The Heavy Duty Manufacturers Association's (HDMA) recent survey of heavy-duty parts and service providers revealed that finding qualified technicians and other labor issues are among the things that "keep them up at night."
The survey, a new section of HDMA's annual analysis of truck maintenance trends, 2007 HDMA Truck Maintenance, polled companies on a variety of issues. When asked about the single most important challenge facing the industry, they provided a long list of issues such as "keeping up with the changing technology of the newer trucks" and "finding qualified experienced help." Upon grouping the replies into more general categories, labor issues topped the list of things that "keep them up at night."
Of the heavy duty distributors who responded to the survey, 60 percent are members of a marketing/buying group, 87 percent sell directly to municipal fleets and 76 percent provide remote jobsite deliveries and services. Only 17 percent of the members of a marketing/buying group purchase exclusively through the group and a surprising 31 percent purchase products directly from off-shore sources.
In relation to the use of technology in their operations, 24 percent of distributors use business intelligence or data mining software in their operations and 20 percent use vendor managed inventory with their suppliers.
What Keeps You Up At Night?
- 28% Labor pool
- 15% Competition
- 15% Other
- 10% Parts availability and supplier issues
- 10% Changing technology
- 5% Accounts receivable
- 5% Environmental issues
- 5% Imported parts
- 5% OEM issues
In response to a question about the evolution of the heavy duty parts and service business, participants gave slightly more detailed replies than the previous question. For example, one response stated "significantly higher skill sets will be required of technicians servicing the product and fewer choices of drive train components will be available as manufacturers continue to vertically integrate."
When grouped, these fell into just a few categories with the most frequent assessment being that the next five to ten years will be a period of constant, but modest, growth.
Coupled with other trends reported in HDMA's Heavy Duty Truck Maintenance in the USA, such as brand loyalty and reduced downtime, it is clear that distributors and suppliers alike share the same concerns regarding the labor pool of qualified personnel.
The heavy duty industry needs a concerted effort to attract and retain employees who are interested in a career rather than a just a job to cover their bills.
One way to retain qualified employees is to recognize and reward their efforts. During Heavy Duty Aftermarket Week (HDAW) in Las Vegas this past January, the Heavy Duty Aftermarket Industry Awards were presented. The awards honored individuals with outstanding service to the industry and recognized innovative products introduced to the market during 2006.
Among those recognized as high achievers was Tyson Sontag of McKee Foods Transport, as the 2006 Technician of the Year. He was honored as an outstanding career professional and one who was dedicated to remaining a top performer in his field. Sontag was selected through a year-long nomination and review process by a judging panel. The award was sponsored jointly by SKF VSM, Bendix CVS, Dayton Parts, and Haldex CVS.
The 2007 Heavy Duty Truck Maintenance in the USA, HDMA's annual research study, is designed to be a reliable tool for trend analysis regarding heavy duty truck user repair factors, heavy duty truck use, changes in buying patterns and service work performance. Members of HDMA and other market segment associations of the Motor & Equipment Manufacturers Association (MEMA) can order additional copies for $49.95 and non-members can order for $395 each. Discounts are available for orders of five or more copies. Copies can be ordered at the HDMA Web site, www.hdma.org.