By Martha Uniacke Breen
Some industry observers have noted that the pandemic has had one interesting effect on the the way Canadians work. There seem to be a lot more light- and medium-duty trucks on the road, especially for small- scale commercial work, whether driven by the self-employed contractor, cottage- industry-style goods purveyor, or last-mile delivery driver. We asked several industry experts their opinion on the work truck brake market, and what potential there may be in this market for Canadian jobbers.
According to Glen Roy of NRS Brakes, this is definitely a growth market. “The growth of fleet vehicles in all industries, from construction to mining, shows us that the expectation is for the market to grow,” he says. “Amazon, and other distribution channels that fall under the e-retailer umbrella, have also driven demand for commercial vehicles to streamline logistics processes, both internally and through 3PL partners.”
As Poornima Iyer, aftermarket category manager, ZF Commercial Vehicle Solutions, points out, “When you think about some of the vital functions that work trucks serve –life-saving firetrucks and ambulances, road maintenance, equipment transport and waste collection, for example — you realize how critical it is to maintain them in top condition. No matter how the commercial vehicle industry evolves toward electrification and connectivity, these vehicles will always be essential, and prioritizing regular service for them will be critical. This industry thrives on regular maintenance and availability of data and services. That is where we see the segment really continuing to grow.”
Says Mike Eldard of Akebono, “Akebono sees much opportunity in the growing truck segment however due to the diverse usage of trucks jobbers must focus on end user demands. t is important to ask the right questions before recommending replacement parts is the truck a daily driver? What conditions exist now clean wheels, noise, poor stopping power, do they do any towing? Focus on customer priorities do not assume their budget.
Offerings should not be limited to private label products; truck owners can be very brand conscious and they buy the rotors and other needs where their preferred brand of friction is available.”
What product differences should jobbers be aware of in this market – e.g., different formulations, different demands, etc.?
“It’s important to understand that the quality and features of brake components for the work truck segment differ from those for passenger vehicles,” explains Brian Kowalski, VP sales Canada with First Brands Group, which distributes the Raybestos brand. “Jobbers should look for product attributes specially developed for commercial vehicles, such as full zinc coatings, enhanced metallurgies, extended-wear friction formulations and supporting hardware.
“In coastal regions and areas that experience severe winter weather conditions, we strongly encourage the installation of brake parts with extra protection against harsh elements like snow, salt and rain,” Kowalski continues. “For example, parts featuring Raybestos Rust Prevention Technology (RPT) inhibit corrosion and rust, making them ideal for vehicles in all weather conditions.”
Observes ZF’s Poornima Iyer, “We can expect to see a lot more electric vehicles – especially those that carry people – in the work truck segment. Workshops must be prepared to handle maintenance of such vehicles, and one of the key differences will be data. Shops will need access to data for diagnostics, service, repairs and achieving a quick turnaround to get these vehicles back on the road faster. And, of course, technician training is very important as well; jobbers need to be learning how to do this now. That’s why ZF Aftermarket is expanding the training we offer to workshops and developing new ways to deliver it.”
Another important consideration, Iyer observes, is the fact that work trucks endure a lot of wear and tear. “Jobbers can extend vehicle lifecycle and improve sustainability by using remanufactured (reman) products. For example, as vehicles age, ZF’s remanufactured transmissions, steering gears, air compressors, and electronic components offer a lifecycle solution at a lower cost while still meeting or even exceeding OE quality standards.
“Additionally, as disruptions continue to challenge supply chains, remanufacturing fills an increasingly important role in parts availability. You can expect to see more remanufactured parts in the future—a positive trend toward sustainability.”
How can jobbers best determine the market potential for their particular situation?
“The jobber must qualify the customer as to their needs,” says Akebono’s Mike Eldard. “Each formula is engineered for specific results perceptible to the customer. Best practice is to qualify customer expectations, rather than lose a customer or risk comebacks. Meet the expectation with detailed explanation of the value proposition of your recommendation. Do not lose the sale because you didn’t educate the customer on the benefit of Ultra- Premium offerings.”
Advises Glen Roy of NRS `, “Jobbers can best determine the market potential by identifying where work is being done on fleet vehicles in their trading area. They can then establish a relationship with these companies to build a partnership and sell their parts.
“You can expect to see more remanufactured parts in the future—a positive trend toward sustainability.”
“Jobbers will have to work with their current supplier to identify the quantity of each vehicle in their territory, using tools such as VIO,” Roy continues, “and ensure they have the correct inventory on their shelves.” Having the newest applications on the shelf, says Roy, allows the jobber to gain market share as new numbers are released, putting them ahead of the competition.
Poornima Iyer of ZF Commercial Vehicle Solutions suggests that a good approach would be for a shop to look at the type of vehicle they typically service and consider the different mix of braking, steering, transmission and other products those vehicles use. “It’s important to know the correct mix that goes into the segment they’re primarily servicing,” Iyer says. “Then they can gain opportunities both from the service and parts availability standpoints, and their inventory levels will benefit accordingly.
“Secondly, consider how those vehicles will transition to electrification and advanced driver assistance features, and when the business should start transitioning to support them. Keep in mind, the level of service will change. That brings us to the third consideration, the need for training. Not only can training increase a shop’s skill and expertise and thus increase revenue, but it can also lead to certifications and the ability for the shop to complete warranty work. Add to that diagnostic tools such as Wabco Toolbox Plus, which speeds up vehicle and trailer diagnosis and minimizes downtime. Finally, consider how the shop can improve sustainability and lower costs by increasing use of remanufactured products.”
Finally, Brian Kowalski advises that jobbers can best determine the market potential by understanding the needs of local fleets, as well as the market conditions. For example, Kowalski says, in some regions, municipalities can be a large driver of business; in other areas, last-mile-delivery vehicles make up a large segment of the commercial vehicle population. “In both instances, brake products with extended wear features promote vehicle uptime and improve cost per kilometre. Jobbers should encourage and initiate conversations with their customers to learn about their vehicles’ use, their braking expectations based on the driving environment, and where they have unfulfilled braking needs.
“The opportunities are there,” Kowalski concludes. “By working closely with their customers and identifying the market potential, jobbers can capture a greater share of this growing vehicle repair segment.”`
From the Sept/Oct 2022 print edition of Jobber Nation