on. You need specialized tools and certificates to work on trucks. Advances in emissions technology have really changed the industry. As a result of technology, the truck of 30 years ago isn’t the same truck today,” Schultz said.

Allegheny Trucks became an Idealease franchise in 2015.

“We do full service leasing and daily rentals. There was a big demand for it. Customers were asking to rent trucks,” Schultz. “It became difficult for customers to fix their own delivery trucks. We started with three units and are now up to about 50.”

The company’s 50 employees have played a major role in Allegheny Trucks success.

“We fix it right the first time, we do it as well as anyone. We make sure we eliminate processes that allow for human error,” Schultz said. “The people here care about their jobs. They want to put their name on it, there is a lot of integrity in their work. No one operates as smooth and efficient as they do.”

“It is run by the employees, we try to give them the best place to work. We try to have the best dealership for them to work at,” Hale said.

Ward Transport & Logistics Corp. — formerly Ward Trucking — has been a longtime customer.

“The company and employees are very customer centric. This culture is driven by the commitment and dedication of the owner, Chris Hale,” said CEO William T. Ward.

“Their dedication and customer focus is first class. Myself and Ward Trucking truly value the long relationship we have with Allegheny Trucks,” said Adam P. Ward, director of inside logistics solutions.

Allegheny Trucks is expected to continue to grow in the future.

“We expect to see controlled growth. You need to do it at a pace where you can control it. If you grow you want to be sure it is sustainable. We see leasing and rentals as our growth opportunity,” Schultz said. “If you don’t take care of your customers, someone else will.”

Mirror Staff Writer Walt Frank is at 946-7467.