Auto Service World
Feature   September 1, 2004   by Auto Service World

CounterTalk: Selling Heavy-Duty

Selling to the heavy-duty market involves many of the same skills as selling to the consumer, at least for the owner/operator, but to really maximize your effectiveness for the truck market, there are more issues that need your attention.

It is important to realize that the owner/operator and the fleet operator may use similar trucks and equipment, but they may focus on different things.

Typically, the owner/operator may buy parts on the fly, particularly safety-related items such as lighting and conspicuity tape that they may need to pass an impromptu inspection.

Jobbers in the market will tell you stories of truckers pulling to the side of the road in front of their store in order to buy a replacement light before they arrive at the depot, where they’ll have time to install it.

Fleets, or at least the well-run ones, will either order them as they need them, or even keep a stock of items that are commonly in need of replacement.

While estimates vary, some 40% of lighting costs result from damage. This puts it into different territory for fleet operators, who like to plan replacements for specific intervals in many products–so many kilometres for brakes and tires, so many for engine service–and in this way they may behave a bit more like owner/operators than they might in other situations.

Among the most common causes of damage are tree branches overhanging the roadway, and from something called “heat entrapment.”

Heat entrapment occurs when the trailer is nudged up against the dock and the rubber bumpers come in contact with the taillights. With the taillights on, the amount of heat generated can literally cause a light to burn itself out.

For this, and other reasons, LED-style lights have become increasingly popular.

At the OEM level, the increased demand for LED lighting options results at least partially from increased power requirements on trucks.

In ways similar to those pressures occurring in the light vehicle segment–individual systems are being forced to become more efficient so that more systems can be added–heavy trucks have been forced to find ways to accommodate safety systems without overtaxing their electrical systems. LED lighting has helped.

LED technology is a natural fit on today’s trailers with the addition of the mandated ABS systems. The lower overall current draw allows more voltage to be available for peak requirements, when there is an ABS activation. This is especially necessary for fleets that additional trailers that are equipped with ABS.

For the independent trucker who does not require the LED option for that reason, he may still find it an attractive option as it will allow him to customize his truck with more lights while maintaining the overall current draw.

A big plus for both on the LED front is the fact that this style of light lasts a great deal longer than conventional incandescent options.

Understanding these issues in detail is important for the counterperson who is faced with a potential sale.

While the trucker may like the look of an LED light, they are still a premium item, and you must be comfortable with focusing on issues of life span and current draw, both of which are of concern to the trucker.

While most on-highway operators have become familiar with the requirements of regulators to mark and light their vehicles, it is not necessarily the case in other segments.

A quick scan of a construction site, for example, may reveal dump trucks and trailers missing one or all of the required elements. They may have been there at one time, but the rough environment can degrade even the most conscientiously maintained vehicles.

Likewise, the proliferation of medium duty trucks with near heavy-duty towing capacity has led to an increase in gooseneck trailers on the road, only some of which have been marked properly, as many of the drivers are not well versed in the requirements.

Nonetheless, they are ultimately responsible for their equipment being in compliance, and if you are well aware of what those requirements are, you can save them a lot of trouble.



Since trucks and trailers are on the road, consider employing at least a couple of methods to reach out.

Fleet managers should be paid a visit. Perhaps you can start by supplying some small items, and then build. Maybe you will get lucky and be able to solve a supplier problem right away.

Visit construction sites and keep your eyes open.

Consider visiting sporting events–car races, horse races, etc.–with an eye toward providing information on truck and trailer lighting requirements. And don’t forget to look at the concession trailers.

Put together a letter with some marketing information attached: “We have noticed that some of your trailers/equipment may not meet the government requirements . . ” Keep it friendly, but make the point well.



Slow Growth Stifles Commercial Telematics Market Participants

Profitability remains elusive for participants in the North American commercial vehicle telematics markets due to sluggish growth, says new research by Frost & Sullivan.

According to the research firm, the uncertain market outlook has caused hesitancy among potential customers about adopting sophisticated telematics systems. Prospective end users are apprehensive that they may be left without a service provider despite making significant investments, in case their supplier is forced to exit the business.

This is affecting participants counting on the recurring revenue stream from a large subscriber base that is becoming increasingly hard to find in the current business environment. A few participants, anticipating a quick market revival that will eventually help them in attaining critical mass, are continuing to invest in the market.

More than 25 million commercial vehicles and five million truck trailers are on the roads in North America. This is a clear indication of the tremendous market potential for commercial vehicle telematics systems. “The key to leveraging this fantastic opportunity lies in encouraging fleet operators to adopt these systems which enable them to track and manage their trucks, trailers, and mobile work forces continuously,” according to the Frost & Sullivan analyst. “Tangible benefits such as increased productivity, reduced costs, and enhanced safety and security – which ultimately lead to greater customer satisfaction – are likely to make it hard for fleet operators to ignore telematics.”

In-Store Strategies

Effective merchandising techniques similar to those employed to attract consumers can work for truckers, too.

Use the displays supplied by manufacturers.

Consider card-stock merchandising in addition to the light board.

Ensure you are aware of your suppliers’ packaging options.

Keep displays fully stocked. Resist selling display-only items.

Have copies of the truck and trailer marking requirements poster handy. Printable versions are available online at

Print this page


Have your say:

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *