With sales of medium- and heavy-duty trucks down by 47% this year, one would think most commercial truck dealers would be in world of hurt. But that's not necessarily so, as many dealers are finding there's business to be had if the right mix of products and services are offered customers.

"Our new truck sales are down, compared to typical years, because of this depressed economy," Brad Wilson, president of Sioux City Truck Sales, Inc., told FleetOwner. "[But] our parts and service business is helping us survive. Our dealerships are also seeing increasing business from other than traditional [long-haul] trucking companies, such as private carriers plus vocational customers in manufacturing, distribution, and refuse collection. They are a growing segment of our customer base."

Wilson said Sioux City Truck Sales owns four Peterbilt dealerships – three in Iowa plus a brand new $2 million, 18,000 sq. ft. facility built on over five acres outside of Norfolk, NE – and each has posted strong increases in parts and service business this year and last.

"Each of our four Peterbilt stores set new records for annual parts and service sales in 2008, with both categories up over 10% company-wide, continuing the steady annual growth in our market," he explained to FleetOwner. "This is a sign that our customers are running their vehicles longer and must spend more on parts and maintenance."

It's examples like these that Kyle Treadway – the new chairman of the American Truck Dealers (ATD) and president of Kenworth Sales Company in Salt Lake City – believes should help sustain truck dealers through the current rough patch.

"With heavy-truck sales in decline, [we must] focus on tackling a ‘crisis of confidence' in truck retailing that is making it difficult for some new-truck dealers to sustain daily operations," he said in comments released ahead of the ATD annual convention in Washington, D.C. "The number-one1 issue right now is lack of consumer and corporate confidence," he noted. "

"We need to get the word out that yes, we're in the down part of a cycle, but it will come back. It always does," said Treadway.