Maximizing your trailer business

Lucas Deal February 28, 2013

As the commercial trucking market ages, aftermarket business opportunities continue to grow. While a majority of those opportunities are visible in aging trucks, the trucks themselves aren’t the only pieces of equipment that require maintenance and repair.

Trailers need work, too.

Dealers that don’t maximize their ability to provide parts and service to the trailer markets are missing an opportunity to strengthen their business. In this economy, any possible avenue to strengthen a business is worth investigating.

According to information provided by MacKay & Company at Heavy Duty Aftermarket Dialogue in January, there were nearly four million commercial trailers in the United States in 2012. The average age of those trailers was 10.5 years, a full year increase from 2008.

While a first-quarter 2013 CK Commercial Vehicle Research poll shows new trailer sales on the rise, MacKay projections put the trailer population at or above 10 years old through 2017.

“I think that provides great potential for the aftermarket,” says Jack Scarff, director of service at Wabash National Trailer Centers. A 40-year veteran of the industry, Scarff cites improved trailer designs and usage plans among his reasons for optimism.

“[Fleets] are still purchasing new trailers, but when they do they want to keep them a lot longer,” he says. “I can remember a few years ago the life cycle of most trailers was five to seven years. Now fleets are looking for trailers that will last up to 10 years. I’ve seen some that want to push that out to 12 years.”

To keep a trailer on the road that long, the aftermarket becomes a necessity.

Scarff says one of the most rapidly growing areas of trailer aftermarket is mobile service. Fleets are taking trailers longer distances than ever before, and putting stress on drivers to be aware when maintenance is required.

Dealers can minimize that stress by sending technicians out to regularly check on the trailer — just like many already do with trucks.

Scarff says trailer programs work the same way, and demand continues to climb.

“That’s probably going to be one of our best growth areas in the next four to five years,” he says.

Tank trailers provide another area for growth, as 2012 saw a significant increase in the sales of tanker trailers.

Rick Peterson, vice president of retail operations at Wabash National Trailer Centers, attributes this to Fracking taking place throughout the United States. But tanker sales aren’t expected to continue at that rate in 2013, which means new tankers will soon need to be serviced by the aftermarket.

Mike Evans, president at Polar Service Centers, says dealers need to train technicians now to take advantage of the market boom. Tank trailers are complex equipment and performing maintenance requires a thorough understanding of the trailer.

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