Truck makers push parts online and speed service

Daimler Truck Technician

In trucking, where uptime can be the difference between making or losing money, major truck manufacturers are rolling out digital tools to speed parts ordering, using an app to audibly guide repairs and even arranging to transport trucks needing service.

The one-day repair is a focus of all manufacturers who also are increasingly using over-the-air updates to reprogram sophisticated computer systems without the truck coming to a service center.

24-hour turnaround

Daimler Trucks North America (DTNA) is pursuing several innovations to edge closer to its goal of completing all truck repairs within 24 hours.

DTNA sees more efficient technicians and more work going through service bays with its Techlane, Service Pre-Authorization and TechAssist programs. Dealership expansions are helping make that happen for Freightliner, Western Star, Freightliner Custom Chassis Corp. (FCCC) and Thomas Built Buses customers.

“With investments in new technologies, we could see as much as a 20% gain in technician efficiency at many dealer locations,” said Paul Romanaggi, DTNA chief customer experience officer.

Customers who agree to preauthorize repairs up to a certain dollar amount could get service in four hours instead of the next day, Romanaggi said.

Techlane uses DTNA’s big data analytics, matching warranty repair history with fault codes logged during a repair. That gives the technician a head start in diagnosing an issue by providing specific guided diagnostics to verify components identified during testing. 

Daimler Trucks technicians have a range of new technologies to speed service in support of the company’s goal of completing repairs in 24 hours. (Photo: Daimler Trucks North America)

Techlane, piloted in six dealerships in February, also logs the data from each repair, eliminating a written repair summary. When Techlane is deployed across DTNA’s service network later this year, the online record will be available if the truck shows up with a future issue.

TechAssist, born of a 2019 DTNA-sponsored hackathon in Austin, Texas, is a voice-controlled smartphone app that gives audible step-by-step repair instructions. The concept led to the creation of Reinforce Inc., which is working with DTNA to roll out the application to the dealer network.

Better mousetraps

Separately, DTNA is launching Excelerator, a next-generation e-commerce platform to succeed its Pinnacle Truck Parts ordering system. Forty dealers helped design the digital system to find the right part at the right place and time.

Excelerator preserves the local dealer-customer relationship as it searches the Dealer Management Systems (DMS) inventory, Alliance Parts stores and DTNA’s 10 North American parts distribution centers (PDCs). A completed order drops into the DMS and is immediately visible to the dealer. No additional data entry or part number input is needed.

MacKay & Co., a market research and consulting firm based in Lombard, Illinois, projects online parts ordering will grow to 15% of the $30 billion truck and trailer parts market within the next three years, up from 12% in 2019.

“I wonder with what’s going on now if there might be more of a focus on online [parts ordering] with less interaction on a face-to-face standpoint,” John Blodgett, MacKay vice president of sales and marketing told FreightWaves, referring to social distancing because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

DTNA expects that Excelerator will account for 25% of the company’s total parts sales across 579 dealerships.

“As we continue our journey of digital transformation, it is critical that we provide cutting-edge solutions that will take our business and our dealers’ businesses into the future,” said Stefan Kurschner, DTNA Aftermarket senior vice president.

Right parts

A key to same-day repairs is having the right part in the dealership when it’s needed. 

The Dealer Inventory Alliance at Navistar International Corp. (NYSE: NAV) scans six data sources to predictively stock dealer shelves. The number of specific parts in stock is up more than 20% while the quantity of some parts is lower. Predicting what is needed replaces the traditional sell-and-replace approach.

Dealer transport

Mack Trucks dealer Vision Truck Group in Cambridge, Ontario, began minimizing face-to-face interaction while servicing trucks in 2019 — before the pandemic — by going paperless and using Mack’s web-based service management system, Mack ASIST. Technicians receive and view work assignments on their iPads. Fleet managers can see work being completed.

Another Mack dealer, TranSource located in Colfax, North Carolina, offers pickup-and-delivery commercial driver’s license (CDL) transport to help customers short-staffed because of the pandemic.

Mack dealers are using online tools to support social distancing and transporting trucks needing service when staff shortages due to COVID-19 make it hard for customers to bring to dealerships. (Photo: Mack Trucks)

Just grow, baby

PACCAR Inc. (NASDAQ: PCAR), parent of the Peterbilt Motors and Kenworth Truck Co. brands, is growing its investment in its e-commerce parts platform and adding two new PDCs to its 18 distribution centers.

“It’s not just about parts and storing, it’s about getting them to the customers as quickly as possible,” PACCAR CEO Preston Feight said on the company’s first-quarter earnings call on April 21. “One of the things that’s been nice to watch is their e-commerce programs and the way they’re handling our customers and working directly with customers and dealers.”