Spring suspensions: Most fleets prefer their own shops for replacement work
Who do fleets prefer as replacement sources for spring suspensions? Data from Fleet Owner's Aftermarket Monitor indicates that all fleets preferred their own shops to any other place as a replacement source for spring suspensions.
When the data is segmented by GVW (see chart), we find the following breakdown: 60.6% of trailers, 60.4% of heavy-duty fleets, 48.6% of medium-duty fleets, and 43.7% of midrange fleets preferred their own shops over any other source when they needed to replace spring suspensions.
In general, as GVW increases, so does the revenue per truck - which means downtime becomes more expensive. Fleets that run primarily heavy-duty equipment are more likely to invest in the equipment and personnel needed because downtime is more expensive for them. Also, heavy-duty fleets are usually larger than midrange and medium-duty fleets, enabling them to generate the volume of replacements necessary to offset the investment required to operate their own shops.
The chart also shows how the preference for truck and trailer dealers as replacement sources increases as GVW increases. Heavy-duty fleets are more likely to choose the dealer as a replacement source than are midrange and medium-duty fleets. Heavy-duty linehaul operators (those with an average length of haul of 200 miles or more) need national coverage for services and parts, which can be provided by the dealer.
When we look at the data in terms of new and used vehicles, the fleet preference for using its own shop to replace suspensions increases with GVW in both segments. Since replacing spring suspensions is not a particularly difficult task, highly skilled technicians are not needed, making it easier for fleets to do the work themselves.
For fleets made up primarily of new heavy-duty vehicles, 60% prefer their own shops. For used heavy-duty vehicles, the number is 55.2%. But when we look at midrange and medium-duty fleets, the numbers drop. Since these fleets are smaller, they can't usually generate the volume necessary to make it cost-effective to do the work in-house.
In general, owners of used vehicles are more likely to choose independent garages as replacement sources for spring suspensions than are those who own new equipment. Most used-truck owners don't have warranties for their trucks because the warranty periods have already expired. In addition, used-truck owners are more likely to go to independent garages because they don't always have an established dealer/customer relationship since the vehicles may have been purchased somewhere else.
But the picture changes when we break down used equipment by GVW. Owners of used midrange and medium-duty vehicles prefer independent garages more than owners of heavy-duty vehicles, primarily because their average length of haul is relatively short, which allows them to form relationships with local/regional garages. However, since heavy-duty fleets often operate some distance from where they're domiciled, they need national coverage for parts and services. Consequently, independent garages are not a likely choice for them.
The Aftermarket Monitor divides components into 15 major groups and sends out more than 4,000 questionnaires each month to commercial vehicle operators. Parts categories covered are diesel engines; gas engines; electrical and lights; air brakes, wheel seals and bearings; hydraulic brakes, wheel seals and bearings; manual transmissions and clutches; automatic transmissions; drive axles, universal joints and drivelines, and PTO drives; exhaust components and engine cooling systems; front suspension and shock absorbers; rear suspensions and springs; engine oil and filtration systems; tires; electronics; wheels and fifth wheels; seats, mirrors, tanks, and leak detection equipment; and paint.
For more information on FLEET OWNER's Aftermarket Monitor, call Chris Brady at Martin Labbe Assoc., 904-672-4413.
The following individuals recently received prizes for participating in last month's survey: Marvin Prince, R.W. Moore Equipment, Raleigh, N.C.; Gregg Easley, Mountain Leasing Inc., Kingsport, Tenn.; and Robert Rupp, Robert Rupp Construction, Ruthton, Minn.
The Aftermarket Report is a snapshot of information gathered each month as part of an ongoing research project known as FLEET OWNER's Aftermarket Monitor. It is intended to keep readers informed of important trends and new developments in the commercial-truck aftermarket.