Getting The Most Mileage Out Of Replacement Parts

What do you consider when specifying replacement parts for your truck? Is it the cost or the quality of the part? Should you buy an original equipment (OE) replacement, a remanufactured part or should you head to the local wrecking yard?

Unquestionably, OE parts have a top rating in terms of quality, reliability and reputation. The high cost of an OE part, however, weighs heavily into the equation. And be-cause owners of small fleets don't have the buying power of larger haulers, they often pay top dollar for the parts.

In terms of replacement parts, truck manufacturers have been facing increasing competition from the hundreds of independent heavy truck parts dealers across the country. Independents offer several ad-vantages including competitive pricing and a broad selection of makes at one location.

With parts quality and warranty an issue, more than 500 of these independent parts dealers belong to the Council of Fleet Specialists which works to insure that high standards are met. It also sets minimum training and technical expertise standards for its members' staffs.

How much can you save by buying from the independents? Depending on the item, your costs can be from 15 to 30 percent less than OE parts.

Purchasing remanufactured parts is another option. These parts are built to the original equipment quality standards and can cost between 40 to 60 percent less than OE parts.

Many truck manufacturers are seeing an increasing demand for remanufactured parts as price and even ecological considerations in-crease. In addition, truck dealers are able to stock more remanufactured products, which allows them to service their customers more quickly.

There are several factors to consider when purchasing this type of part:

* Find out, for example, which parts were replaced (as opposed to repaired).

* Read the warranty. It should be clear and firm. Will the warranty cover other parts damaged by their part (should it prove defective)?

* Ask the dealer if the manufacturer provided any training or additional service features. Do they provide a customer hotline?

* Find out how their policy on cores will affect the final price. Ask about handling charges, for example.

Determine the size of the remanufacturer and find out if their parts are distributed nationally. Also, ask if they belong to the Automotive Parts Rebuilders Association.

When in doubt, call another hauler and see if they have any experience with this brand.

While price is a major consideration, the majority of expense falls when the truck fails. The cost of downtime far exceeds the cost of even the most expensive OE part.

That's why many fleet owners follow a preventive maintenance program (PM), spending a little money in advance to avoid paying for unscheduled downtime as well as the repair.

Many haulers require a daily inspection before the drivers leave on their routes. All fluid levels and the oil are checked and the brakes, lights and belts are inspected.

Your company's drivers can play a large role in a preventive maintenance plan. In addition to the daily checks, they should be asked to report any unusual leaks and notice if the truck "sounds different."

Complementing the daily inspection is a formal schedule of maintenance. Depending on the area, this type of maintenance should be after a specific number of hours or miles of operation of the truck.

Several manufacturers recommend, for example, that trucks should be greased weekly or after 40 hours of service. Hydraulic oil filters should be changed every two months or 400 hours. In addition to the normal items, haulers should look for problem areas such as worn bushings or cracks which may indicate body stress.

While a preventive maintenance program predetermines the life of a part, ultimately it helps manage costs and extend the life of the truck.

And as every waste hauler knows, when his truck is down, he is out of the game.