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Why Repair Restrictions Threaten the Trucking Industry

Learn about the importance of the Right to Repair legislation that limits repair restrictions to the future of the trucking industry.

Episode 117: Imagine a world where no one outside of the Truck Manufacturers can access repair information and process warranties. That is a world where the independent service channel would struggle to exist. We are at a critical moment in the history of the trucking industry and at the center of it all is Right to Repair Legislation that fights against repair restrictions.

We need you to get involved today, go to HeavyDutyPartsReport.com/rtr and tell Congress why we need to keep trucks on the road with Right to Repair legislation that protects the trucking industry from repair restrictions. 

In this episode, we discuss the importance of the Right to Repair legislation to the future of the trucking industry, and the need for everyone in the industry to speak up and voice their support for this legislation.

Our guests on this episode are Marc Karon and Brielle Hopkins.

Marc Karon is many things, engineer, inventor, entrepreneur, and a fierce industry advocate. He joined the trucking industry in 1970 when he went to work for Bendix and today, he is the President and CEO at Total Truck Parts.

Brielle is the Vice-President of Federal Affairs at the Autocare Association.  

In her current role, she manages the association’s team of lobbyists and advocacy staff and is tasked with developing and executing a federal government affairs program that strategically utilizes lobbying, grassroots, and PAC to achieve policy outcomes that benefit the $383 billion automotive aftermarket industry.

As a part of that objective, she is working to build a culture of advocacy that reflects the magnitude of the industry. With more than 500,000 businesses in the domestic aftermarket supply chain, and over 4 million employees nationwide, she aims to increase the volume of the industry’s voice on Capitol Hill.  

Autocare logo. and their goal to spread awareness of the importance of right to repair.

Again this is very important, we need you to get involved, go to HeavyDutyPartsReport.com/rtr and tell Congress why we need to keep trucks on the road with Right to Repair legislation that protects the trucking industry from repair restrictions. 

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Complete Transcript of Episode:

Jamie Irvine:

You’re listening to the Heavy-Duty Parts Report. I’m your host, Jamie Irvine. And this is the show where you get expert advice about heavy-duty parts that keep trucks and trailers on the road longer while lowering costs per mile.

Jamie Irvine:

Do you own a commercial truck? Do you repair heavy-duty trucks? Maybe you sell aftermarket heavy-duty parts. If you do, repair restrictions threaten the very future of your business. In this episode, we are going to learn exactly what is at stake and what you personally can do about it.

I’d like you to imagine a world where no one outside of the truck manufacturers has the ability to access repair information and process warranties. That is a world where the independent service channel would be severely restricted and really would struggle to even exist.

We’re at a critical moment in the history of the trucking industry and at the center of this is the right-to-repair legislation that really fights against repair restrictions. So I wanted to talk more about this and I invited two people who can help us understand what’s going on, give us the context and the history and explain to us exactly what we need to do in the trucking industry to make sure that we preserve our ability to repair our own trucks and trailers.

I’d like to introduce you to Mark Karen. Mark is many things. He’s an engineer and an inventor and entrepreneur, and he’s a fierce industry advocate. He joined the trucking industry in 1970 when he went to work for Bendix and today he’s the president and CEO at total Truck Parts. Mark, welcome to the Heavy-Duty Parts Report. So glad to have you here.

Mark Karon:

Thank you for inviting me. It’s a great pleasure to be here.

Jamie Irvine:

Well, we’re happy to have you here. And also I’m very happy to have with us Gabrielle Hopkins. Now Gabrielle goes by the name Brielle and Brielle is the vice president of federal affairs at the Auto Care Association.

In her current role, she manages the associations team of lobbyists and advocacy staff and is tasked with developing and executing a federal government affairs program that strategically utilizes lobbying, grassroots and PAC to achieve policy outcomes that are really going to be beneficial to the industry.

Now she’s focused on the larger automotive and trucking industry as a whole, but of course, today we’re going to really focus in on trucking and she’s going to help us to see what we can do as individuals in this fight to keep our industry thriving and to keep it going and to allow us on the independent service channel, to be able to do what we do.

Brielle, welcome to the Heavy-Duty Parts Report. So happy to have you here.

Brielle Hopkins:

Thank you, Jamie. I’m really happy to be here and I hope to get some of your listeners really engaged in this right to repair movement. So thanks.

Jamie Irvine:

Exactly. So first, I’m going to throw this over to Mark. Mark. Can you kind of go through with us, what’s really at stake in the trucking industry with right-to-repair legislation and people who are trying to really remove our ability to do these repairs? Let’s look at it from kind of the three perspectives starting with the truck owner or the vehicle owner what’s at stake for them?

