Click for Parts

Lucinda Coulter | January 01, 2012

Expanding e-commerce options make ordering parts online efficient and convenient.


Bradley Coddington was happy with Pittsburgh Power’s delivery speed when he received a free-flowing muffler for his 2000 Kenworth T800 only four days after he ordered it. When he realized the clamps were missing, the company rushed them to him in two days, says the Bristol, Wis.-based owner-operator.

Leased to J.R. Long, Coddington relies on online sources for truck parts he can install himself. “A lot of times, you can get better stuff online for the same price or cheaper,” he says.

He and other owner-operators increasingly go online while they’re on the road to compare prices, find local dealers or parts services, and place parts orders.

The variety of parts services available to owner-operators is growing rapidly as dealers, parts distributors and original equipment makers open or expand online catalogs for truckers.

“Five to 10 years ago, the accessibility to parts was such that only carriers could do it,” says analyst Thomas Bray of industry publisher J.J. Keller & Associates. “Now an owner-operator has access to information about parts and the ability to get the parts by ordering at 2 a.m.”

Most people are comfortable with e-commerce, says Steve Rowe, co-owner of autohaulersupply.com. Even so, he encourages truckers to order from an encrypted site: “The ‘s’ on ‘https’ is for secure.”

Technical advances in search engines and databases have made buying parts easier for owner-operators, vendors say. A search engine that PartsRiver started in October has dramatically increased the number of parts cataloged online, says Sherif Danish, CEO of the Fremont, Calif.-based heavy-duty truck parts data management firm. “Our main objective is to find a part for your truck right in the neighborhood that the trucker is in.”

The Part Search tool at partsriver.com lists more than 8 million parts. The site includes listings of alternate parts and lists of sellers near the trucker’s location. Subscribers can search the site for free. A $99 fee allows users to access the alternate parts and offers information to aid in filing warranty claims.

“There’s no question as people become savvy about using the Internet, there’ll be more online parts ordering,” says Allen Parrott, owner of Tidewater Fleet Supply based in Chesapeake, Va. Last year, the company’s 7,700 online orders represented sales of $900,000.

Dealers and parts distributors are the primary parts sources used by more than 80 percent of owner-operators. However, online vendors have established a foothold as a secondary source for parts they install themselves.

Drivetrain America drivetrainamerica.com was launched in March by Cedar Rapids, Iowa-based Sadler Power Train Truck Parts & Service. The online business augments the dealership’s light- and medium-duty truck parts with more heavy-duty ones, Sales Director Adam Sadler says.

Sadler Power Train started selling parts online two years ago. Users can check prices, view in-stock inventory and customized shipping choices. While most of its 400 online accounts are small repair shops, owner-operators also can use the service. The site’s sales grew from $50,000 in 2009 to more than $300,000 in 2011.

River City Truck Parts, based in Louisville, Ky., has seen similar success since 2010 selling diesel engines and parts through its website, rctpinc.com, says Daniel McWhorter, advertising director for the supplier of used parts and cores. Small orders are shipped the same day.