Editorial: Green or gone?

Environmentalism must be measured in shades of green. On that spectrum – somewhere between those who hug trees and those who clear cut them – is the trucking industry and its aftermarket.

The days of disposing of waste oil in the creek out back or draining the acid from batteries in the yard are mostly gone. Likewise, the days of using waste oil to heat shops and of recycling batteries through authorized outlets are, universally, not yet here.

People need compelling reasons to spur widespread adoption of new practices. Fear of reprisal or punitive actions are powerful motivators. Even more powerful is economic gain.
Trucking and the aftermarket have both.

Environmental regulations are enforced at every level of government – local, state and federal. The fines can be staggeringly high, not to mention the associated legal costs. So, there’s incentive. Public perception of your company carries even greater weight and the penalties of being viewed as a blight to the community are immeasurable and often insurmountable. A real business killer.

The trucks the independent aftermarket supports are typically not aerodynamic vehicles fresh off the assembly line with the industry’s latest fuel efficient, emissions-reducing technologies. Hybrid models probably won’t reach your service bays for a few years, but they are on the horizon nonetheless.

These trucks will eventually need aftermarket support. But unless the independent aftermarket adapts accordingly, customers may not consider it a viable choice to keep these new technologies on the road.

Sure, the nuts and bolts work will still be there – the frame-rail-down work, primarily – but carriers will steer clear of having their higher-tech jobs serviced at facilities not perceived to be able to do it correctly, or cleanly.

That’s the other incentive.

The independents are already combatants in an information-access battle. The kicker: it won’t just be your ability to care for these customers that counts, but whether or not they perceive you to be able to meet their needs.

Like a favorite diner, the independent aftermarket has always been there to provide good, dependable fare – nothing fancy. But fleets increasingly are looking for more than comfort-food sustenance. They want their business associations to help define their corporate culture. And they want suppliers that bolster their green portfolio.

This month’s cover story – a collection of environmentally focused initiatives from all segments of the industry – profiles trends emerging and already here and not likely to vanish anytime soon. OEMs are taking the green lead. Dealers are following suit. Customers are driving the movement. With fuel costs taking a historic bite out of their operating costs, it’s no wonder why.

Caring for the environment has become a fiscally responsible thing to do. The aftermarket’s response will be pivotal to its future.

America is going green. Shippers are going green. Their customers, your customers, are going green. Aftermarket distributors and service providers will stand in stark contrast without adding a few green hues as well.

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