Where's the Info?

In January for the past two years, an annual event has been held that brings the independent heavy duty aftermarket leadership together in one location (Las Vegas) for a major business conference. Heavy Duty Aftermarket Week (HDAW) provides a venue for various organizations to join together to discuss industry issues, learn about new technology and business practices, and to network with other business leaders.

The HDAW program provides a forum for heavy duty aftermarket suppliers, distributors, service providers and media to meet, discuss and take action on a range of topics, i.e. new technology in products, business practices, training, etc.

The results of these efforts have produced the beginnings of what could be called industry study groups, or task forces. Teams of individuals from all industry participants have formed to work on various issues and to develop the various programs that are presented during HDAW.

An area of great interest and of varying ideas is the topic of the availability of truck repair information to the independent HD aftermarket distributors, shops and fleets.

In the light vehicle industry, this issue has been a subject of much discussion and lobbying of Congress for some time. Some in the industry feel that the OEMs are cutting off information to the light-vehicle independent parts and repair channel in favor of the OEM parts and service dealers. Many feel that the commercial vehicle industry lags behind the passenger car business and may soon be in the middle of the same set of problems.

HDAW 2008 (slated for Jan. 21–24, 2008, at The Mirage, Las Vegas) will see the first work product of one of several study groups. This group is tasked with examining the issue of HD truck repair information access. It is hoped that the ongoing efforts of this group will bring clarity to what exists as the real world of heavy duty repair and service.

A group of stakeholders from the ranks of the independent parts distributors, repair facility owners, aftermarket and OEM parts suppliers, trade associations, and technical organizations will frame the issue and look for possible solutions.

This is a very timely subject due to an impending regulation from the EPA requiring on-board diagnostics (OBD) on new HD commercial vehicles from 2010 and beyond. Similar, more far-reaching regulations were put into effect in the light vehicle industry several years ago. Industry action and many non-governmental solutions have reduced the automotive aftermarket industry violation complaints to very minor numbers.

The “right to repair” in the light vehicle market still is a major topic of discussion and many feel new federal laws are the answer. In the interim, it appears the private sector is doing a reasonable job of working toward its own solution.

In HD commercial vehicles, the overall market situation is very different, though with many of the very same problems as the light vehicle market. The information is reportedly there and available, but many fiercely complain that it is nearly impossible to access.

With a “call-to-arms” during a session at HD Aftermarket Week ’07, several industry leaders made the point that without industry action, the independent parts, repair, and diagnostic tool market will cease to exist. With the formation of an industry task force, or study group on the subject, the leadership of the various HDAW sponsors is taking the lead to ensure the independent market will continue to flourish and provide parts, service and jobs.

The sponsoring associations of HDAW will continue to provide information on this and other developments over the next few months. Our hope is to provide a clear view of this issue to those concerned with access to repair information. For more information on HDAW ’08, visit www.hdaw.org.

Tim Kraus is Executive Director of the Heavy Duty Manufacturers Association. Prior to joining HDMA, he served as director of sales and marketing at Triseal Corp. The Heavy Duty Manufacturers Association (HDMA) is the heavy duty market segment association of the Motor & Equipment Manufacturers Associations (MEMA). HDMA exclusively represents the interests and serves heavy duty product manufacturers.