This month marks 45 years since Bud Reese and Jim Moss got together to form the Council of Fleet Specialists (now CVSN).
That event was a watershed moment because it was the first formal acknowledgment of the unique business problems and opportunities shared by independents in the heavy-duty field. It marked the early signs of organization within the market, as well as a clean separation from their automotive and light vehicle brethren.
The ensuing four decades have been a wild ride indeed, with fleet specialists having to navigate:
• 20+ percent interest rates in the 70s;
• Arrival of groups in the 80s;
• Distributor rollups in the 90s;
• Supplier turmoil since 2001
Throw in a liberal dose of OEM dealer challenges, customer consolidations and new technology. Then add an acute technician shortage and ongoing government intervention.
With all of it, one could really question whether we’ll ever make it to 50.
We will, but not without navigating some pretty treacherous crosscurrents, especially in the next two to three years. Our customers also face interesting times, including:
• The continuing encroachment of Euro-style vertical integration of components, and the possible attendant rise in proprietary parts and decrease in spec.
• Relentless tightening of emissions and safety standards. Even the remarkable progress in the past couple of years will not satisfy a Democrat-dominated Washington bureaucracy.
• Constantly changing hours-of-service and CDL regulations complicating driver retention and equipment scheduling and purchasing.
• Chaotic fuel cost patterns, alternative fuels and the next rounds of ‘EPA help.’
I feel that between now and 2020, we as an industry will have to get our collective arms around some intriguing distribution issues, most of which have not showed up on the radar nearly as prominently as they will soon: