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Q&A WITH I-70 TRUCK CENTER
When a semi with a load of swarming honeybees pulls into your shop, who do you call? For Chris Roepke, the answer to this question (and many others) is Caterpillar. Read this truck shop story to find out how the owner of I-70 Truck Center in Effingham, Illinois, tackled this particular sticky situation — and how else his shop supports customers with trucks powered by Cat® on-highway engines.
I’ve messed around with cars, trucks, motorcycles and go-karts my whole life. My dad owned a fertilizer business, and I liked to tinker with things. After high school, I graduated from the Nashville Auto-Diesel College, then spent some time at a Peterbilt dealership. About 14 years ago, another guy and I started I-70 Truck Center and it’s grown ever since.
My partner retired a couple years ago, so it’s just me and my wife and our boys running the business now. We have 17 mechanics I try to keep busy every day. We’re a full-service shop — oil changes, differentials, overhauls, you name it. We’ve been servicing Cat truck engines since the beginning, and I personally have worked on them since I became a mechanic 33 years ago.
Construction customers, farmers hauling grain, concrete and lumber trucks — that’s our niche. These are people who need their truck for their job and they need it right now. And they know when they bring it here, the work gets done right.
I hear a lot of them talk about the durability — how long Cat engines last. It’s nothing for a customer to have well over a million miles on an overhaul.
They’re very easy to work on. I can put a water pump on a Cat 3406 engine in about four hours. With a lot of the other brands, it takes four hours just to get to the water pump. Caterpillar is also very good at getting us quality parts in a reasonable time. If you order a precious metals kit, you get everything you need to overhaul an engine and get it back on the road as quickly as possible.
Better quality and a better warranty. That gives our customers peace of mind. If you put in a quality Cat part, there’s going to be somebody standing behind that part. And if that part fails, you can go anywhere and have it replaced. You don’t necessarily have to come back to us in Effingham — any Cat dealer can do it and get you back on the road. The access to a lot of dealers is huge for many of my customers.
They’re a really good partner for us. For example, if we do an overhaul and the cylinder head has a crack or two, we don’t have to worry about the core charge. Caterpillar takes care of that. And they offer a lot of specials and discounts that we can pass on to our customers. Say a customer is going to put in one or two injectors, we can show them it’s a better deal to install all six.
We had a semi come in on a Friday with an injector out, and he was hauling a load of honeybees. He just had a net over them, and they were swarming all over the place. Obviously we didn’t want that semi around here any longer than we had to. We ordered an injector out of St. Louis [Peterbilt of St. Louis is I-70 Truck Center’s local authorized Cat dealer], and they brought it over to us and we got him going that evening. It was amazing. We were glad to see them all go — the customer and the bees. That’s just one of many examples of how everybody goes above and beyond the call of duty.
Having repeat customers and people bragging about how good a job we’ve done. Usually a new customer will tell us, “This guy referred me to you because he says you guys do very good work.” Reputation is everything. 99% of our customers are local, and around here, everybody talks to each other. I don’t really advertise at all — it’s just word of mouth.
See the bee story as I-70 Truck Center’s Chris Roepke tells it — in this installment of Stories from the Road.