The availability of parts is top of mind for many fleets as pandemic-related material shortages make it more difficult to get parts when needed. Making it even more difficult, in some cases, fleets are restricted when it comes to the brand of part they can use as a replacement for a warranty repair.
While consumers have more choice in parts selection because of the Magnuson Moss Warranty Act, which was signed in 1974, that same protection does not apply to commercial vehicles, according to Marc Karon, legislative affairs chairman for the Commercial Vehicle Solutions Network and president. He’s also CEO of Total Truck Parts, an aftermarket truck parts distributor headquartered in Louisville, Kentucky.
Under current federal law, warranties offered by the vehicle manufacturer may be arbitrarily denied just because the truck owner did not source the repair or maintenance part from the authorized dealer, Karon explains.
On behalf of CVSN, Karon reached out to the Federal Trade Commission to see if it would allow coverage of the Magnuson Moss Act to apply to commercial vehicles. The agency declined, saying that there is a clear definition of “consumer” in many pieces of federal legislation. The act itself would need to be changed.
The most obvious thing to do would be to lobby the U.S. Congress to amend the law. But based on his previous experiences on Capitol Hill, Karon didn’t think that approach would work.
Instead, he went to Massachusetts, where CVSN has had success with Right to Repair legislation. With the help of the group’s lobbyist, he convinced state Rep. Gerald J. Cassidy to sponsor a law (H.323) to afford owners of commercial vehicles in his state the same rights as consumers under Magnuson Moss.
“The downside to this approach is that laws will have to be changed state by state,” Karon says.
Clearly parts distributors are affected by OEMs’ abilities to deny warranty if their own parts are not used during a repair. But Karon says fleets are affected, too.
“This situation eliminates the ability of fleets to shop for parts on a competitive basis. If they have an underperforming dealer in their area in terms of stocking parts, they are stuck having to wait for parts.”
Karon says the situation is absurd, especially when you consider that in many cases, such as filters, OEMs don’t make their own parts.
“In some instances, an OEM buys a filter from another supplier, paints it a different color and then sells it under their OEM brand name. Then they will deny warranty if the fleet buys that part from the original manufacturer of the filter,” he explains.
Adding to absurdity, according to Karon, is the fact that “if you own a motorhome with a diesel engine, you can buy a replacement filter from anyone, and the engine or motorhome manufacturer cannot deny a warranty claim. But if that same engine is in a truck, the fleet may have their engine warranty denied if that same filter is not sourced though the dealer.”
Karon would like to see fleets tackle this issue, perhaps through an organization like the American Trucking Associations’ Technology & Maintenance Council, to add their voices to the discussion. In addition to that, Karon says, “I am asking everybody and anybody who knows a state legislator to pass on contact information to me. If they think that legislator will give me a fair hearing, I will fly out and speak with them.
“I am hopeful that something will happen with Magnuson Moss for commercial vehicles, but it is going to take a commitment by all parties and hard work.”
He adds, “We have fleet customers to whom we sell everything including toilet paper, yet they can’t buy their filters from us because they are afraid of being denied a warranty claim. That does not make sense, and we hope we can make changes. It is a matter of fairness.”
This commentary first appeard in the August issue of Heavy Duty Trucking.