The Heavy Duty After–market has long been a source of quality products for fleet managers. This industry is responsible for the distribution and sale of motor vehicle parts, accessories, service, tools, equipment, materials and supplies. The medium and heavy duty segment of the aftermarket includes the parts, accessories and non-warranty service repair for commercial, industrial and agricultural vehicles, which fall within vehicle weight classes four through eight.
SALES ARE UP
According to the Automotive Aftermarket Industry Association, the aftermarket industry employs about 4.6 million people. As of 2004, sales increased to $257.0 billion at over 500,000 businesses. Tim Krause, executive director of the Heavy Duty Manufacturers Association, recounted that the aftermarket industry was doing well, saying, "From everything we hear, business is going well in the heavy duty aftermarket, everyone is busy. There have been no bad reports from any sector, in fact, sales are up 10 to 15 percent."
He also discussed the health of the trucking industry. "Everyone is doing really well. We have seen fairly steady growth, which typically follows the economic cycles. The Heavy Duty Aftermarket industry has seen a growth of about 10 percent over the past few years, with about $14 billion dollars in class six through class eight trucks."
The trucking industry typically sees the effects of an economic recession roughly five to six months before the general public, but, at this time, according to Krause, there has been a "robust growth in the number of ton miles." He continued, "If ton miles are up, then trucks are driving and parts are wearing out." The use of aftermarket parts to replace the worn out parts is a solution for most fleet maintenance professionals.
"Overall operating costs are also lower." Krause said. Aftermarket "products offer the best value, and the sheer number of competitors keep costs down. There has been some growth in pricing from raw material costs, but this is healthy for the industry."
The health of the aftermarket industry can be seen in direct relation to the health of the overall trucking industry. During times of recession, often times, fleet sizes decrease, and full or partial fleets are parked until the economy experiences an increase. During this time, worn out parts are typically replaced with the parts from these parked vehicles. When the economy begins to increase, so does the aftermarket parts industry.
A task force was created in response to the need for a centralized show for aftermarket distributors and suppliers. Not only were the different aspects of the market analyzed, but perspective attendees were also asked to give their input on the conference itself.
The response to this need came in the form of Heavy Duty Aftermarket Week (HDAW). This event was held on January 23-27, 2006 at The Mirage in Las Vegas. Presented in part by the Council of Fleet Specialists, Heavy Duty America, the Heavy Duty Distributors Association, the Heavy Duty Manufacturers Association, the Heavy Duty Remanufacturers Association, the Heavy Duty Remanufacturing Group, the National Wheel & Rim Association, the Overseas Automotive Council, Power Heavy Duty, the Service Specialists Association and Truck Pride, this event was created as a means of combining a few different industry events in order to provide the target market with the most comprehensive collection of distributors and other resources in the market.
RAISING THE BAR
HDAW featured an aftermarket-focused trade show, comprehensive technical and business education sessions, individual association meetings, one-on-one business meetings, as well as other social and networking functions. Those who attended the event enjoyed direct access to top-level suppliers and executives. Another goal of the conference was to "raise the bar on expectations of distributors and suppliers in relation to attending meetings." said Krause "This event is not meant to take the place of general meetings (of the councils). We thought if we could do all of this at one time, in one place, once a year, we could assist the various councils in freeing up several weeks of time for everyone involved."
Informational education sessions were aimed at providing insight into many different aspects of the Heavy Duty Aftermarket industry. Educational sessions provided crucial information for the maintenance professional. Such sessions included information about the impact of counterfeit parts, new developments in the heavy duty brake business, what fleets want from a distributor, as well as a look into the past, present and future of the heavy duty aftermarket.
After the presentations, attendees were given the opportunity to ask specific questions to the panels of presenters. The significance of these educational sessions is something that could be measured by all. Bill Fowler, director of maintenance for Con-Way Central Express, presented under the topic of "What Do The Fleets Want From a Distributor?" His presentation focused on what distributors can do to take them to the next level, in terms of productivity and customer service, as well as where the market itself was heading. "If I can, as a representative, help them understand where the market is going and where we are going, I can better assist them" said Fowler. He continued, "Many suppliers are going to this conference, specifically to see what the needs of the market, as well as the distributors, are.
"ONE MAJOR MEETING"
As a trade-only event, Heavy Duty Aftermarket Week allowed only distributors and suppliers access to the event.
Krause discussed the value of an event like Heavy Duty Aftermarket Week, saying that the task force felt that the industry needed, "One major meeting that will cover the needs of all participants. We looked at all aspects that were needed for a conference to be successful, and put a conference together that had things that all participants needed." Krause felt that the educational aspects of the conference would also be high on participant's list to attend while at the conference. He saw the event as "Jam-packed, with not a lot of overlap. The general session, education, trade show, and one-on-one business meetings were carefully orchestrated, with representation from every distribution aspect."
He went on to discuss the educational aspect of the conference, saying, "Overall, our goal with the educational programs was to take it to the next level over what the individuals in this market have seen. We polled prospective attendees to find out what they wanted to get out of these sessions, and came up with eight main topics to be covered." Attendees were also given the opportunity to interface with the owners and distributors in the market, as well as a chance to meet with top executives.
In addition to the planned conference events, each association also held a general member meeting. This event was not organized as an alternative to regular meetings, but rather, as a means of raising the expectations of distributors and suppliers.
Looking forward to the health of the aftermarket parts sector gives both suppliers and distributors a chance to spot trends in the industry. While this was the first conference of its kind, those planning the event, such as Tim Krause, hope this is just the beginning in terms of the growth of this conference. "We had a great event, and are already planning next year's event!"
For more information about this event, as well as future events, visit www.hdaw.org