Click for Parts
“We still push everyone to call us, but they can see the part numbers online,” he says. Customers view the inventory through heavytruckparts.net, a site owned by I-Soft Data Systems that lists River City’s inventory and that of other diesel truck part vendors that purchased I-Soft’s software. “Having our inventory online allows truckers to answer some of their own questions and see pictures of our inventory,” McWhorter says.
Not all buyer questions about parts get answered at any given vendor. Because OEMs still do not share proprietary information on all parts installed on a truck or certain repair information, it often takes an owner longer to determine a replacement part when not dealing with a dealer. Most distributors are able to help customers determine the right part. The so-called “right to repair” issue continues to be debated among OEMs and others in the heavy-duty truck industry.
Some online parts vendors have a narrow range of offerings. Steve Rowe, co-owner of autohaulersupply.com, started the online strap and chains supply business out of his house seven years ago with little more than a web page, a cell phone and a database of names.
His Portland, Ore.-based service now delivers auto hauler parts and other supplies from 17 domestic and overseas vendors, funneled through five fulfillment centers.
Kevin Andrews, of Dave Meeker Auto in Oklahoma City, started getting fax notices from Rowe six years ago, before the website launched. He’s bought wheel straps from him ever since. “Keeping me updated with emails and sale information is a big help,” Andrews says.
Industry experts urge owner-operators to find out where parts are made and check on a part’s quality before ordering online. “They can get less-than-satisfactory parts from overseas markets, where the use of banned materials in their construction is common,” says Karl Mowat, Paccar Parts general marketing manager. For example, brake linings with asbestos in them have been sold.
Bray says truckers should seek reputable manufacturers and suppliers with immediately recognizable names for making purchases online. He also urges online users to use secure sites so that credit card numbers are protected.
Jay Lott, owner of NAPA Auto & Truck Parts, based in Panama City, Fla., points out that owner-operators on the road can buy parts online and have them arrive before they bring their trucks in for service.
NAPA, which has no online parts ordering, has an efficient system for phone orders. “We have the ability to get parts overnight, or two days at the most,” Lott says. “Time is money, and we know that.”
Favorites on the parts menu
Regular maintenance parts, as well as those that can ship without high costs, are the most popularly ordered online by owner-operators. Oil filters, lights, air dryer cartridges and belts, for example, can be ordered and waiting for a trucker when he gets home from a run.
Owner-operator Bradley Coddington usually buys engine parts and wheel bearings at the dealer because of the advantage of having expert advice. “You want to make sure you’ve got the right part for those,” he says. He often uses online sources for high-performance and accessory parts.
An online order for 6-inch stacks shipped to him free of charge is one of the best deals he’s come across, he says. His total cost for them was less than what he paid for 5-inch pipes earlier.