Fleet owners must bear in mind that the addition of CSA 2010 and other regulations will put more focus than ever on vehicle maintenance practices. Under CSA 2010, one of the seven BASIC categories FMCSA will review carriers on is vehicle maintenance, ranging from brakes, lights and other mechanical defects to failure to make required repairs. Part of the rules will involve documenting vehicle repair histories.
“It’s just so important to keep the truck running, because that’s your bread-and-butter,” John Wisdom, director-customer systems for Paccar Parts, told Fleet Owner. “And if they get in trouble with the government because a truck doesn’t have the necessary repair paperwork” that means downtime for the vehicle and time spent straightening out the problem. Management systems, particularly ones that track maintenance histories and offer preventive maintenance reminders, can alleviate many of those problems.
For larger fleets, the decision to purchase maintenance repair systems is really an easy one. With million-dollar inventories at stake, allowing computer software to monitor inventory, repair orders, parts ordering, vehicle histories, warranty management, preventive maintenance scheduling, invoicing and more represents an easy return on investment.
But what about the smaller fleet owner? Vehicle downtime due to repairs or because the vehicle was put out of service by an inspector can be disastrous for a business that is surviving week to week financially in this economy. It’s for those fleets that maintenance systems provide enormous value and why Wisdom said more fleets are inquiring about these systems than ever before.
“It really does help someone who is a small business owner” who may not have the time to manage parts inventory and the resulting piles of paperwork, Wisdom said. The size of the fleet also doesn’t matter due to the scalability of programs. “Usually there are enough benefits of one or two features that it’s worth the cost,” Wisdom said.
But cost is not the only aspect to parts management. Tracking inventory is another. “The next piece to having the right part is having the right part at the right time,” Wisdom said. That means working with local dealers and managing in-house inventory. To do that, Paccar Parts offers “consigned inventory” programs through local dealers.
Under these program, dealers stock parts on customer shelves, but will not bill the customer for a part until it is used. For instance, a customer may keep five oil filters in stock at any given time. Those filters, while on the shelves of the fleet, remain the property of the local dealer who will carry the inventory on their books. When the customer decides to use one of those filters, the dealer will be notified through an online parts program, will bill the customer and, based on minimum stocking levels, automatically reorder that filter to replenish the stock.
Local dealers can also work with fleets to organize their shops and advise them on what parts to keep on hand.
Programs such as Peterbilt TruckCare Connect and Kenworth PremierCare Connect can also help. According to Paccar, these programs are quite robust, but also scalable based on a fleet’s needs, both financially and otherwise. Basic versions include inventory management and options include cross-referencing tools to match competitor’s parts numbers to a Paccar Parts item, parts reordering, vehicle histories to enable mechanics to track what work has been done to a specific vehicle, warranty management, preventive maintenance scheduling, invoicing and more.
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Paccar Parts is also working with Karmak, a business management solution company, to develop individual part pricing lookup and up-to-date local dealer inventory visibility.
When it comes time to look for a program, Ken McKibben, founder of Single Source Transportation Solutions and the former head of maintenance for Penske Truck Leasing, said the best option is to stick with a national dealer network or company.
“What they’ve got to do, in my opinion, is get to a national company that has the systems in place,” McKibben said. “[Once] they have a good dealer who can get them quality parts, then they have to set up a process in their own shop.”
He noted that Single Source provides services to fleets that help them evaluate products, improve efficiencies and increase profitability within their maintenance operations. Questions that should be asked, McKibbon said, are how many parts the supplier stocks and what type of warranty comes with those parts.
Todd Hooper, director of aftermarket marketing for Alliance Parts, a Daimler Trucks North America operation, said that modern engines with all their complexities, along with the mixed-model nature of smaller fleets, lends itself to outsourcing inventory management. To do that effectively, he said, requires building relationships – both at the dealer level as well as with local repair shops.
“The key is to develop those relationships,” Hooper said. “Keep a relationship with a dealer as well, because you want to keep your truck as genuine as possible so you don’t sacrifice the trade-in value.”
Navistar Parts offers its own PartSmart Parts private label line through an e-commerce site located at partsmartparts.com. In addition to its more than 700 available parts with new items added monthly, Navistar Parts also offers two programs that can assist smaller fleet owners stretch their dollars even further.
The first is its Customer Parts Recovery program. Under this program, a customer returns unused parts – either obsolete or surplus – to the company. Navistar Parts will then credit the customer’s account for 25% of the value of the parts, usually the original purchase price, upon acceptance into the program, with the remaining 75% of the price credited over the life of the program agreement. Those credits can be applied to purchase future parts. “We are the only truck OEM that offers this and it’s been quite successful,” said Kathy Seegebrecht, vp --marketing & brand. In fact, the company allows the return of any competitor’s part as well.
The other tool that Navistar customers can take advantage of is the company’s Diamond Connection Solutions. This software package monitors customer’s on-hand inventory based on minimum/maximum settings in conjunction with an inventory management program and will automatically order parts when on-hand inventory drops below the minimum level set by the customer. According to Navistar, this eliminates a level of oversight that many small business owners let lapse due to time constraints.
In the end, whether to purchase a maintenance management program, and what level of functionality to select, will depend on how a fleet will use the program said Paccar Parts’ Wisdom.
“The most important thing is, are you going to use it or not?” Wisdom asked. “The price point for these systems is low enough-- it’s a matter of whether you are going to take advantage of the benefits.”