Reflections on the Aftermarket [Commentary]

Photo: Tiffsproperties vua Pixabay

"It has been fun and a learning experience for me. It is the best job I have ever had.” That’s what Tim Kraus told me in an interview about his upcoming February 2021 retirement as president and COO of the Heavy Duty Manufacturers Association.

Kraus joined HDMA as executive director in 2004 and was named to his current role in 2008 after a long career on the manufacturing side of the trucking industry.

He cited the success of Heavy Duty Aftermarket Week as one of his biggest accomplishments while heading up the association.

“The initial strategy with HDAW was to strengthen the independent aftermarket. I think we have really done that in pulling everybody together to showcase the size of our industry.”

Based on how the event has grown, Kraus is certain that goal has been met. Plans are in the works for HDAW 2021, but yet to be finalized is the question of whether it will be a full conference or a combination of live and virtual.

One of the big challenges for the organization has been “trying to stay out in front of things and keep people informed about what is going on in an industry where truck and trailer sales look like an EKG chart with year-over-year changes in sales.”

To help address that issue, Kraus said HDMA has developed councils and forums focusing on various topics of concern to the aftermarket.

One of the biggest changes he has seen in the aftermarket during his tenure at HDMA is the explosion of and focus on technology, “and trying to make sure everyone understands the broad implications of new things like electric trucks and autonomous enabling technology.”

HDMA is helping the aftermarket with this challenge through its  Advanced Technology Council, made up of chief technology officers from member companies. “They get together to exchange ideas about what is going on with technology and how they can work together” to see that the aftermarket is educated on technological developments.

Another challenge is dealing with e-commerce and how it is reshaping trucking. The average length of haul is dropping, and last-mile delivery and home delivery “are not going to go away any time soon,” Kraus said. The aftermarket industry will have to adapt to those changes just as trucking will.

Kraus is also proud of the work HDMA has done working with its parent group, the Motor and Equipment Manufacturers Association, to improve trucking’s voice in Washington, D.C., and to ensure HDMA members and other aftermarket businesses are up to date on developments in Washington that can affect their operations.

Looking toward the future, Kraus believes the OES (dealers) and independent channels will need to figure out how to work together.

“Truck dealers and independents are each other’s biggest customers but also each other’s biggest enemies,” he said. “The OES channel does not have the capacity to handle the number of trucks that need to be repaired, and the independents don’t have all the information they need to repair them.”

As for his personal future, Kraus said, “ I am grateful to have been able to do something in an industry I love and where I can have fun with people who have become my friends. I am not going completely away. I would miss it and the close friendships I have developed with people in the industry.”

About the author
Denise Rondini

Denise Rondini

Aftermarket Contributing Editor

A respected freelance writer, Denise Rondini has covered the aftermarket and dealer parts and service issues for decades. She now writes regularly about those issues exclusively for Heavy Duty Trucking, with information and insight to help fleet managers make smart parts and service decisions, through a monthly column and maintenance features.

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