Can a Salvage Yard be Green?

Before I started working for TPI, I would drive by salvage yards and stare at the heaps of gutted vehicles piled high into the air, and think that all of those heaps could only mean one thing:  bad stuff for the environment.  I mean, the equation generally looks like this:  vehicle = environmental problem.  Am I right?  Well, not exactly.  Now that I have more experience with what salvage yards do and how they can function, I know that they can actually be considered environmental stewards when they are doing things correctly, as well as being involved in the largest recycling industry in the United States, the automotive one.  The answer to my question, then, is ‘yes,’ salvage yards CAN be green.  Let’s take a look at how that can happen.

When we think of vehicles in environmental terms, we tend to think of them as being less than green.  Their carbon footprint is large, and the majority of this impact comes from the manufacturing process and  the subsequent use of fossil fuels in their running.  However, at the end of a vehicle’s life, this carbon footprint can be reduced in a variety of ways, and the environmentally responsible management of salvage yards can help make a necessary industry (vehicle dismantling) a green one.  We will start by looking at some of the ways salvage yards implement the 3 R’s, reduce, reuse and recycle:

  1. Gas tanks and batteries: Gas tanks are punctured, emptied and removed, and then shredded for scrap metal (se no. 4 below).  The fuel is then reused by recyclers or sold for re-use.  Batteries are tested and ones that are in good condition are sold for re-use.  If they are not in good shape, they are sent out to be rebuilt or recycled.
  1. Tires: Tires that are still in good shape (with lots of tread life) are sold for re-use, and those that are no longer safe can be sold to recyclers and processed in different ways.   Tires represent a problem in terms of landfill due to their non-decomposability, size, and shape.  As well, when they are sitting around in landfills, they collect rainwater and become breeding grounds for insects and the diseases they carry.  Because of the need to get them out of landfills, recycling them has become an important industry.  Currently, recycled tires can be transformed into playground and transportation surfaces, garden mulch, shoe treads, and a whole lot of other useful things, including a type of fuel.
  1. Usable parts: as the vehicle is dismantled, usable parts are removed, inventoried and put up for sale, thereby providing an alternative to the purchase of new parts.  A reduction in the demand for new parts equates to a reduction in the environmental impact caused by their manufacture.
  1. Unusable hulk (shell of the vehicle): This portion of the vehicle is crushed and sent to be shredded into small pieces for recovery.  The metals are divided up into ferrous (iron) and non-ferrous and sold to scrap-metal recyclers.  By using scrap metal in different products (including new cars), we reduce, again, the damaging effects of manufacturing from new.
  1. Fluids: automotive fluids (anti-freeze, washer fluid, Freon and other refrigerants) pose a significant risk to the environment, and government bodies normally encourage strict standards of drainage and storage (see below for more information on storm water).  With these standards followed, there is a much lower risk of ground and water being contaminated.  The ARA (Automotive Recyclers Association) estimates that each year the industry collects and reuses or recycles:
  • 8 million gallons of gasoline and diesel fuel
  • 24 million gallons of motor oil
  • 8 million gallons of engine coolant
  • 5 million gallons of windshield washer fluid
  • 96% of all lead acid batteries

The amount of fluids and oils safely recovered is equivalent to 8 Exxon Valdez disasters.  That’s quite the figure, isn’t it?

The recycling and reuse of automotive fluids brings us to environmental stewardship, which is defined by the United States Environmental Protection Agency as “the responsibility for environmental quality shared by all those whose actions affect the environment.”  While there are still salvage yards that fly under the radar so to speak, most serious ones will adhere to the recommendations proposed by government bodies and industry associations.  In following these recommendations, the salvage yards increase their environmental responsibility substantially.  A major way that salvage companies can exercise this responsibility is by implementing preventative measures in their actual physical yards.  Storm water management is a great example of this.

Storm water is “water that originates during precipitation events and snow/ice melt” (Wikipedia).  As run-off, this storm water can soak into the ground or be carried into lakes, rivers or other bodies of water, and will pull pollution along with it.  The dismantling of vehicles can release different types of toxins (our example of fluid draining above is an example of this) which are then absorbed into storm water if certain precautions aren’t taken.  The repeated release of pollutants into storm water causes cumulative damage that is costly and difficult to correct retroactively.  This is where storm water management comes in.

In storm water management, a general idea to follow is that “only rain is in the drain.”  In other words, no other fluids or pollutants should be allowed to mix in any way with storm water or seep into the ground.  Some of the ways these preventative measures can be accomplished are as follows:

  • Prevention of spills and leaks: work with basins under any identified leaks or when you are removing fluids;
  • Clean up of spills immediately: if you see a spill, contain it by wiping it up, surround it with rags, socks or pillows, or put an absorbent material like kitty litter on it.  Discard the clean-up items responsibly in a designated container;
  • Handle fluids properly: this means storing fluids in easily identifiable and adequate containers, which also have some sort of secondary container (i.e. steel drum) to prevent a larger spill.  Also, make sure not to mix fluids as this can create hazardous waste and is difficult to dispose of afterwards;
  • Items stored outside: any items stored outside that also contain oil need to be covered so that they don’t have contact with rain or snow.

