Public invited to 31 Wrecker 50-year anniversary event


[email protected]

Allen Hercamp was enamored with the large equipment used for his towing business.

At the time of his death in 2001, the wreckers used for 31 Diesel Truck and Wrecker Service Inc. were dated and they were “getting by with what we had,” said his grandson, Josh Hercamp.

Allen would be proud to know how the business has grown since then, adding fleet to the towing business and growing the offerings to include cranes and tractor-trailers to haul equipment like forklifts and excavation equipment.

“Now seeing where we’re at and the type of equipment that we’re running and the jobs that we’re doing, I think he would just be absolutely beside himself,” Josh said. “There are not many times that go by that I don’t think about ‘Man, if he could only just see what we’re doing here now.’”

Allen also would be proud to know the family-owned business he and his wife, Patty, started in 1971 now has three generations of ownership and is celebrating its 50th anniversary.

Family members associated with the business today include siblings Mickey Hercamp, Mark Hercamp and Peggy Norman and Josh’s sister, Kiersten Robbins. Peggy said her mother retired this year, and her daughter works there part time.

“That’s a big part of it because you don’t lose that aspect of responsibility and care that you’re trying to do in the business,” Josh said of the family’s involvement. “That’s just big. You take stock in what you’re trying to provide, a service for these people.”

While they have celebrated business milestones in the past with customers, the family decided to add the public to the festivities for the 50th anniversary.

From 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday, people are invited to stop by 31 Wrecker Service and Hercamp Crane at 11012 E. County Road 800N, Seymour, right off of U.S. 31 2½ miles north of the junction of U.S. 50 and U.S. 31.

View equipment on display, enjoy a pulled pork meal with sides and participate in games and children’s activities. Attendees also will be eligible to win door prizes, and the Radio 96.3 Cool Bus will be in attendance.

Also, at 2 p.m., there will be a live demonstration on recovering a truck and a car from an accident.

“You just don’t see 50 years very often. You don’t see three generations very often. It’s just something you want to celebrate,” Josh said. “We’ve made it, and it’s just something we want to share with people, that ‘Hey, we’re here, and we’re not going anywhere’ and just try to have a relaxing, fun day. … It’s to try to lighten it up a little bit so we can just have a little bit of fun, too.”

From repairs to wreckers

The business started in 1971 as 31 Repair Center and was located at U.S. 31 and County Road 560N, where Jackson County Animal Clinic is today. It did mechanical work on heavy-duty vehicles.

“My dad used to work at Cummins,” Norman said. “He was a truck driver, and he was off the road and gone all of the time. There were five of us (children). He decided he wanted to be home, so that got (the repair business) started. That was Dad’s dream.”

In the mid-1970s, wrecker service was added to the business. Norman said they fabricated their own wreckers.

“When my brothers were 13, they helped my dad overhaul engines, so they started at a young age,” she said. “Back then, you didn’t have to have CDLs, and they would go out and do stuff.”

Still today, 31 Wrecker is most known for its towing capabilities.

“It’s literally anything from the smallest thing to the biggest thing you can handle you can think of,” Josh said, noting that ranges from a moped or motorcycle to an oversize load tractor-trailer.

Most of their towing is done in Jackson, Bartholomew and Jennings counties, but they occasionally do longer distance in-state or out-of-state towing for local large trucking companies.

When a second location opened in Columbus in 2008, that solely focused on light-duty towing in Bartholomew, Brown and Johnson counties.

Between the two locations, the business has six large wreckers.

“By going up there, we started doing more light-duty towing on cars, so you’re dealing with more of the everyday public,” Josh said. “Down here (in Seymour), we really don’t. It’s all commercial-based. You’ve got trucking companies. You’ve got truck drivers. That was a big change, kind of readjusting where we were at because it is a different ballgame when you’re dealing with commercial stuff.”

Equipment and experience

The heavy-duty towing side of the business was modeled around recovery of big truck wrecks.

Between the wreckers, Bobcats, forklifts and other secondary equipment, 31 Wrecker personnel can arrive at the scene of a big truck wreck and clean up the site quicker.

With U.S. 31., U.S. 50 and Interstate 65 in the area, they frequently respond to accidents.

“We’ve built ourselves to be self-sufficient in heavy truck recovery so we’re not always calling for help,” Josh said.

“We’ve built our business around getting that interstate cleaned up,” he said. “I told somebody one time ‘That interstate means a lot to us. You’re just driving up and down it, but to me, that’s part of our job is keeping that thing open.’ We don’t take that lightly at all. We build it up to make sure we’re there, we’re gone, we’ve got travel lanes open as quickly as possible.”

Norman said wrecks happen at all hours of the day, so employees have to be ready to respond.

“The longer the road is closed, the more chances of accidents happening, so that’s another thing they strive to do,” she said.

Josh said the on-call aspect can make it very tiring, but 31 Wrecker relies on its equipment and employee experience to get the job done.

“We run a pretty good on-call schedule now to where every single weeknight and every weekend, there are two primary heavy-duty guys on call,” he said.

“This group gets it,” he said. “If they hear that we’re working on a big truck wreck, they’ll drop what they’re doing and they’ll come in. … When the big stuff happens, it’s all hands on deck. If you’re around and you can come, you’re coming in. We’ve got a good group that responds well to that.”

Diversification pays off

The business also continues to man a complete truck and trailer repair shop as a tribute to its roots. Work includes engine swaps and overhauls and various types of repairs.

“Less than 10 years ago, my dad (Mickey) was wanting to try to actually cut back on the major engine repair, and now, we’re doing more in a year,” Josh said. “I’d say 10 to 15 years ago, if we did four to six overhauls in a year, that was a heavy year. Last year, I think I counted 23. The year before was in the 20s, as well.”

In the late 1990s, they bought their first crane and named that side of the business Hercamp Crane.

“Darlage Crane used to be down the road, and my dad and him were really good friends,” Norman said. “He retired, and I think that got my dad thinking, ‘Well, he had a lot of work, he knew what he was doing.’ They were best friends, and he knew what kind of work he did, and I think that probably nudged it a little bit and got him started.”

Josh said they started small to “throw our hat in the ring,” and it took off from there.

At one point, they had up to six cranes. Now, they have four. A big part of that side of the business is setting modular homes, air conditioning units, cooling equipment, trusses and piping.

“Basically, looking for diversification, seeing the market. I guess things, you could say, were kind of stagnant, and we were looking to just grow, so we bought our first crane,” Josh said. “Then also, shortly thereafter, we bought a truck and a trailer to start doing equipment hauling.”

The regional equipment hauling has been done around Indiana and also has gone into Illinois, Kentucky and Ohio.

Over the past decade, Josh said the business has been fortunate to have very low turnover, as most of the 16 employees have been there for many years. Mark started full time in 1978, Mickey in 1981, Peggy in 1986 and Josh in 2008.

“It’s very cliche for some family businesses to say you treat the business like a family. Our low turnover rate I think should speak to that,” Josh said.

“We have truly been blessed,” Peggy said. “God has truly blessed us.”

No posts to display