Selling with statistics

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Updated Aug 28, 2016

Back in July I received a news report from the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance (CVSA) regarding its 2016 Brake Check Day.

Held once a year, the unannounced inspection day is part of CVSA’s comprehensive inspection schedule, and helps to achieve the Alliance’s mission to “improve commercial motor vehicle safety and uniformity throughout the U.S., Canada and Mexico by providing guidance and education to enforcement, industry and policy makers.”

This year’s event was held on May 4. The results were staggering.

CVSA says it conducted 6,128 inspections of brake systems on commercial vehicles in 31 states and Canadian provinces.

As a result of those inspections, CVSA says 12.4 percent of vehicles were placed out of service with brake violations, and 13.9 percent of vehicles were placed out of service for violations other than brake violations.

While I’m sure there was some carryover between those two groups — if you’re driving around with inferior brakes it’s safe to say that’s not the only system you’ve neglected — each percentage on its own is disturbingly high.

CVSA says its inspectors checked only brakes, anti-lock braking systems and related components during the inspection spree, which means CVSA put anywhere from 790 to 1,611 vehicles out of service while only checking a fraction of each vehicle.

That’s not an encouraging thought.

With the exception of a few key logistical requirements CVSA’s Brake Check Day is an entirely random inspection. Organizers don’t know whose trucks they’re going to stop and who they’re  going to let pass by, so the idea that they just went out one day and forced a thousand or more trucks off the road for serious violations is disconcerting.

If that many trucks in a small sample size are unsafe, how many others are out there?

I don’t mean to be alarming. I know a lot of fleet maintenance professionals who work tirelessly to keep their vehicles safe, and an out-of-service brake violation doesn’t equate to a truck that can’t stop, but numbers like that still deserve to be taken seriously.

Even with all of the safety-centric efforts made by CVSA, NHTSA, FMCSA, TMC, OEMs and every other acronym-based moniker group over the years, huge numbers of out-of-service vehicles are still out there. Everywhere.

That’s a problem. And it’s one I think the aftermarket can help solve.

Last October I wrote an article for Truck Parts & Service on how aftermarket businesses can use FMCSA Compliance Safety Accountability (CSA) data to reveal sales opportunities within their customer base.

If you missed it, the thesis in that piece was the idea the CSA program is producing an incredible amount of data regarding the vehicle maintenance needs of North America’s trucking fleet, and that aftermarket operations could use that data to help better understand the needs of their customer base.

CVSA inspection results offer the same advantages.

You can sell plenty of brake parts through your aggressive stocking strategies, on-time delivery and customer service. And I’d never suggest giving those up. But what if you sweetened your sales pitch with hard data?

“Your fleet has averaged ten out-of-service violations totaling 20 days of downtime per month for two years.” Or, “Your area of operation has the highest inspection rate per capita in the state, and eighth highest in the United States.”

Wouldn’t that get a customer’s attention?

The industry might not yet be able to predict component failure dates and we’ll never be able to predict inspections, but that doesn’t mean you can’t help keep your customers prepared.

By using the data available — both specific to your customers and the industry at large — you can strengthen your partnerships and, ideally, your sales.

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