Many of these measures are common sense and require just a few extra implements and some adjustments to a yard’s routine.  Others might be a bit more time-consuming and complex, but the end result is well worth it as the impact on the environment is lessened to a considerable degree, and the need for cleaning up toxic messes later on, at much great cost, is greatly reduced, if not eliminated altogether.

Far from being environmental monsters, then, responsible salvage yards actually provide a highly necessary service in a world that relies on automotive transport to such a large degree.  It is estimated that up to 75% to 90% of a vehicles components can be reused or recycled, and if yards follow recommended dismantling procedures in their work, there is also important stewardship being practiced.  After learning all of this, I see the salvage yards on the sides of highways in a different way now, and appreciate the contribution they make to a cleaner, healthier world to live in.


Useful links:

Environmental Protection Agency (The United States)

Automotive Recyclers’ Association (The United States)

Canadian Environmental Protection Act

The Canadian Auto Recyclers’ Environmental Code


8 Tips to Help Truck Drivers Stay Awake Longer

Guest post from Marjorie Gates, Content Developer at Braodstreet Consulting for Busbee’s Trucks & Parts in Wagener, South Carolina.


For commericial truck drivers, long days and crazy sleep schedules make staying awake and alert for long periods of time difficult, but it is necessary if you want to be a safe & efficient driver. Here are some tips to stay awake and alert for longer periods of time.

Avoid High Contrast Lights At Night

The great contrast between the bright lights and pitch black will mess with your eyes and can make them feel heavy after a while. With the bright headlights coming straight at you and dashboard lights in your face at night it can take a toll. Two options are to drive with soft red lights to light the interior of the cab just a little at night, and to turn your dash lights down so they are just bright enough to see the gauges. And of course do your best to never look directly at the oncoming headlights.

Don’t Allow Yourself To Get Too Exhausted

Don’t keep pushing on when you’re already tired. This is incredibly dangerous. You need sleep. When you start feeling tired, try to squeeze in a quick nap or go to bed early for the night. The more exhausted you are when you finally get some sleep the less alert you’re going to feel when you get up.

Turn The Temperature Down

Keeping your medium or heavy-duty truck cold will help you stay awake and be more alert. Keeping your commercial truck warm and comfortable will make you feel much more tired much faster, and ready for a nap. Turn down the temperature in the cab to keep you a little more alert.

Turn Off The Radios

Your CB radio, music, and talk shows can be highly entertaining, but also quite exhausting. Your mind is processing every sound it takes in. As you bombard your brain with stimuli you get more and more tired. Drive along for a while enjoying the soft hum of the engine and wheels going down the highway. You’ll feel more calm and relaxed.

Turn Your Radio Back On

Ok the quiet gets tiresome after a while also. The endless hum of the engine and tires is relaxing, but maybe it’s putting you in a trance. Crank up some tunes, the CB radio, or a talk show for a short time and wake yourself up a little bit.

Avoid Large Doses Of Caffeine

There’s no denying that caffeine gives you a nice boost once in a while, and there’s nothing wrong with taking it in in small amounts. So sip on coffee, if you’d like, but watch out for caffeine overload. When you start mixing different stimulants like coffee and energy drinks, you’re not only putting your health at risk but you’re going to crash hard after a while. Go easy on the caffeine and stimulants.

Avoid Large Portions Of Food

How many holidays do we spend eating as much as possible, and 30 minutes later taking a nap or wishing we were? A full belly makes us sleepy. Eat 5 – 6 smaller meals throughout the day instead of a few large ones. You’ll feel better, and it’s a lot healthier for you.

Get Something To Eat

In the right amounts at the right time a snack or small meal can be a great energy booster. Fruit & natural sugars are great for energy.

There is no substitute for sleep. That’s not what this was about. These are ways to keep your energy levels high and give yourself a little boost when you’re not feeling as sharp as you’d like to.

Stay Safe This Winter With The Right Equipment For Your Medium Duty Truck

Guest post from Marjorie Gates, Content Developer at Braodstreet Consulting for Busbee’s Trucks & Parts in Wagener, South Carolina.

In the South, the winter weather isn’t too much to fear. But in the Northern states winter can last longer than we wish. Trip planning is the key to safe and stress free winter truck driving.

Take notes on where the chain up and chain off places are.  Build a library of safe places to park so you have alternatives when your planned stop does not pan out.

