Emerging technologies presenting new aftermarket opportunities

LAS VEGAS, Nev. — Rapidly evolving technology in the trucking industry is creating new opportunities for aftermarket parts and service providers.

That was the message from Derek Kaufman, managing partner with Schwartz Advisors and president of C3 Network, when addressing delegates here during Heavy-Duty Aftermarket Week.

Kaufman said telematics is the hot technology at the moment, and the aftermarket is rich with opportunity to become a provider of telematics solutions to used truck buyers. Kaufman said there’s a shift underway towards open source architecture, which allows the aftermarket to participate in the space by providing additional apps to ride on top of widely used telematics platforms.

“If you embed software in my truck but I can’t use it on the other trucks in my fleet, you haven’t done me a big favour there,” Kaufman said of closed-source telematics platforms. “In my opinion, I think OEMs would prefer to lock all this up and drive all the business to their dealerships, but it would kill their brands. They can’t handle the resulting volume. They need to open up. Even Apple figured that out.”

New safety systems – such as lane departure warning systems, lane keep assist and radar-based collision mitigation systems – are also creating opportunities in the aftermarket, Kaufman explained. Noting a property damage accident involving a truck in the US costs an average of US$200,000 and a fatality more than a million, Kaufman said there’s a growing opportunity to support these safety systems in the aftermarket.

“The aftermarket can get into it very easily,” Kaufman said, naming companies such as Mobileye as an example. “It’s easy to retrofit into any age truck and it’s a great item for the aftermarket to sell to second and third owners of vehicles.”

The same can be said of dash cameras, Kaufman added, or cameras mounted on other areas of the truck to ease backing and prevent trailer and dock damage.

Some active safety systems are now enjoying a take rate of 25-40% among new truck buyers, Kaufman said. “The aftermarket opportunities are in warning systems to start. With active systems, the OEM controls all the installation,” he added.

Servicing these systems, however, represents another growing aftermarket opportunity, Kaufman added. “Become a risk mitigator for your customers. Provide annual system health inspections and you can play with the first, second and third owners,” he suggested.

Kaufman also believes truck platooning will soon present new aftermarket opportunities as well. Truck platoons, which use vehicle-to-vehicle communications to allow two or more trucks to travel closely together, allow the leading truck to reduce its fuel consumption by 4.5% while the second truck improves fuel economy by 7%. The aftermarket will be able to participate in truck platooning by building installation infrastructure and providing the technology to owner/operators, Kaufman suggested. However, he still thinks fully autonomous trucks are a decade or more from becoming widely used in North America.

“I believe there’s a mountain of things to figure out before it goes up the road,” he said.

Kaufman is more bullish on augmented reality, which he said “is going to change this industry in ways we haven’t thought of.”

He’s referring to 4D helmets that technicians will be able to use to more quickly and accurately troubleshoot vehicles.

“This is a whole new opportunity for the aftermarket,” Kaufman said. “Augmented reality oughta be a part of everybody’s aftermarket strategy.” He said there will be a need for suppliers of the hardware and the expertise to use the technology.

Already today, the aftermarket is enjoying success supporting aerodynamic equipment for trucks and trailers. Aftermarket parts suppliers can sell trailer skirts and tails, wheel covers and fairings. They can also get involved in supporting efficient powertrains such as those utilizing downspeeding or 6×2 axle configurations.

Kaufman urged attendees to become experts in areas of growing demand, including component and subsystem electrification, natural gas tankage and electric hybrids.


James Menzies

James Menzies is editor of Today's Trucking. He has been covering the Canadian trucking industry for more than 18 years and holds a CDL. Reach him at james@newcom.ca or follow him on Twitter at @JamesMenzies.

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  • The Derek Kaufman article was very interesting. There are so many possibilities in the near future for those companies developing systems in safety & maintenance.