I had a conversation earlier this week with Tom Brown, a Georgia-based former regional manager for Caterpillar Truck and Engine, likewise on national accounts with Mack, about his new venture: he’s chief operating officer of the online Surplus Solutions engine, which is offering essentially wholesale prices on fleet and dealer surplus parts stock.
He sees owner-operators of older trucks as those who could well see the primary benefit from the site. “The first buyers of a truck, often a fleet,” he says, will “typically bring it back to the [shop they bought it from] until they trade. The second buyer often will do the same, but the frequency really then drops.” The third buyer of any truck as it ages almost never takes it to a dealer, he adds. “The dealer today realizes they’re not getting those customers in their shop because they’re charging more, but they’ve got to get rid of all these older surplus parts – we encourage them to list their parts with us at cost” — or less.
The Surplus-Solutions.com website launched on April 19, with parts largely centered around several Southeast-U.S. dealers but expanding rapidly, Brown says. “We’ve added some Indiana parts, and have some in Cheyenne and Colorado coming up.”
For fleets in the audience, “we also offer them the opportunity to get list their surplus parts as well. It’s a solution to an issue that has been overlooked.”
One thing that differentiates the site from other discount online parts engines is that “we don’t get involved in the transaction,” says Brown. Users “deal directly with the facility offering the part.”
The service is absolutely free for parts buyers. Surplus Solutions charges a fee to the sellers. Registration at the site requires simply an email address and a zip code. “They can search the part number by manufacturer,” Brown says. “Or if they know the part number, they can find it that way.”
Other options include searching by the listing dealer itself, and Brown says operators could stand to save as much as 30-40 percent on parts costs over a dealer shop’s price.
Discounted labor rates at participating dealers, too, are becoming available there via a program that operates in a manner similar to Hotels.com’s repository of discounted unsold hotel rooms. “Most truck dealers average about 82 percent in billable hours,” Brown says. Surplus Solutions offers dealers the opportunity for techs to post a certain number of available discounted shop hours — for instance, the Four Star Freightliner location in Montgomery, Ala., recently had hours available there reduced from $110/hour to $85.
Says Brown, “If we can get the owner-operators into the Peterbilt or Freightliner [or other OEM] shop at a cheaper labor rate, if he then has an issue on the repair, it’s often warrantable nationwide. That’s a big benefit to that driver, particularly if he can’t get back to the original shop.”
By the end of the year, he adds, the company’s intent is to have a smartphone app to make the content on the labor side of the service more seamless, and it’s “actively seeking new dealers to get on board.”