July 2014, TruckingInfo.com - Cover Story
Trucks are on the road much longer than they used to be, and that translates into a greater demand and investment in parts, service, and ongoing maintenance, according to Paul Tuomi, director of dealer and fleet parts sales for Daimler Trucks North America.
This makes parts purchasing decisions more important than ever, because purchasing the wrong part, paying too much for a part, or choosing the wrong supplier can have significant consequences.
“You need to have consistency [in your parts purchasing] out of the cradle or heading into the grave,” says Jim Pennig, vice president of business development for Vipar Heavy Duty. “By this I mean you need quality replacement parts purchased at regular intervals from a reputable point of distribution.”
The lowest price for a part is not always the best choice. Factors other than price need to be considered when making parts purchasing decisions.
For instance, lower-priced brake friction may appear to be a bargain, but if it wears prematurely, causes early drum wear, and you have to replace it more frequently, “the parts and labor cost will quickly out run any initial piece parts saving,” says Aaron Bickford, aftermarket business unit director, drivetrain, Meritor.
Mike Cueto, director of parts sales and marketing for California-based dealer Velocity Vehicle Group, says fleets “make a big deal out of the price of parts, but parts only represent 15% of their operating budget.”
He adds, “You can buy something for $10 and it’s only going to last a year, or you can buy something for $20 that’s going to last three years. You’re better off spending the $20.”
Following are five areas to consider when buying parts for your fleet.
Life Cycle Matters
Whether you choose to stay with the original brand or go with an aftermarket part, purchasing parts properly does not mean buying the least expensive one. It also does not necessarily mean buying the most expensive.
Tim Bauer, aftermarket business unit, director, undercarriage products at Meritor, says fleets must identify suppliers that have a variety of quality/price levels to offer them without sacrificing safety.
“Having a good, better, and best product offering allows fleets to maintain their vehicles properly while balancing the cost of the total maintenance of the fleet” throughout the life of the vehicle, Bauer says.
For instance, consider brake life. “When proper brake components are purchased and installed, there can be a savings of hundreds of dollars over the life cycle of the truck due to longer brake life and time between required maintenance,” says John Thompson, sales manager, commercial vehicle NAFTA, at TMD Friction.
However, parts choices may differ based on vehicle age.
“If you look at somebody who is trading a truck every three to five years, they are going to use [original equipment parts] wherever possible,” says Mark Terry, general manager, truck and bus at Yancey Bros. Co., a Georgia-based dealer and parts supplier. “But as we get into the second owner — anybody who is downstream of that initial trade — there is a tremendous opportunity for the all-makes side of the business. And if someone buys a truck and keeps it for 10 or 12 years, we see a point where, in their mind, the value proposition from the aftermarket part exceeds the price premium they would pay to the OEM or Tier 1 suppler.”
Brittany Stewart, COO of online truck parts marketplace FinditParts, encourages fleet managers to do their homework and determine what is appropriate based on how long they plan to keep the vehicle. “It may not be a part with an eight-year rating; it might be one with only a two-year rating,” she says. “If they only plan to keep the truck for two years, they don’t need a part that lasts longer.”
Remanufactured parts are one component of a successful parts purchasing strategy. The decision to use reman parts is fleet-specific, according to David Schultz, director of marketing, Bendix Commercial Vehicle Systems. “Factors that come into play are vocation, what they are using their vehicles for, the expectation of their vehicle’s performance, the longevity, and so on.”
At the same time, Bendix’s Jerry Conroy, senior director, aftermarket sales, recommends that fleets “consider who the remanufacturer is, because different suppliers have different capabilities.”
Dan Bambrick, manager of private brand and segment marketing at Road Choice Truck Parts, a new all-makes brand from Mack, also believes there are various levels of reman parts.
“In using reman parts, a fleet should look for a reputable supplier that has proven to have a true remanufacturing process,” Bambrick says. “Sometimes we see companies that say they have reman parts, but we refer to them as rebuilt parts. It is not completely brought up to specifications; only a few components are replaced and the unit is put back together. We don’t consider that a true remanufactured product.”
Using brake shoes as an example, TMD’s Thompson says to make sure shoes are coined: placed in a die and pressed at very high tonnage to bring them back to their original, factory shape.
“Some reliners only remove and replace lining,” he explains. “This is not the best starting place for a brake reline, as the high forces involve in braking will ‘stretch’ or distort the shoe in normal operating conditions.”