Independent repair shops have long played a role in keeping commercial vehicles on the road.
According to a Mackay & Co. presentation during 2021 Heavy Duty Aftermarket Dialogue, independent garages are the final point of sale for 9% of truck parts. Independent garages also perform maintenance and repair on fleet vehicles, especially ones that are no longer under manufacturer warranty. Unlike truck dealerships that are affiliated with and supported by truck manufacturers, independent repair shops are often small businesses, and many only have one or two locations.
Believing this was an underserved segment of the trucking industry, a group of people with a combined 200-plus years of experience in the transportation and commercial equipment industry formed the Association for Commercial Equipment Solutions. Justina Nadolson, executive director of the group, says ACES aims to provide resources for heavy truck and commercial equipment repair and maintenance businesses and help them increase their viability, professionalism, and profits.
While much of the focus is on independent repair shops, membership is open to fleets, dealer repair shops, leasing companies, mobile repair operations and truck stops. Suppliers to those businesses can become allied members.
ACES affiliate partners have been established (with more planned) and will be providing many of the benefits to members. Those benefits include parts discounted to national fleet pricing and expedited shipping of those parts; rebates on diagnostic equipment; truck repair financing; free and discounted training; a free website with no hosting fees; discounts on search-engine-optimization services and free reporting on internet presence and effectiveness; a free workplace safety platform; and networking opportunities.
Nadolson says that many independent repair shops are small operations that may not have all the resources needed to market and grow their businesses. Nor do they have the buying power needed to get discounts on parts pricing. ACES aims to address that. For instance, founding affiliate Affordable Heavy Truck Parts is offering ACES members a 5% to 10% discount on parts along with expedited shipping.
“Fleets will benefit from shops being members,” she says. “The shops will give them better pricing on parts, and they will be able to get their truck repaired quickly because of the expedited shipping of those repair parts.”
Training is another key area addressing the needs of both independent shops and fleets. This is especially true for businesses that are starting to see newer trucks with exhaust gas recirculation systems and enhanced electronics. After joining ACES, fleets and shops will receive vouchers for free access to three online training webinars run by Diesel Laptops and one voucher a year for a Diesel Laptops in-class training session. There also will be members-only webinars.
Members also get an 8% rebate on the purchase of Diesel Laptops commercial truck diagnostics software, hardware, and laptop kits. They will also receive a free Diesel Decoder, a tool that allows users to read and clear fault codes on commercial trucks.
Trucksuite, another affiliate member, is providing shops with “no pink slip, no recourse” repair financing. This will help fleets and owner-operators get financing for repairs they need but may not be able to afford without having to put their vehicle up as collateral.
Whether or not a fleet joins ACES, Nadolson says they will benefit if the shops they do business with are members, because the association is “helping them become more profitable, more knowledgeable and better at what they do.”
Keeping independent shops viable allows fleets more choice when it comes to getting their maintenance and repair needs met. And that is a good thing.
This column originally appeared in the July 2021 issue of Heavy Duty Trucking.