How Aftermarket Trailer Support is Evolving to Keep Trucks on the Road

Increasingly, carriers will turn to their aftermarket partners to help them realize those efficiency gains.

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Keeping supply chains moving and meeting demands for same day deliveries is driving trailer maintenance companies to take a fresh look at how they can enhance support with technology, services and partnerships.

New capabilities, such as trailer-health analytics, are emerging to give companies more flexibility in how they manage fleets and to make maintenance more proactive. Some Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs) are aligning efforts within their organizations and with dealers to deliver on a key need of transportation companies – easy and reliable access to genuine parts at consistent prices.

The job for transportation companies now is to understand the variety of options available to maintain their trailers and what best meets their needs.  

Making Better Maintenance Decisions with Data 

Telematics technology is no longer limited to large transportation companies with ample resources. Today’s telematics systems, which enable real-time monitoring of trailer activity and health, come as standard technology on some OEM dealer-stocked trailers. They can be packaged by dealers in a way that makes them manageable for small- and mid-size companies to monitor and proactively maintain their fleets. 

Sensors installed on trailers provide data-based insights into light functionality, axle temperature, weight distribution, miles driven, dwell time, rear door status and more. Transportation companies can use this information to get the optimal performance from their fleets while reducing maintenance and prolonging the life of their trailers.  

Telematics data can also be helpful in other ways. With trailers increasingly being separated from trucks due to the popularity of drop and hook, telematics data help companies keep track of trailer locations, as well as protect their equipment and cargo by triggering alerts if trailers leave established routes. The data also allows companies to create predictive maintenance strategies to reduce unexpected trailer downtime. 

Additionally, while only trailer users will see the telematics data for their trailers, OEMs can use the data in aggregate to better understand the maintenance needs of their equipment. These insights can help OEMs improve the guidance they provide to customers and their dealers, such as which parts they should keep in stock for specific trailer models.  

Lightening the Load with New Service Models 

New industry offerings provide an alternative to the traditional lease model, allowing transportation companies to manage their operations in more flexible ways.  

Trailers as a Service (TaaS) subscriptions are a prime example. They give companies the capacity to move customers’ shipments without the worry and overhead costs of maintaining and repairing equipment. 

A TaaS subscription can be especially appealing to asset-light companies such as digital brokers. TaaS allows these companies to focus on what they do best – using data to plan optimal shipping routes – while the OEM manages all aspects of trailer support through a national network built on their dealers. 

Smart trailer telematics can be used not only to help track asset activities but also to monitor trailer health, which can help them beyond their primary logistics needs.

In one case, smart trailer data helped solve a maintenance mystery for a TaaS subscriber.  

One of the company’s trailers had a tire blowout, which was surprising considering the trailer was new. A review of the trailer’s telematics and inspection data revealed that the failed tire didn’t match the tire that was assigned to that trailer. It turned out a previous leaser of the unit had taken the trailer off-route, where its new tire was replaced with an older one. This revelation allowed the TaaS subscriber to demand that the leaser pay for the tire’s replacement. 

Easing Parts Access with Tighter OEM-Dealer Coordination 

Efforts underway in the transportation industry aim to better empower dealers in the servicing and support of trailers.  

Dealers already have strong relationships with their customers, understanding their unique transportation needs and providing maintenance services that keep their trucks and trailers on the road. But more than that, dealers are a valuable conduit back to the trailer OEMs. They know the OEM products, supply aftermarket parts and relay valuable customer feedback to the OEMs. 

Given how closely dealers work with both customers and OEMs, it only makes sense for them to play a central role in the lifecycle support of trailers. Especially today, dealers can play the role of a trusted partner that can help transportation companies address some of their top challenges. That includes helping customers maintain trailer uptime by providing easy access to OEM genuine parts and providing consistent pricing to help them manage costs during freight downturns. 

Some of the efforts to empower dealers in their aftermarket support are small but meaningful. OEMs are expanding their e-commerce platforms, for example, to make it easier to order parts. OEMs are also making changes to allow dealers to buy parts directly versus ordering them through a third party. These efforts help dealers buy the right parts more easily and efficiently. 

Services and Support That Stands Out 

Increased service stemming from short e-commerce delivery expectations, increased competition and factors such as new regulations and fluctuating fuel prices are only going to keep the pressure on transportation companies to operate more efficiently. Increasingly, carriers will turn to their aftermarket partners to help them realize those efficiency gains. It’s most likely they’ll favor partners with innovative approaches for boosting fleet uptime through reliable aftermarket support.