Fleets don't have to be long-haul operations that go through weigh stations to be affected by the federal government's Compliance, Safety, Accountability program, but your customers may not realize that.

Fleets don't have to be long-haul operations that go through weigh stations to be affected by the federal government's Compliance, Safety, Accountability program, but your customers may not realize that.

It is not too often in the trucking industry that regulation is seen as a good thing. Yet the recent Compliance, Safety, Accountability regulations may prove the exception to the rule, at least when it comes to the heavy-duty aftermarket.

“This is the best thing to happen to us,” say Bill Wade, partner, Wade & Partners. “Usually we are the victims of regulations, but in this case it is regulation that is handing us an opportunity to add value for the truck operator.”

Gordon Botts, president of Botts Co. LLC, and founder of the American Council of Frame & Alignment Specialists (AFOCAS), says, “People need to understand because of CSA there is so much opportunity for the aftermarket. It is phenomenal.

“And the opportunity is in place that you don’t suspect; things like school districts, local delivery companies, local lumber yards.” Botts contends that many of these smaller operations and school districts may not be aware of the details of CSA. A distributor or repair garage can go into a business, offer to train drivers about their responsibilities and show them how to conduct a proper inspection.

“You are going in there teaching them about what they are required to do, but you also are likely to pick up some of their PM business as well,” he says.

Educate your customers about CSA and you build loyalty and also the opportunity to sell them everything from driver vehicle inspection reports to maintenance services to emergency lighting replacement kits.

Educate your customers about CSA and you build loyalty and also the opportunity to sell them everything from driver vehicle inspection reports to maintenance services to emergency lighting replacement kits.

Botts says he buys Driver Vehicle Inspection Reports from J.J. Keller by the case and sells them to his local school districts, and also buys Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulation books from Labelmaster to sell to small fleets.

While some distributors and repair garages are doing a good job of taking advantage of the opportunities presented by CSA, Wade and Botts believe that many still are trying to figure out how to make it pay.

Next page: Some of the opportunities CSA offers aftermarket providers

[PAGEBREAK]CSA and Repair Opportunities

Repair garages that offer mobile service are perhaps in the best position to take advantage of CSA by adding brake, lighting and tire checks to their menu of services. While Wade does not suggest adding mobile service because of CSA, if you've already been considering it, CSA should push you over the edge. “Something as simple as checking the air system, the brakes, the tires, the lights; that covers 90% of the violations,” he says.

“Once a customer understands that lighting is a 6-point violation, what else do they need to know?” Wade asks. “It is something that drivers should take very seriously and it offers the opportunity to sell a couple of extra ‘rounds’ for the back of the trailer that the driver can carry in the truck.”

Repair garages are not the only ones who can take advantage of the opportunities CSA presents. Distributors can reap add-on sales by asking customers some key questions when they place an order.

“For example, if a guy asks for brake shoes and brake drums, you need to ask him if he has checked his wheel seals to see if there is seepage, has he checked the cam shafts to see is there is play, has he checked this automatic slack adjusters,” Botts says. 

Botts believes many small fleets and owner-owner operators think that if they replace drums and shoes, they have done a brake job. But he says it is important to remind them to check things such as cam shafts, cam bushing and ASAs, because those are areas for potential CSA violations that can take a truck out of service.

Looking out for the customer

Make sure you have educational material about CSA at the front counter so customers can see it when they come in, Wade says.

“Anytime you can help a driver or small fleet understand where trouble lurks, you are going to win," he says. "Whether you win right that very moment with a sale or not, you are going to win with the customer because you looked out for him and had his best interest at heart.”

Botts shared a story of a business in his area that racked up $68,000 in fines because of CSA violations and ultimately went out of business. This fleet allowed vehicles to run with chafed air lines. “He could have replaced those lines for $50, but instead he let the trucks go out. The driver got pulled over for a DOT inspection, was fined for the air lines and the vehicle was taken out of service.”

Botts explained that if a proper inspection had been completed, the problem would have been caught and repaired for less than the cost of the fine and lost revenue from being taken out of service.

He encourages distributors and repair garages to be proactive with their customers when it comes to CSA. “If you don’t do it, someone else is going to. CSA is probably the greatest marketing opportunity for people in the truck repair business.”

Wade adds, “FMVSS stuff historically is seen to be in the regulatory cloud, but [CSA] is in the commercial cloud and that's where we are supposed to be really good.”

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