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Prime Mover Magazine

Avoiding aftermarket anxiety

Avoiding aftermarket anxiety

Australia’s aftermarket parts sector is teeming with confusion. With untested parts flooding the market, knowing exactly what’s being fitted a vehicle is difficult – but there are still ways to ensure safe operation.

In the 12 months to February 2017, the Australian heavy-duty truck parts market brought in revenue of $2.1 billion, according to data from IBISWorld. The huge sector grew 2.2 per cent from 2012-2017 and shows no signs of slowing, with the firm predicting a further two per cent of growth in the coming five years.

Wanting to get a piece of the pie, online retailers from around the world are offering generic parts at bargain prices, preying on cost-conscious operators working in a low profit margin industry. Outside of the Original Equipment (OE) realm, booming online trade and the increasing proliferation of all-makes outlets have made finding suitable and reliable parts increasingly difficult.

While customers benefit from competition – both in regard to choice and price – the flood of non-genuine parts from low cost producer countries has created a ‘choice overload’ situation, according to industry experts – there are just too many parts and not enough reliable performance data.

The core of the problem, explains Australian Road Transport Suppliers’ Association (ARTSA) Chair, Dr Peter Hart, is that in Australia, most truck and trailer replacement parts do not need to meet a technical standard, even if there is one in place. So while the generic replacement parts will fit, they may not necessarily function to with any degree of certainty.

“Aftermarket confusion is becoming worse,” Peter says. “Safety critical parts like tow couplings are available for cheap prices on eBay that don’t have any performance data and cannot be relied on to perform.”

There is also no supervision of replacement part quality by state road agencies, compounding the country’s lack of regulation to a situation where purchasing a part must be viewed as a safety risk in itself. “The government has limited technical capabilities and not enough manpower to enforce any type of parts regulations,” Peter says.

But Peter also says it is unrealistic to have government as the industry’s QA manager. What he suggests instead, is to put the onus back on the supplier with a new framework modelled on the European CE mark. “The European market has already done a lot of the hard work in developing its ‘CE’ mark,” he says. “Australia could develop its own mark applicable to replacement parts.”

Most industrial equipment sold in Europe need the compliance mark, Peter explains. The European government doesn’t issue the CE mark, but it has identified appropriate technical standards and published ‘safe practice’ guides for certain parts. Suppliers must make a declaration that the parts comply with safe practice principles and standards are complied with, and their statements are then made available in the public domain.
This way, he says, transparency is ensured and suppliers can be held accountable. “Progress can be made, the thing that keeps the free market honest is transparency. It could never be possible for the government to check every tyre, so it should be put onto the supplier,” Peter argues.

Daniele Maggiolini, Head of Parts at the CNH Industrial Group that includes Iveco, agrees that “something like the CE mark” should be implemented to create an even playing field. “The regulator should look at implementing a set of safety regulations for aftermarket parts,” he says. “Original Equipment Manufacturers play fairly and care about safety, testing and ensuring the quality of genuine parts. But pricing is the only differentiator for single-part importers or online retailers.”

He amends that at the same time, Iveco Parts believes that the customer is free to make their own choices about what they purchase. “However, it’s important to educate the customer that their choices also can affect the road-user population, and therefore heavy vehicle safety should be something that nobody is willing to compromise on.”
SAF-Holland’s National Aftermarket Manager, Warren Farrugia, agrees that the key to ensuring safety is sharing information and providing transparency. “It’s important for us to play the part of an educator to help fleets understand what products are actually available, so they can make an informed decision on what will best suit their vehicles,” Warren says.

Though Peter repeats that the responsibility for an Australian CE-style compliance system should fall to suppliers if put in place, his long held passion around the issue saw him take his advocacy efforts to senators and the ACCC. “ARTSA is agitating for changes, and industry associations should lead the way,” he says. ARTSA will be meeting in the coming months with other industry association to put together a proposal and get something going.”

In the meantime, suppliers advise that a number of options are available to fleet managers and operators to ensure safe operating conditions.

Purchase Genuine Parts from trusted suppliers
OEMs such as Iveco offer a portfolio of genuine parts, which Daniele says go through stringent testing and quality assurance measures both in Australia and overseas. “As an OEM providing genuine parts, we are responsible for the performance of the equipment,” he says. “Behind a genuine part is a team of experts that will support the user with the dealer network, warehousing and workshops. We provide back up in case of any issues, whereas if you go out on your own, you may be making compromises in areas you didn’t even consider.”

Daniele adds that Iveco boasts over 60 service points around the country, each of which is held to a high standard of processes to ensure not just the quality of the part, but also the quality of its fitment.

“We have mandatory training on the parts and installation guidelines, which look at all different technical aspects. We actually just completed one of our largest dedicated original parts meetings, where we invite 150 dealers and 45 vendors to a two day session to go over the parts portfolio and how to better service the customer,” Daniele adds.

Genuine parts come at a premium price, and are targeted at operators – predominantly owner-drivers – that really care about the longevity of their parts and wont compromise on performance, he says.

Purchase A2 truck and trailer parts from trusted suppliers
Minimising upfront costs, however, is still a priority for numerous operators. In response to this, SAF-Holland and Iveco also offer a range of aftermarkets parts that cater to consumers who don’t want to pay the premium price of a genuine part, but still demand the peace of mind that comes with buying well-researched and developed equipment.

