Panel Talks Major Changes in the Trucking Aftermarket

January 26, 2018

By Denise Rondini

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The heavy-duty aftermarket is experiencing several changes at once, according to executives at the Heavy Duty Aftermarket Dialogue. Photo courtesy Today's Trucking
The heavy-duty aftermarket is experiencing several changes at once, according to executives at the Heavy Duty Aftermarket Dialogue. Photo courtesy Today's Trucking

At the Heavy Duty Aftermarket Dialogue in Las Vegas, industry executives shared their thoughts on the changes they see in the heavy-duty aftermarket.

When asked what he thinks are the biggest changes that have occurred in trucking, Jay Craig, CEO and president of Meritor, said, “The speed with which the industry is moving and the shortening of product life cycles.”

He told the audience at the recent Heavy Duty Aftermarket Dialogue in Las Vegas that in the past, a typical axle had a 20-year life cycle. Today, it is five to seven years. “This is causing OEMs to look at their supply base and decide where to invest themselves and where to rely on partners.”

He believes this demand is being driven by the marketplace, some regulatory oversight, and the demand for higher fuel efficiency. “Downspeeding does not seem to have an end and as we are pushing for 10 MPG we need to get engine rpms to 1,000. That requires an enormous capital investment.”

The biggest change that Joe McAleese, chairman of Bendix Commercial Vehicle Systems, has seen is “the acceptance of technology at the fleet level, specifically safety technology. There has been a rapid acceptance of collision mitigation systems, and I think the air disc brake market is at its inflection point.”

He said engine emissions work took the focus off safety, but “now it is the decade of safety systems. The big fleets have the data and we helped them work through the value proposition. It is harder to get to the smaller guys.”

Craig said another change has been the globalization of trucking. “We are leveraging global product development and we are looking for different regions [of the world] to be centers of [manufacturing] excellence.”

With all the technological changes the market has seen comes an increased need for training. Dennis Slagle, executive vice president of Volvo Group and president of Mack Trucks, said, “Volvo has made a tremendous investment in training. That is not something that keeps me up at night. The question is getting the right talent in the door.”

McAleese added that Bendix has always be a training leader, but now is delivering content in different ways. “Today, we have to make sure the driver is trained to understand how safety systems work.”

With all the developments going on in alternative ways to power commercial vehicles, Slagle said OEMs and component manufacturers have to determine how much to invest in traditional technologies and how much to put in emerging technologies. “I have no doubt that electrification and hybrids will be developed, but the question is when. We feel that internal combustion engines will be with us for a long time.”

“You don't want to fall behind when it comes to future technology, but you don’t want your existing portfolio to become dated,” noted Craig.

Slagle said when it comes to autonomous trucks, the technology is ahead of the needed infrastructure. He wonders if we will we see a driver who is an operator there for when human intervention is needed. “That will lighten the load on the driver shortage,” he said.

When it comes to new technology, Slagle said, “It is wrong to put our heads in the sand about the speed of change. We have to develop our own internal capabilities, but also constantly look at partnerships. New suppliers have a hurdle to overcome because we have been hurt in the past. That has caused us to grade new suppliers. It is not black and white [when it comes to partnering with a new supplier]. We have to feel what the new supplier is bringing to the table to mitigate our concerns.”

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