One of the marks of a smart businessman is the ability to recognize a market need and successfully address it. That sort of entrepreneurship is something Gerry Turchak manages very well. Turchak owns Nor-Mar Industries, Ltd and its subsidiary, Brutus Truck Bodies. Located in Penticton in the Okanagan Valley of British Columbia, Turchak’s company builds heavy-duty truck bodies designed to take on the severest challenges of the harsh Canadian terrain. Brutus bodies are primarily used in the forestry, construction, mining, and petroleum industries. Those rugged sectors are no place for sissy trucks. Brutus bodies are known and respected for their strength, durability, and quality builds. As with so many success stories, however, Turchak didn’t get there overnight.
ONE TO THOUSANDS
In 1975, Turchak owned a Navistar dealership in Penticton and sold new and used trucks. He also had a repair facility and body shop on the premises for heavy-duty trucks. He had 16 employees. In 1981, a customer drove in and made a request that transformed Turchak’s business. The customer made the mistake of putting a weighty logging skidder tire in the back of his 3/4-ton pickup, and the truck’s bedside collapsed. The customer said, “I wish someone would make a heavy-duty pickup bed for us loggers.”
Turchak heard him, recognized the opportunity, and quickly bought two heavy-duty, off-highway bush boxes that he used to design a stronger custom-style pickup bed. He installed it, the customer was thrilled, and soon word of mouth changed the scope of Turchak’s business. Another customer ordered the same bed. A third customer asked, “You’re making fleetside beds; can you make a stepside bed?” Turchak could, and did. Later, a logging crew had chainsaws stolen from its pickups. The boss asked Turchak if he could make secure cabinets for the bed. Yet another customer asked if Turchak could build a bed with steel cabinets for a 1-ton truck carrying a compressor and fuel tank. The answer to these and other similar questions was always yes. Within six months, Turchak was in the body-building business. It didn’t stop there. As customers required assistance, Turchak had solutions. “By 2001, things were booming,” Turchak says. “I decided to sell the Navistar dealership and focus on body building.”
BRUTUS IS BORN
At the time, the business was still called Nor-Mar, but Turchak wanted a better name for his truck bodies. “I wanted something that people would remember and associate with strength, so we came up with Brutus,” he says. The business has since grown exponentially.
These days, Brutus’s facilities include five large buildings spread over seven acres. All work—design, fabrication, assembly, painting, and repairs—is done on the premises. Turchak employs more than 80 full-time fabricators, engineers, technicians, craftsmen, painters, and other specialists. He uses sophisticated 3D CAD software and rigorous testing to develop the solutions his customers require. He and his son Curtis, sales manager, oversee the operations.
Brutus regularly turns out everything from small pickup beds to three- and four-axle steel or aluminum-bodied monster trucks destined for the tar sands of Northern Alberta. These require 300+ man-hours to produce and cost upward of $750,000. “We do a lot of one-offs,” Turchak says. “We have niches. Customers know they can call us to figure out specific issues.”
One example he cites was a request from a BC railroad company for an emergency transport vehicle to be used by its crews. The construction teams usually required three vehicles. Brutus created a custom truck body that incorporated a stretcher carrier box as well as a 95-gallon fuel tank. The combination allowed the railroad to eliminate two vehicles per crew, thereby cutting costs while still meeting government safety requirements.
Turchak’s team works directly with truck dealers to ensure that customers get exactly what they need. Working with Brutus, customers indicate the brand and model truck they’re buying and how the truck will be used. Brutus helps the customer and dealer spec out axles, displacement, suspension—all the critical details. The dealer then delivers the appropriate truck to meet the specs, and Brutus builds the body.
THE BRUTUS LOOK
Turchak’s engineers integrate cranes, winches, compressors, and other equipment to address specific customer requirements. Brutus sticks to premium name brand parts and components for quality. One requirement consistent with all customers is truck appearance—specifically, its finish. For that, Brutus has a 55-foot spray booth that can handle two heavy-duty vehicles. The semi-downdraft booth puts out 5 million BTUs and completes a paint cycle in just 60 minutes.
Brutus uses PPG DELFLEET ESSENTIAL®, DELFLEET® EVOLUTION, and Commercial Performance Coatings products from PPG distributor Lordco Auto Parts in Penticton. As Turchak explains, “We’ve been using PPG products for 25 years. The main benefits are always consistent finish—no surprises, user-friendly, excellent color-matching, very good UV resistance, good chip and corrosion resistance. But most important is the outstanding PPG and Lordco service.”
Brutus Truck Bodies’ success keeps Turchak busy. Opportunity presented itself years ago, and Turchak recognized it. “Things just happened. You never want to turn away a customer. I found that meeting the needs of one would allow me to meet the needs of many, many others.”
FOR MORE INFORMATION
Brutus Truck Bodies, by Nor-Mar Industries, Ltd, are designed for harsh industries and use the finest construction standards, equipment, and materials, including PPG products. Find out more, visit www.brutusbodies.com and www.ppgcommercialcoatings.com. Eli Greenbaum is an automotive writer based in Metro Detroit. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.