Mark Karon:

Well, the right to repair for most people think of it as access to the codes, repair codes on the truck, but it’s really much more, and it affects all sides of the channel, all channel members. It affects the truck owner.

For instance, if they’re limited in their ability to get their truck repaired through only one source, their prices are obviously going to be higher because lack of competition, and probably even more important to them is that their truck is going to be down for a longer period of time because of the lack of repair capability.

Once you remove the independent channel. For repair technicians, the problem is basically they have to get access to the codes and they have to be able to fix the truck and then reset the codes and they have to be able to source the parts.

So the right-to-repair as it exists today in the commercial vehicle world, allows us to do both of that. But as new trucks are coming on board, they’re changing the way that we’re getting access to the information. And if they eliminate our ability, then even repair techs will not be able to repair the trucks.

Jamie Irvine:

From a parts perspective. If the people who are doing the repairs, aren’t able to actually be able to figure out what parts are needed. That makes it pretty tough on the aftermarket parts side to be able to supply the correct parts.

Mark Karon:

That’s exactly right. And what we’re seeing today is that more and more the parts business, which is a big part of my business is being affected by both the inability of independent repair shops to fix the trucks because of the high cost of the information and also the warranties and the fact that commercial vehicles are not protected under federal warranty acts that limit the ability for dealers to deny a warranty strictly because the truck owner or the repair shop purchased apart from the non-OE source.

Jamie Irvine:

Yeah. That makes perfect sense. Brielle, you look at the industry, both on the automotive and the trucking side, what makes the trucking industry unique compared to the automotive side?

Brielle Hopkins:

So having some experience working in trucking for a number of years, I understand the unique aspects of the trucking industry. So, you know, while it is very inconvenient that you have to maybe go an extra 30 minutes or 40 minutes to take your car to a dealer to get repaired it’s even more problematic if you think about the independent auto repair industry being completely shut down for commercial trucking.

You need to keep those trucks on the road. You need to make sure that the fleet owners and independent mechanics have the ability to efficiently inspect those trucks, make sure they’re safe, put those parts back on the truck to make sure that they get on the road as quickly as possible. And that affects commerce.

You know, you need to keep those trucks on the road. And so having a truck out of service for hours or days, you know, like Mark suggested, it’s just highly problematic for the industry and for commerce as a whole,

Jamie Irvine:

I’ve often thought my wife and I; we have two vehicles and, and if one of our vehicles breaks down, we just carpool. It might be inconvenient. You know, for a few days, even we could go without having the two vehicles and it really wouldn’t change our life all that much.

It certainly wouldn’t impact our ability to make any income as part of our jobs. The commercial trucking industry is not like that. If you’re buying a commercial vehicle, it’s because you’re putting it to work and you’re relying on it to make money. It’s a very different scenario than with people who are owning their own passenger vehicles.

Brielle Hopkins:

Yes, absolutely. And also, you know, with commercial trucking, the average long haul trucker drives about a hundred thousand miles a year. So that is a lot of miles and wear and tear to put on a vehicle which makes repair and maintenance even more critical. You know, if you think about it, if you have a trucker that’s on the road and something happens where they need to pull over and there’s something that they need to do to repair, maintain their vehicle.

Maybe it’s something that’s caught during a roadside safety inspection, they need to get that truck back on the road. You know, they could be out in rural Montana and they could be hours from the nearest dealer. So is absolutely critical for that trucker and for the company who they’re hauling the goods for to get access to the tools they need and the information that they need to fix their truck.

You know, you have a lot of owner-operators right now that are operating trucks. You know, a lot of them work on their trucks themselves. Plus with their independent mechanics, they need to be able to fix their trucks and get their trucks on the road.

Jamie Irvine:

So, you know, in the intro Mark’s been in this business since 1970. Brielle, you and I, we’ve been in the business and understand it for some time, do the people who are involved in making the laws around right to repair legislation, do they get it? That’s a big concern. I think a lot of people have.

Brielle Hopkins:

That’s a great question. So let me just back up a little. A lot of times when we think about politics, we think about what’s on the front page of the Washington Post or the New York Times. And yes, that’s true, but also there are a lot of issues that are in fact affecting consumers, customers, companies like right to repair that don’t get on the hill unless people speak up.

So that’s what we’re really trying to do here is we’re trying to get as much attention on this right to repair issue as possible from our perspective, from the perspective of the trucking industry and the independent auto repair industry, to bring our perspective and let the hill staffers understand that this is not something we would like to have. This is something that we need to have.

