A teaser for 2014

Earlier this month I started conducting interviews with various aftermarket professionals for my upcoming January cover story on the state of the aftermarket.

While I’ll have more from everyone on what I’ve heard in January’s issue of Truck Parts & Service, I wanted to share a few interesting notes that have come from my first round of interviews.

•  The aftermarket is on the rise. Thus far I’ve had OEs and distributors tell me October was their strongest month of the year, and there’s a consensus throughout the industry that 2013 is going to close better than it opened. It appears the cloud of economic uncertainty that covered the United States early this year also covered the aftermarket, and once it started to break so did stagnant sales patterns. This year won’t go down as best in history, but the aftermarket is growing, and several aftermarket veterans see that growth continuing in 2014.

RELATED: First quarter train wreck not necessarily an anomaly.

•  You aren’t the only one struggling to find new people. I’ve talked to distributors in western Canada, the eastern United States and everywhere in between this month and each one is having similar issues filling job openings. There’s a shortage from the service department clear through the management ranks. There are plenty of young people out there that want to lead a business, but there aren’t many looking toward the trucking market to do so. And while building relationships with technical schools might help fill your technician openings, finding how to bring in young, talented salesman is a problem the aftermarket is yet to solve. (Note: Our sister site Successful Dealer recently debuted a Job Openings website where aftermarket businesses are able to promote their job opportunities for free. If you’d like to post a listing, please do so HERE.)

RELATED: A good man is hard to find.

•  Service expenses are growing. The technician shortage means it is becoming increasingly important to create top-flight pay scales to keep your best technicians. Finding new and talented technicians is just too difficult. And the actual cost of performing service is rising, too. With sophistication leading to more electronics in today’s trucks, expensive diagnostic tools are a necessity. Today’s newest engines require OEM diagnostic and service tools to complete service work, and even other non-powertrain components are now being linked computers to improve diagnostics. The Right to Repair fight going on in Massachusetts will significantly impact the independent aftermarket’s access to that repair information in the future but one thing is for sure — even if the independent aftermarket wins, victory won’t come without significant new costs.

RELATED: An update on the Massachusetts Right to Repair battle.

•  The healthcare question won’t be answered anytime soon. I’ve attended four educational sessions on the Affordable Care Act and its impact on small businesses this year. Each one has been filled with active discussion, and I think each one left the audience more bewildered and confused than when they started. So if you’re still struggling with how new insurance laws are going to affect your business I can assure you that you’re not alone. The feeling I’m getting from my sources this week is that most aftermarket businesses are moving forward as best as they can but are hesitant to make any long-term budget projections on healthcare costs until at least 2014.

RELATED: ‘Obamacare’ and your business.

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