How can we keep these in check moving forward.
2014 was a very busy year for the heavy-duty aftermarket and owners are spending lots of money to keep trucks on the road. Despite the new EPA regulations and stricter laws in some states, the average age of heavy duty trucks in the nation is still very high. Fleets try to get more out of their trucks before having to replace vehicles. This means having to continually maintain or repair trucks more often.
These aging trucks require more maintenance, repair and replacement of various heavy duty truck parts. The American Transportation Research Institute ran an “Operational Cost of Trucking” for the 2014 year, maintenance and repair costs average about 15 cents a mile or 9% of a fleet’s total cost per mile.
One area that affects the maintenance and repair costs are wait times for repairs. Depending on the needed part or the efficiency of the repair shop, downtime means less money and increased cost percentages.
Here are a few things that shops can do to improve upon long wait times:
- Use of Standards – Vehicle Maintenance Reporting Standards (VMRS) within a shop can make a big difference. If all the employees are using the same terminology, then it can be quicker understood what needs to be done. VRMS codes combined with labor time guidelines allow for better scheduling of work in the shop and can help improve the productivity of technicians.
- Keep technicians certified and trained. Studies have shown that certified technicians measured up to 40% higher productivity vs technicians who are not certified.
- Organization of the repair shop is crucial. When was the last time you stepped back and looked at how operations? Maybe you can find a way to better optimize the shop for improved work flow and decrease the amount of time a technician spends finding the right tool or part.
- Vehicle lifts make a big difference. I have seen reports that state less than 10% of heavy duty service bays have lifts. Lifts were not needed as much with the older trucks, as they had plenty of clearance. With improved technology, a lot of ground clearance space has been used. Studies have shown that the use of a lift can improve repair times by up to 40%
The cost of keeping in-house technicians and heavy duty truck parts in storage have become a deterrent due to cost. Many fleets have opted to use outside repair shops to maintain their trucks, which means it is up to the repair shops to help keep expenses down.
Besides improvements in the shop, another way to achieve this is by purchasing the various heavy duty truck parts needed through aftermarket sources. You find the right source, the replacement parts are just as good as the OEM version and at a fraction of the cost. In most cases, repair shops can increase their profit margin and save their customers money at the same time.
Many OEM dealers with service centers are creating their own Private Label Parts programs as a way to offer their customers more choices. In this case, the OEM dealer has researched various aftermarket sources for quality, affordability, reliability and then sell the heavy duty truck parts under their own brand name.
Remanufactured parts are also gaining an increasing share of the heavy duty aftermarket. Their cost is comparable to aftermarket parts and there is a belief that since they are rebuilt/remanufactured from OEM cores/parts they are better than aftermarket parts. Beware of your source though, not all reman parts use OEM parts on the rebuild. Generally I have noticed that warranty terms are not as good on remanufactured parts vs new parts.
Keeping maintenance and repair costs low is a goal for every company. All owners would love their vehicles to operate at maximum efficiency with little maintenance. At some point though, every owner gets to a point where financing a newer heavy duty vehicle is less costly then replacing truck parts and repair costs on the older truck.