I have never met anyone as genuinely enthusiastic about their job and company as Pam Esshaki. I met her this fall when I traveled to Michigan, along with 11 other professionals from the used-truck industry, many of whom are members of the Truck Blue Book Advisory Council, for a tour of the Detroit Diesel Corp. plant in Detroit.
Esshaki, who is a wellspring of knowledge, was enthusiastic about the technology and autonomy she and her colleagues have as they build engines sold for multiple applications around the world.
Just as thrilled, if not more so, were the used truck professionals she was educating. In addition to demonstrating the X-ray technology used to determine whether or not a piston is internally flawed and the overall computerization of the facility, Esshaki provided us with a considerable amount of practical knowledge — the kind of everyday information a used truck dealer could make use of on the job, such as showing us a view port on the side of the DDC engine.
Regrettably, the plant tour had a time limit. Otherwise, we could have stood there for two days listening to Esshaki — and just as intently on the last day as on the first.
Detroit Diesel's Jeff Lasley and Steve Flammersfeld arranged the morning tour, as well as the afternoon discussions, which were designed to help the used truck professionals gain a more comprehensive understanding of the engine maker and its products.
For quite a while now I have been asking industry firms to take some responsibility for helping to expand the knowledge base of used truck dealers, especially the “independent” used truck dealers, who are said to sell at least half of all used commercial trucks. Detroit Diesel accepted and met that challenge.
The afternoon discussion forums, which began with a working lunch, continued until about 4:30 p.m. The range and openness of topics by the Detroit Diesel staff was simply amazing. Through the presentations and ensuing discussion, we had access to decision makers, marketers and field personnel.
The discussion that focused on the 2007 emissions regulations was a true learning process for everyone. We learned a tremendous amount about Detroit Diesel's solutions to meeting the more stringent emissions rules. In turn, we were able to explain some of the issues used truck dealers and buyers would face as a result of the new rules.
Wouldn't it be nice if DDC engineers were able to address some of our concerns directly as they fine-tune '07 engine designs? And who knows — maybe they'd even find themselves a step ahead of the pack because of their response to a meeting with these professionals from the used truck industry.
The goodwill resulting from this fall meeting in Detroit has continued. Telephone calls exchanged among attending dealers the next day demonstrated just how valuable the meeting at DDC had been for them. One participant, now an independent used truck dealer, said: “I worked for an OEM dealer for 15 years — yet I learned more in the past 24 hours than I did in all that time.”
This knowledge is being passed by word of mouth from dealer to dealer, as well as at the 30th Annual Truck Blue Book Workshop, where used truck values are discussed for two days.
We must continue these efforts.
So again, I ask and challenge component suppliers across the industry to take steps to move beyond the front of the store where the new stuff is sold.
Visit the professionals who are actually determining the value of used equipment. Just like their new-dealer counterparts, used truck managers and the people who work with them are key members of the trucking community.
I should know. I work with them every day.