A big part of trip planning in the winter is making sure you have the proper equipment.

Be prepared and have the right equipment for the job (and the weather).

Related: Cold Weather Starting Medium-Duty Box Trucks

Items you should make sure you have:

Chaining equipment

  •     Chains – make sure you have enough and have the right size!
  •     Bungees
  •     Cam Lock T-handles
  •     Good, waterproof gloves
  •     Reflective vest
  •     Flashlight
  •     Kneeling pad

Personal Equipment

  •     Boots with good traction
  •     Hats, gloves, scarves – whatever you need to keep you warm
  •     Extra warm bedding

Equipment for the Truck

  •     Extra Washer Fluid
  •     Anti-gel, Anti-gel, Anti-gel


A proper Pre-Trip Inspection should be done rain or shine, but it becomes even more important in the winter.  Make sure all lights work because half of them will be covered in road grime after 50 miles in the snow.  Drain air from both the truck’s tanks and the trailer’s.  Condensation in the air lines is the #1 cause of frozen brakes.  Having a flat tire can be catastrophic.  A breakdown on the truck in sub-zero temperatures quickly turns into a life threatening situation.

Check your equipment while en route – especially before going into the storm. Also, do not forget to stop after going through a patch of bad weather to knock the snow and ice off the mud flaps, ICC bumper, chain hangers, etc.

Remember, when the weather is bad, you may not be able to call for help. Be prepared to get yourself out of any situation.

Cloud What?

A brief explanation of cloud computing

If someone mentions the benefits of cloud computing to you and your only response is, “Cloud what?”, here is a definition:

Cloud computing can be defined as “a type of internet-based computing that provides shared computer processing resources and data to computers and other devices on demand.”  (source:  Wikipedia)

You’re still thinking, “Cloud what?”, right?  We don’t blame you, it can all seem pretty confusing.  If you’re not already familiar with technology or computers, none of that definition will make much sense.  To try and clear up a few things, we will explain here what cloud technology is and also why it is an essential ingredient in an efficient and cost-conscious company (one just like yours).  So, are you ready?  Here we go…

Before the cloud

Back in the good old days of the early internet (i.e. just before 2000, which is approximately when cloud-computing started), you had a computer, a connection, the internet, software, and a healthy amount of servers.  The whole set-up looked something like this:

In this old-school example, your computer accesses the internet for various reasons, but if you need software for an application, it can come from an external source, such as a CD, or remote servers.  Every time the software has an upgrade, you pay a fee, wait for the mail or courier to arrive with your new upgrades, and you physically load it into your computer, usually during business hours, and usually have to wait for the upgrade to do its magic.  Alternatively, there were also Auto Updates available through accessible software already installed but these also took time, and were disruptive to the work day.

Once you have the software up and running, you will create data simply by using the software, and that data needs a home.  Some computers simply do not have the memory to hold all of this, so you need some sort of external “residence” to help out.  Typically, you end up using servers, which are costly and require maintenance.  Also, should your servers go down or have technical problems, your information will be held hostage until the issues are resolved, and that resolution might come from an entire IT department, depending on the size of your company.  Do you see how huge dollars are being directed towards the acquisition and maintenance of your data?

After the cloud

Now, let’s look at the brave new world (well, not so new anymore, but still kind of fresh) of cloud computing.  With the cloud, the set-up looks something like this:

As you should be able to see from the illustration, cloud computing’s process is simplified:  you have a computer, you have a connection, you have the internet.  Cloud-based software “lives” in a space that is connected to the internet, and can be directly accessed by your computer through a simple connection.  Upgrades and updates can occur quietly, with very little regular-hours business being disrupted, and there is generally no physical support required to accomplish the task (i.e. no CD).  Oh, and all of that data you create?  It also “lives” in a space supported by the internet, and is easily accessible at any time.

All of this saves you time and money, in different ways:

First, software and its upgrades/updates all occur through an internet connection with no physical components, helping to save money immediately (you’re not paying for a CD).  Because software and its upgrades “live” in the cloud, they are pretty much instantly available and/or implemented.  You don’t have to wait for CDs to arrive,  you don’t have to wait for the software to upload onto your system (upgrades are often done at nighttime).  Time is saved, and that is your time we are talking about.

Second, servers are eliminated, so not only does your cleaning crew have less to dust, but this elimination actually results in a major savings both time-wise and cost-wise.  There is no need to make a major investment in equipment, you do not need an entire IT Department to deal with it, and you don’t have to maintain them physically, either (as in the cleaning crew ).  Money saved, again.

Finally, and very importantly, because cloud-based software is located in an easily accessible place (the internet) by anything that has a connection, you can access your software and data from anywhere, at any time, from any device.  That on its own is an incredible advantage, both in terms of cost and time.

