Semiconductors have become the national poster child for commercial vehicle equipment shortages. However, many other material shortages also play a role – anything petroleum- or resin-based, aluminum, copper, and rubber, for example.
When it comes to purchasing equipment to transport a record amount of freight, the commercial vehicle industry is cutting pandemic-induced capacity and labor delays at the end of 2020 and faces persistent supply chain challenges that have intensified in 2021.
Kyle Treadway, master dealer for Kenworth Sales, explained that the situation was evolving and changing.
“I can tell you last year was like a mole,” Treadway said. Fleet owner. “Every time we seem to reduce and improve a situation, another problem arises, and it still does today.”
Treadway noted that there are a number of steps Kenworth dealers have taken themselves, as well as in cooperation with suppliers, to keep vehicles in working order. This required strengthening inventory and increasing communication with fleet customers and suppliers to inform them of the status of spare parts and components.
“We all went into just-in-time mode a few years ago, and that made us vulnerable,” Treadway said. “We are improving the amounts of storage we have by using dealer management software to help us try to manage different seasonalities and cycles so we can accommodate longer lead times in ordering supplies.”
In October 2021, everything changed, Treadway pointed out.
“Our whole order board was cancelled, and we had to go to our customers and tell them, ‘Force majeure, this contract we had with you is no longer valid; we have to submit again. You may not get the model you want, the specs you want, the engine you want. You might not get it when you want it, and you certainly won’t get it at the previously agreed price,” he said.
For Treadway, this is when OEM, supplier and fleet relationships have become more important than ever.
“You need to have built a history with all of these stakeholders so they understand the message you’re delivering and the context in which it’s being written,” Treadway advised. “You also have to keep in mind that you want to do business with your client five years from now, so you want to do whatever it takes to maintain that relationship.”
Jetco Delivery, which provides intermodal, open deck, heavy haul, dry van, asset-backed freight brokerage and warehousing services, hasn’t necessarily had trouble sourcing equipment; the difficulty was the long delays. Company-wide, Jetco and its parent company, GTI Group, operate approximately 140 trucks, primarily Freightliners in the Houston market and Peterbilts in Canada.