Denise Rondini

Denise Rondini

Fleets have so many more options today when it comes to parts for their trucks. There has been a proliferation of private label, all makes, price point, aftermarket parts and on and on. Things can get confusing when a truck is down and a part is needed to complete a repair. Which part is right in a given situation can be hard to tell, and often it has nothing to do with whose name is on the box the part comes in.

For one thing, the same part made by the same manufacturer can show up in multiple boxes. “The company that built the OE or ‘standard’ part is probably also building parts for the aftermarket,” explains Bill Wade, managing partner of Wade & Partners, marketing consultants to the aftermarket. “The part may go from a component supplier to a distributor [or dealer] as a branded component. It may also go to the distributor under the distributor’s private label, but it is still the same part. However, the distributor’s private label may be a will-fit part from China or Europe. And it also may go through an all-makes program from the OE.”

In short, it can be difficult to determine whose part is actually in the box.

Plus, which part you want may change based on things such as the age of the truck, when you expect to trade it in or sell it, and the duty cycle. It is important to continually “evaluate the requirement of the part for your application,” according to John Blodgett, vice president of sales and marketing at MacKay & Co., a management consulting and market research firm focusing on the heavy-duty aftermarket.

Every truck parts manufacturer offers some kind of field sales support, and fleets should leverage the knowledge of those professionals to make sure they have the information they need to select the part that is right for their application.

However, Wade contends that it’s not the fleet manager’s job to do due diligence on the products that are available. He sees that as the job of the dealer or distributor selling the part. Jim Pennig, vice president, business development at Vipar Heavy Duty, agrees, saying, “Fleet managers should make sure they are partnered with the right people who can guide them to purchase the right parts for their needs.”

There are distributors and dealers who have a great deal of knowledge about the options available. “Having a critical source of supply is critical in today’s marketplace,” Pennig says.

Wade says dealers and distributors talk to lots of fleets on a regular basis so have a keen understanding of what’s actually working and what isn’t. His advice is to look for a supplier that “can talk quality, can talk about the design of parts. You want to find real parts people, not just people who are selling an SKU. There is a difference.”

While a big-box seller of automotive parts may carry some heavy-duty parts, do they really know enough about the heavy-duty market to ensure you get the part you need? Wade thinks not. “But if you go to someone like a Midwest Wheel … or if you go to someone like a Rush Peterbilt, you are buying a part because they know about that piece of metal or plastic you are buying. The automotive retailer knows the part number, which can be kind of like someone being able to tap the picture of the cheeseburger on the cash register when someone says that is what they want.”

In short, the key to getting the part you need is to find a supplier you can rely on. You care about unit availability and uptime; therefore you have to count on your supplier — whether that is a dealer or a distributor — to assist with that. If you can’t count on that company for product selection, then you need to get a new supplier, because sometimes it is hard to know exactly what is in the box — and the wrong choice can cause big problems.