We hope that all of that makes more sense now, and that the benefits of cloud computing are a bit clearer.  Essentially, cloud-computing boils down to saving time and money and helping to make everything run more efficiently.

So, if we go back to the beginning, your response then was “Cloud what?”.  Now, we hope you’re thinking “Cloud yeah.”

9 Great Tips to Find Used Truck Parts Online!

Another amazing guest blog post from Ryan Hochmiller, Manager at Active Truck Parts in Colorado.

Buying used truck parts can save you a lot of money on repairs and improvements, sometimes up to as much as 80% over new truck parts.  Oftentimes the dealerships may not have a ready supply of new parts available for older trucks, or the parts may be obsolete altogether.  Furthermore, for those wanting make a positive impact on the environment, its notable that purchasing recycled parts from responsible and reputable salvage yards contributes immensely to that cause.  Increasingly, individuals and corporations are joining the “green” revolution!

Learning how to quickly and efficiently work with parts facilities to search for and find your parts can be a process.  Here are some general rules of thumb and helpful tips for buying used truck parts:

1. Part numbers:  If you know the part number of a part you need, write it down and contact your used truck parts specialist. Every single mechanical element of a truck will have its own part number.  This number will save you and the seller valuable time.

2. Tag numbers:  Most used truck parts facilities create unique reference numbers during the inventory process.  They might be called reference numbers—but more commonly—stock numbers or tag numbers. If you find a part on a website, make a note of this ID number to help the facility find that part in their system quickly and efficiently.

3. Take a picture of the part:  If you are unable to find the part number for your part, take a picture of it to show to your parts seller.  Most professional salvage yards will be up to speed and have email, and will sometimes work with texting via cell phones.  While the picture doesn’t tell the whole story, it will enable the seller to find similar components and, hopefully, the right one.

4. Visit your seller’s physical location:  Most websites don’t list all their products.  This is especially common for salvage yards where much of their sellable inventory is not inventoried, for practical reasons.  Whenever possible, it’s always best to visit your part supplier’s site in person and talk to them directly about your part.  If you’re unable to visit them physically, give them a call!  Some companies, like Active Truck Parts, go as far as making a goal to get back to you within 60 minutes with availability and pricing.

5. Request photos when shopping:  Online marketplaces are helpful resources when it comes to buying used truck parts. Sites like give the customer the ability to look through multiple vendors’ inventories, including photos, prices, details, all at one time.  These sites are a great way to weigh all options quickly.  Many of the vendors posting on these sites will have photos for most of their parts.  If they don’t have photos, call and ask for them!  Photos can provide clarity concerning the part’s condition and in making sure its correct.  Be wary of online vendors not providing photos either on the website or when requested.

6. Knowledge and expertise of the parts specialists.  Do not be afraid to ask questions when buying used parts.  A great parts specialist will welcome them because they know communication is essential in find the right part.  Some questions might include:

  • How long was the truck part in use?
  • What vehicle was the part previously used on?
  • What is the part’s condition?
  • Is the part refurbished in any way?
  • Was the part installed on vehicles that were used for rough terrain, industrial work or long commutes?
  • How can we make sure it’s the correct part?
  • Is there anything I need to do before installing this part?

7. Large inventory:  The more trucks and parts the seller has in stock, the greater the chance they’ll have your part.  These facilities tend to be more organized by necessity, and will likely have a great deal of information and knowledge available within reach of their desks.

8. Look for a warranty:  You may want to look for parts that come with warranties.  These are usually short-term warranties, but they can provide some peace of mind and can give you time to make sure that the part works.  For example, a condition might be that the part must be professionally installed.  Make sure to read the warranty’s fine print!  Many times they’ll show up on the back or front of an invoice.

9. Speed.  It’s important to all parties that your truck is down for the least amount of time possible.  If you haul for a living, you know the cost of downtime can be substantial and painful.  That’s why finding and developing a relationship with a reliable seller for used truck parts is critical.  Their parts specialists should have the expertise to:

  • Know what is in their inventory
  • Get the right information from you, to make sure they get you the right part.
  • Find your part for you, if they don’t have it in stock.  Many yards have connections all around the country.
  • Provide you with shipping options.  This includes expedited options on ground carriers like UPS and FedEx, and Freight trucks as well.

You’re set!  With these tips you can now locate and buy the correct part, from a pro, in a timely manner, with a warranty, and get back to work!

–Written by Ryan Hochmiller, Manager, Active Truck Part, Inc.  “Active Truck Parts has 40 acres of trucks and parts, we’re a family owned company, and have been in business for over 40 years.  Our Parts Specialists and staff are well-trained in knowing how to ID your part, and get you the right one in a timely manner!”