Industry News & New Products

Meet an Expert: Heavy installer Steve Hoeft

by Nate Kuennen | Aug 30, 2022

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Steve Hoeft grew up on a farm between New Hampton and Charles City in northeast Iowa. Like most farm kids, he learned how to fix things early on. It’s a life skill he’s carried into his professional career as a wrecker body installer at Zip’s Truck Equipment.

“You learn by doing,” said Hoeft, a crew lead in the heavy-duty shop and this month’s ‘Meet an Expert’ at Zips.com. As he approaches his 29th year with the company, Hoeft reflects on the changes in the wrecker industry: everything from improved hydraulics to LED lighting to technology.

“Wreckers have really changed a lot over the years,” Hoeft noted. “When I first started here, we were still doing a little bit with the mechanical stuff on the old Holmes 750. We used to install them a couple times a year and did a lot of service work on them as well.

“Now, electronics have changed everything the most, as trucks and equipment have become more computerized,” he continued. “Lights have also gone from incandescent to LED, and there are a lot more lighting options because the trucks are so much bigger now.”

Hoeft said he decided to join Zip’s at the invitation of owner Paul Rottinghaus. Hoeft had worked for the Rottinghaus family feed mill in Charles City and made the switch to Zip’s after the mill business closed in the 1990s. He said the move wasn’t too big a stretch for him.

“I grew up on a farm, so I always had mechanical abilities,” said Hoeft, who still lives on the home place. “I really like what I do here, and Paul has always treated us pretty well. Zip’s has always been a good place to work.”

Hoeft leads a team of two other mechanics on the heavy side. He said it takes his crew approximately three to four weeks to complete a build. One week is spent mounting the body to the chassis and prepping for paint. After paint, Hoeft said it takes another two weeks to finish wiring and to complete the installation.

“I’ve done a little bit of everything at Zip’s, but I’ve worked on heavies ever since I started here,” Hoeft said. “I like it because every wrecker is a little bit different. It’s never the same thing.”