Hey distributors: Don’t forget about trailers

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Updated May 16, 2019

By John Blodgett, MacKay & Company

At MacKay & Company, we spend a lot of time focused on the aftermarket, sizing and profiling the annual demand for replacement parts used on trucks, buses and trailers.

This is all based primarily on surveying thousands of fleet owners and maintenance managers each year. Class 8 tends to get most of the interest from our clients because nearly 70 percent of the aftermarket demand for parts in the Class 6-8 truck and trailer market comes from Class 8 trucks, so it should get most of the attention.

The reality is that trailers represent only 7 percent of the total aftermarket parts demand (29 percent of tire aftermarket demand) but even at that low percentage, aftermarket operations should not overlook the opportunity.

Most of your customers who have trucks have trailers and if you can service and/or offer parts for both their trucks and trailers, you are one up on those that can’t. Though many of you reading this probably already do provide trailer parts as there are some truck parts that fit on trailers.

Consider expanding your offerings to the more unique trailer parts to further differentiate your company.

The aforementioned 7 percent of the aftermarket does not include parts related to walls and flooring, straps and the refrigeration units on trailers. It is primarily chassis and below parts, so there is an even bigger opportunity than that 7 percent. A growing product area is aerodynamic parts on trailers, as well as sensors.

The current demand for increased freight capacity, the focus on less downtime (or more uptime, depend-ing on how you define it) and the potential grounding of a trailer due to not meeting CSA requirements all make it more important to keep the trailers up and running.

Let’s also not forget container chassis, another opportunity for parts and service providers. I have been told some container chassis now have air bags and radial tires to make sure they stay in service and better protect loads from damage.

(This information is anecdotal and has not be confirmed by the writer — I may have dreamt it.)

Half of the units in the operating population are trailers and container chassis.

Don’t ignore them just because they don’t have engines and powertrains. Do you have space for trailers at your facility? Our research indicates that 70 percent of the parts replaced on a trailer are completed by the fleet that owns the trailer so it would be to your advantage if you have the space to work on their trailers.

Fleets are struggling to find people to work in their shops (like everybody) and maybe taking part of the load off their hands, like trailers, would help and put you in position to potentially take on service work (which means parts sales) for their power units. Consider trailers a door opener — a stepping stone if you will.

Obviously, this is just a temporary opportunity until drones take over everything. You can read about that in Drones Parts & Service magazine.

John Blodgett has worked for MacKay & Company for more than 20 years and is currently vice president of sales and marketing, responsible for client contact for single- and multi-client projects. He can be reached at john.blodgett@mackayco.com.

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