Iveco’s Highway Plus offering is therefore targeted to the more cost conscious market, where cost and lifespan both come into play. “Our Highway Plus range still offers a strong safety standard and warranty as it also goes through a series of strict safety testing regimes, so there is no compromise on quality while being more cost effective,” Daniele says. “The range offers a 12-month warranty, so operators have a solid backup with Highway Plus.”

Meanwhile, SAF-Holland introduced the Sauer Germany Quality Parts range to the Australian commercial road transport industry at the Brisbane Truck Show in May, which Warren says will bring new clarity to the often-confusing aftermarket. “Powered by SAF-Holland, Sauer is a global product that is available in Europe, Asia, Middle East and Africa, as well as a sister brand in the US, the Sauer products have instead been put to – and passed – the required US and EU certification tests,” he says.

Every product in the Sauer range – which includes parts for axle and suspension systems, brakes, landing legs and lubricants – is sourced through OE suppliers. A high proportion is manufactured in Europe – mostly in Germany – and every unit features a 12-month warranty.

Warren adds that the extensive Sauer portfolio includes replacement parts for brands other than SAF-Holland, covering brands such as Meritor, BPW, Hendrickson, Weweler, Gigant on the trailer side, as well as Mercedes-Benz, Volvo, Scania and DAF for truck parts. “Leveraging the SAF-Holland national coverage, there are over 200 trusted retail sales points for Sauer parts across Australia,” Warren explains.

Service and Maintenance contracts
For those fleets that don’t have their own workshops and rely on outsourcing their new parts requirements, it’s important to work with businesses that they can trust, Peter says. “There are a lot of really good workshops and respectable people that do good work, and can be trusted to use the end-user’s parts of choice,” Peter says. “However there are some places that cannot be trusted, so caution is necessary.”

Truck OEM service and maintenance agreements could be part of the solution, with companies like Volvo offering scheduled contracts that guarantee to always use genuine parts. “It’s a condition of our agreements that we only ever use genuine Volvo parts,” says Volvo’s Vice President Aftersales and Services, Tony O’Connell. “Our genuine parts are specifically engineered, perfectly fitted and rigorously tested for quality. Plus, many are manufactured using technology patented by Volvo, which cannot be replicated by competitors.

He adds, “Our Volvo Service Agreements are available in three flexible levels of coverage, with the Gold Service Agreement the best option of choice for the fleet owners who want total peace of mind we take almost all the maintenance of your truck off your hands.”

A new addition to Volvo’s Gold service agreement, is the eight-hour uptime promise that Volvo Group Australia President, Peter Voorhoeve, announced at the Brisbane Truck Show in May. “Volvo’s Uptime Promise is designed to give you extra protection against unplanned standstills,” Tony says.

“If you experience an unplanned stop, we promise to have you back on the road within eight hours – from anywhere within Australia. From the moment you log the stop with Volvo Action Service, the clock starts. If it takes longer than eight hours, we start compensating you.”

“Our customers don’t put limits on their business, so we don’t put limits on our service,” Peter Voorhoeve says. “We are able to offer this unbeatable guarantee as we are confident in the quality of our products and the strength of our dealer network.”
Though passionate personalities like ARTSA’s Dr Peter Hart are actively campaigning for an industry-wide standard to hold parts suppliers accountable, the waters are still murky. “To keep road users safe while waiting, working with suppliers and manufacturers that can be trusted is critical.”

Fast Fact
Australian Road Transport Suppliers’ Association (ARTSA) Chair, Dr Peter Hart, advises that using non-genuine parts counts as a modification to the original specification. For some parts such as brake linings and pads, an engineering certificate is required to make the modification legal.

3D Printed Parts
Mercedes-Benz Trucks in Germany has 3D printed its first square metal part, a thermostat cover for truck and Unimog models, that has passed quality assurance requirements for strength and thermal resistance.
“With the introduction of 3D metal printing technology, Mercedes-Benz Trucks is reasserting its pioneering role among global commercial vehicle manufacturers,” said Head of Marketing & Operations in Customer Services & Parts for Mercedes-Benz Trucks, Andreas Deuschle.
“The particular added value of 3D printing technology is that it considerably increases speed and flexibility, especially when producing spare and special parts. This gives us completely new possibilities for offering our customers spare parts rapidly and at attractive prices, even long after series production has ceased.’
In the Customer Services & Parts division of Mercedes-Benz Trucks, automotive 3D printing began its increasing success in the production departments for the after-sales and replacement parts in July 2016.

Troubles with Tyres
According to IBISWorld data, tyres are the heavy-duty truck part sector’s largest product segment, with demand growing as tyres are put under increasing pressure and stress as payloads continue to increase. Even with the significance of the tyre sector, ARTSA Chairman, Dr Peter Hart, says, “we’re not doing tyres well”.
“We used to have ADR 24, which meant manufacturers had to prove their product’s compliance to the Design Rule. However, this became too hard to continue as the number of tyre makes and models grew, so the government scrapped the regulation,” Peter says. “Now, it says that tyres must comply with a set of international rules, but it is not enforced. The government has effectively given up on tyre standards.”
Furthermore, international tyre standards are concerned with tread performance and friction but don’t talk about lateral and sidewall stability, Peter points out, which is increasingly important for the high productivity Performance-Based Standards (PBS) approved combinations. “As combinations get bigger, we need to know the tyre’s lateral stability to ensure safety,” Peter says. “The issue is that a combination must state the make and model of a tyre that is approved, however the ever-changing tyre market means that some models no longer exist and therefore the PBS accreditation no longer applies. This could be solved with something like Europe’s CE mark (see main article, ed.)”

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