Panel: Maintenance, hiring technicians, CSA among important issues facing fleets

Dealing with all aspects of the repair process highlighted “Driving the Aftermarket: The Fleet Perspective” during Heavy Duty Aftermarket Dialogue Monday at The Mirage in Las Vegas.

During an hour-long panel moderated by Stu MacKay, president of MacKay and Co., Paul Higgins, director of fleet maintenance at Prime, Inc., Roy Svehla, senior manager of fleet maintenance at Republic Services, Inc. and Jon Cain, director of fuel services at Ahern Rentals discussed a variety of service factors affecting their fleets.

One of the most intriguing subjects was parts acquisition.

Svehla says his company stocked its warehouses with 90 percent OE parts a decade ago, but now is purchasing nearly 40 percent of its components from independent distributors.

“The independents have extended their lines, and the aftermarket folks seem to be able to react quicker and introduce very innovative products,” he says. adding, “the aftermarket also has done a really good job with online ordering.”

Cain adds, “I think we’re about 50-50, but we are sometimes hesitant to try non-OE parts in certain situations. When a non-OE vendor comes in with something we will try it initially and see how it works compared to the OE before adding it [in our fleet].”

Outsourcing maintenance and hiring technicians was also a highlight of the discussion.

At Prime, Higgins says his fleet performs and overwhelming majority of its service. Thanks to a large technician pool, Prime has the ability to control its costs, quality and downtime, he says.
Svehla says his company performs a majority of its maintenance as well, but bringing in new technicians to do the work can be a challenge.

“It’s no secret that there are fewer and fewer people trying to break into the technicians and the trade, and guys aren’t beating the doors down to enter our facilities and work on a garbage truck,” he says. “We try to have a road map for a career when [technicians] enter our business.”

Handling CSA regulations, dealing with brake issues, brand allegiances and the purchasing of reman components also were discussed during the session.

Cain says his fleet purchases reman components from dealers and independent distributors and enjoys the quality components that can be purchased at lower price points.

“We find a lot of parts from dealers can be purchased as rebuilt, and we will go with that,” he says. “We just have to do our homework first.”

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