There are over 270 registered lobbyists working for auto manufacturers who are right now on the hill lobbying against right to repair. They’re claiming that the independent repair shops, they have everything they need, they don’t need anything more. And we just can’t trust them. We can’t trust them with this repair and maintenance data. And that’s simply not true, but unless we have folks like your users speaking up and representing our side of the story, we’re not going to get the movement that we need.

It’s a lot easier on the hill to play defense than it is to play offense. And we’re playing offense on this issue. So we really need as much support as we possibly can to educate the folks on the hill. Even folks that understand the trucking industry as a whole, they probably don’t understand the repair part of the trucking industry.

Jamie Irvine:

We’re going to take a quick break. We’ll be right back.

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Before the break, we were talking about how important it is to our industry, the trucking industry, especially the independent service channel that we really are able to get the message through to the people who are involved in creating the right to repair legislation that would protect us from those who really are trying to impose repair restrictions.

And, you know, Mark, I was kind of wanting to get a little bit of the background on this. You’ve been a fierce advocate for a long time. With this issue surrounding right to repair, it’s really been around since the nineties. Could you provide us some of the history so that we can understand how we got to where we are today?

Mark Karon:

It actually began for me in 2006. This is when the heavy-duty side of the business, the commercial side, decided to get involved and really begin to reach out to the truck manufacturers to see if there was some way we could negotiate some kind of a compromise that would allow us to be able to have access to this information.

Of course that was ignored. And we then worked with Auto Care through our association, commercial vehicle solutions network, or CVSN. Then we began to work at the federal level to see if we could get federal legislation passed. And because of the comments made by Brielle is right on that. It’s very difficult to get things passed in Congress.

There’s a lot of money being handed back and forth. And a lot of people are more concerned sometimes about their next election, whether they’re doing things for the people. So we began to move to the states and that’s when we really began to get some traction. So we looked around, we found the state of Massachusetts, which has voter initiatives, and we work with those people and they were very, very interested in the, in the situation. And we were able to get on the voter initiative in 2012, which was passed by over 80%, which was kind of like a record for Massachusetts.

So what that did is it created the right to repair act in Massachusetts. And we began to look around at other states and talk to other states and that’s when the truck manufacturers got involved. And they said, let’s sit down and talk finally and see if we can work this out. So we developed what they call a memorandum of understanding, which is an agreement that requires them to give us this information and allows us to have it.

But also if we can’t get information, there’s a process to go through to get the OEMs, to release this information. So we started with that. It was a very slow start. They resisted, dragged heels, but they’re moving very effectively now. And we’re probably getting anywhere from 80 to 90% of the required information that allows us to do the repairs and get the ability to recode the computers, which is the critical part of the review, the repair, the last part. But change always occurs.

Technology is impacting us again with telematics. So now what’s happening is the car manufacturers have begun to put in using telematics instead of having a repair port that would allow technicians to hook in. And whatever happens in the car side happens on the truck side five to 10 years later.

So what’s happening is we’re being faced with the prospect of not being able to get access to the repair codes because we’ll have nothing to hook into. So again, we went back to Massachusetts with Auto Care and in 2020, we were able to get another referendum passed by even a bigger vote. And this one required that the vehicle manufacturer had to make the telematic information available to repair shops, vehicle owners, anybody that wanted to have it.

And that was a great victory, except the OEMs now are dealing with the federal courts trying to overturn that referendum. And it’s in the process of going through that court process to see what’s going to happen. It’s probably going to take some time because even if we win it at the state level, which we probably will, it’ll then go on to the federal level and probably up to the Supreme Court, because this is a big deal for the truck manufacturers.

So that’s where we are right now with respect to the right to repair. And we’re very optimistic and we’re doing quite well with it right now, but we’re afraid of where it’s going to be five years from now.

Jamie Irvine:

Brielle why is it such a timely subject right now? Like what’s happening on the hill right now, that’s going to impact right to repair legislation?

Brielle Hopkins:

So again, the Auto Care Association brought the right to repair issue to the forefront on the hill to talk about a lot of the repair restrictions that are happening in the auto industry and in the commercial motor vehicle repair industry.

The federal trade commission was tasked by Congress to do an analysis on these repair restrictions. And they came back with a report to Congress that could not have been more favorable for our position.

They identified multiple repair restrictions that are occurring in the auto repair market. And even more importantly, they said that the manufacturers have simply not presented sufficient evidence to demonstrate a need for those repair restrictions, which is just fantastic news for us.

So it’s not just our particular industry claiming that there are these harmful repair restrictions, but it’s also an independent entity, Federal Trade Commission, acknowledging that those repair restrictions exist on top of that, the Biden administration came out with an executive order promoting competition in America.

And part of that included right to repair and ask the FTC to use all of its power to address these repair restrictions and anti-competitive efforts because the administration understands like so many other folks that if you don’t have competition that hurts consumers, you’re going to have higher costs, you’re going to have less access and that doesn’t help anybody.

