"I would have hoped that I could have tied a ribbon on it and moved on,” says Marc Karon, president of the Right to Repair Coalition and president of Total Truck Parts.
You may recall that in 2015, a memorandum of understanding was finalized between the Commercial Vehicle Solutions Network and the Truck and Engine Manufacturers Association, together with the Equipment and Tool Institute, the Auto Care Association, and Heavy Duty Aftermarket Canada. The purpose was to ensure that vehicle owners and independent service facilities would have access to the service information, tools, and parts needed to repair commercial vehicles. Prior to the MOU, dealers were the only ones with access to the information and tooling.
Fleets and the independent aftermarket worked to get the MOU in place because they saw it as a way to level the playing field with dealers regarding access to information and the repair capability that comes from having access to that information.
Two years later, Karon says, “The story with the Right to Repair is that it is a constant negotiation” with OEMs to get them to recognize their responsibilities.
“Each month we make progress on issues we have brought up,” Karon explains, “but then new issues surface or changes to the vehicles are not being updated in the software being made available to the independents” and fleets.
The National Automotive Service Task Force has indexed all OEM and supplier website links on the NASTF website so that all information is accessible from one place, with NASTF directing technicians to service information, tools and software. NASTF also instituted a Service Information Request feature that acts as a bridge to manufacturers if the needed information or software is not accessible.
Karon says NASTF has helped fleets and independent garages work through problems that have arisen. In addition, many independents have developed what Karon calls “work-arounds” so they do not have to purchase software they deem to be too expensive. Others have developed relationships with dealers who do the re-flash for them at a cost that is lower than purchasing the software.
Software costs are an issue for repair shops that work on a variety of truck brands and for fleets with mixed vehicles. The MOU does not compel the engine makers to share the information for free. Rather it calls for fair and reasonable costs for the information. The definition of fair and reasonable, however, is open to interpretation.
In some cases, independents and fleets have found aftermarket software that has been a successful substitute, usually at a lower cost.
Karon admits that because of these work-arounds and the fact that some fleets and independents are outsourcing engine work to dealers, it has been difficult to get feedback on what is working and what isn’t.
Even when problems are identified and defined, Karon says it can take up to a year to get them resolved. “And in some cases, the OEs are telling us we will have to wait for the next release” for changes to be incorporated and made available.
In addition, OEMs are not responsible for making sure fleets and independent garages have technicians that are trained and qualified to use these specialized tools and perform the repairs they previously were unable to do themselves. That burden falls to the fleet or repair garage, and many of them are making the significant investments in this area.
Has the MOU been a success? Karon says, “While I have outlined several problems, the working relationships with the OEs and the EMA is good.” He believes the independent aftermarket — and by extension fleets — are better off today because of the Right to Repair efforts of the Commercial Vehicle Solutions Network.