Editorial: Denise L. Rondini

Denise Untitled 1If You Believe All The Talk

drondini@rrpub.com

The trucking industry is reshaping itself within rapid market changes, said Jim Hebe, Navistar’s vice president of sales and marketing, while speaking at the recent Commercial Vehicle Outlook Conference.

“The conditions since 2006 have changed our industry forever,” he added. “The next 10 years will change the industry faster than any other time in the history of heavy-duty trucking.”

And Hebe is not alone in this thinking. Sandeep Kar, global director, commercial vehicle research for Frost & Sullivan, spoke about the possibility of low-cost trucks coming to the U.S. market and about the growth in safety technology and telematics.

While Max Fuller, co-chairman of U.S. Xpress, agreed that we likely would see more advanced technology options for trucks, he said whether those options would be installed would depend on what their payback was.

Technology has already changed business for truck dealers as evidenced by Kyle Treadway, president of Kenworth Sales Co., seeing a quadrupling of his dealership’s training budget in the last few years.

No one can argue that technology has had a major impact on trucks and on the trucking industry. But I am not sure that I agree with Hebe when he said, “technology is replacing experience and expertise.”

I’ve been covering the trucking industry since 1982 and during that time I have seen many changes.

Each one was heralded by an announcement that the latest technology was going to diminish the importance of personal relationships. Frankly, I have yet to see that.

I would be naïve if I said new technology won’t have some impact and may indeed narrow the edge that experience and expertise have. But Cliff Beckman, director, president and CEO of USA Truck, also speaking at CVOC, commented on the industry trend toward shorter hauls and regionalization.

Will technology really replace expertise?

He said that today four out of five of USA Truck’s truckloads move under 500 miles. Add to that the fact that Marc Rogers, senior vice president of van truckload for Schneider National, said that he expects regional hauls to grow from today’s 45 percent of Schneider’s current operation to 55 percent in the next two years.

This seems like good news for the aftermarket to me. Sure you need to stay up to speed on technology and admittedly some of you are already a little behind on that, but I also see the trend toward more regionalized fleets as a good thing for the independent aftermarket.

Seems to me this type of fleet is a perfect fit for you since you are tops when it comes to establishing and nurturing relationships.

Regionalization may give you more opportunity to be involved with more fleets and for them to come to realize they can count on you for timely repairs, parts availability and excellent customer service.

Without a doubt you must invest in the training and tools to understand and deal with all the new technology. You need to make sure you use technology to streamline your operations and reduce costs.

I don’t see technology as replacing experience and expertise. Rather I see mastering technology as the cost of entry to the truck parts and service aftermarket and a relentless focus on customer service as your competitive advantage.

So don’t avoid the new technology, but don’ fall so in love with it that you lose sight of what brought you to the dance: your ability to connect with customer, feel their pain and make it disappear.

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