Like the driver shortage, the need to find qualified technicians is a n ongoing problem.  Photo by Paul Hartley

Like the driver shortage, the need to find qualified technicians is an ongoing problem. Photo by Paul Hartley

The truck parts and service aftermarket got a lot of attention in 2015, as the focus of many fleets shifted to total cost of operation rather than cost per mile. This shined a bright spotlight on maintenance and repair practices as ways to keep asset utilization high.

Here’s a look back at some of the major aftermarket issues from the past year.

1. Right to Repair finally became a reality.

This year saw the signing of a memorandum of understanding between the Commercial Vehicle Solutions Network and the Truck and Engine Manufacturers Association along with the Equipment and Tool Institute, the Auto Care Association and Heavy Duty Aftermarket Canada. As a result of the MOU, fleets and independent repair garages will have access to service information — previously only available to dealers — for model year 2010 and later trucks and buses over 10,000 pounds sold in the United States and Canada.

Independent repair garages say this puts them on a level playing field with dealers in terms of their ability to access information and then to be able to make repairs based on that information. The bottom line is fleets will now have more choices about where to take their trucks for service.

2. Counterfeit parts continue to plague trucking.

If you think counterfeiting only happens with things like purses and watches, think again. The Federal Trade Commission and the World Customs Organization in Interpol estimate that counterfeiting cost the global motor vehicle pars industry $12 billion a year and $3 billion in the United States. Counterfeits set out to deceive the buyer and often offer parts that do not meet quality and safety standards.

To avoid inadvertently purchasing counterfeit parts, fleets need to make sure they are buying parts from trusted suppliers, distributors and dealers. Even then, when getting a part, the best practice is to look it over to make sure it has the proper markings and stampings. But be cautioned that new technologies have made it possible for counterfeiters to create fakes that are virtually indistinguishable from the real thing. Brake parts are a favorite target for counterfeiters. Parts manufacturers say the old adage “if it seems to good to be true, it probably is” applies to truck parts.

(Learn more in "How Counterfeiting Affects the Aftermarket" from our July issue.)

3. The technician shortage is still a big problem.

Approximately 50% of current diesel technicians nationwide will be retiring within the next 15 years. The Bureau of Labor Statistics says the need for bus and truck technicians and diesel engine specialists is expected to grow 9% from 2012 to 2022.

Tips for recruiting and retaining technicians include partnering with local tech colleges, looking to the military, expanding your search to include social media, starting your own training program, and looking beyond salary to the whole compensation package.

(Learn more in "9 Best Practices for Recruiting and Retaining Technicians" from our May issue.)

4. With the focus on total cost of operation, shop efficiency is more important than ever.

Things like using VMRS codes operations, keeping technicians certified and trained, reorganizing work flow in the shop and automating process and leveraging data are common ways to help get trucks in and out of the shop as quickly as possible.

Brakes are an area that continues to need attention. Photo by Paul Hartley

Brakes are an area that continues to need attention. Photo by Paul Hartley

5. Brakes continue to be a problem.

Improperly operating brakes are still a big reason trucks are taken out of service. Training technicians to ensure they are up to speed on the latest brake products and maintenance techniques is the best defense.

The other issue with brakes is understanding reduced-stopping-distance requirements. Those requirements apply to new trucks coming off the production line. There is no requirement that aftermarket linings meet this standard. However, while not mandated, brake parts manufacturers say it is a good common sense best maintenance practice to do so.

6. Remanufacturing continues to grow.

Remanufactured parts are a $7 billion business at retail and are seen as a cost effective alternative to buying new. Reman parts cost from 40% to 60% less than similar new products and often fit with a fleet’s sustainability initiatives.

There has been a change to the type of parts that are being remanufactured. The industry is moving toward electron and mechatronics. Perhaps the most significant impact of electronic controls is the need to remanufacture the electronic controls themselves. The entire remanufacturing environment for electronics is completely different and requires different skills.

In a related development, owners of older trucks are interested in used parts because of cost savings and downtime savings. Independent used parts distributors have been offering these parts for years, but OEMs are getting more involved and looking to expand their offerings.