So it’s fantastic to have both the Biden administration, then also the Federal Trade Commission talking about right to repair. At the same time there’s some other industries that are having their own right to repair issues bubble up. There are rights repair issues going on right now with tractors.

So a lot of the folks out there and the farmers who have their John Deere tractors who have been working on them for decades are seeing their own repair restrictions where John Deere’s putting them in place and saying only John Deere can repair these tractors. That’s gotten a lot of attention on the hill and in the media. So that’s brought attention to right to repair.

And then consumer electronics like iPhones. So the fact that we have now multiple industries that are talking about right to repair is just amplifying the message. And even though we were talking about how challenging it is before that the big auto is vocally against right to repair and how hard it is to get legislation passed. I think that our position really is the winning position.

A lot of times when I go to a member of Congress or their staff, and I talked to them about rights to repair, they understand whether they represent a rural district and they have folks that like to work on their own car, or they are in an urban district and they want to make sure that they have affordable repair to their constituents.

They understand that competition is important. They understand how important the independent repair industry is to their constituents, to their district. So they want to come up with the solution, but it’s difficult sometimes when they have a lot of the auto manufacturers knocking on the door and saying, this is a problem for us, we need you to oppose it.

So that’s why it’s so important for us to be on podcasts like yours today. So we can get our side of the story heard. So we can have folks that are representing the independent commercial motor vehicle repair industry, knocking on their doors and saying, this is why this issue is critical for us.

This is why it’s something that we need to have a solution for, not something that we want to have a solution for. And here’s how it impacts our business. Here’s how it’s going to impact your community.

Jamie Irvine:

It’s such a big issue. We can’t afford to be complacent about it in anyway, because even though like, there’s some of those things that you brought out that are positive and going in the right direction, it is by no means a done deal. This fight is not over yet.

Mark when we were preparing for our conversation today, you specifically wanted to bring up warranty. What are you concerned about when it comes to warranty and this right to repair issue or repair restrictions? However, you’re looking at it.

Mark Karon:

Well we added warranty to the right to repair because if you can repair a vehicle, but the parts that you put on the truck void the warranty on the engine or the transmission, you’re not really accomplishing anything for the truck owner. So the warranty is an abuse that the dealers are using.

It’s a growing problem that we’re seeing in both the parts and service side of the business. And it all comes back to a law that was passed in 1975, called the Magnuson Moss Act. Now what happened back then was there was a lot of abuse going on in the automotive channel and other industries where warranties were being denied, just because the person did not buy the part from the dealer. And that was a great law that was passed.

But unfortunately, that law did not include commercial vehicles. So commercial vehicles are not covered under this warranty protection. So we decided that as this probably began to grow, that we had to do something about it. Let me give you an example of how this works.

Let’s say you own a motor home and you do an oil change on your diesel motor home. You’re covered on your warranty on that engine is still covered as long as the part you put on didn’t cause the failure.

But if you take that same engine and you put it in a diesel truck, and it’s now a dump truck or an over the road truck, and you do the same oil change with the same filter, you now can void the warranty. Now it’s strictly up to the dealer. And a lot of dealers are honest people and they’re honoring those warranties.

But the problem is some salespeople are running out telling fleets and owner-operators that you won’t be covered under the warranty, even though the truck manufacturer buys the part from the same person that we buy the part or the parts guy buys apart from.

So to address this CVSN and again, got engaged. And we took, went to our favorite state, Massachusetts, where we know everybody so it’s easy to get things done. And we were able to get them to introduce H 3 23, which is a law that just adds commercial vehicles to the Magnuson Moss Act.

That is probably going to be litigated in the fall. And we’re pretty confident that’s going to pass. In the meantime, we’re going back to the federal trade commission to see if they’ll help us and try to get Congress to add commercial vehicles to the Magnuson Moss Act.

Jamie Irvine:

We’re going to take another quick break. We’ll be right back.

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We’re back from our break. And before the break, we were talking about some of the progress that has been made with right to repair legislation. We talk about an issue around warranty.

Brielle, Mark really laid out the issue that from his perspective on warranty on commercial vehicles. When I was a sales account manager, I even ran into this with, we were talking parts about engines and transmissions, but I even ran into this with like the brake shoes. If you use an aftermarket, then the manufacturer of the caliper said, well, then the caliper warranty is no longer valid. So from your perspective, is this warranty issue valid? And is there something we can do about it?

Brielle Hopkins:

I think it’s about speaking up and what I find problematic is that actions such that seem to suggest that aftermarket parts are inferior and they’re not, you have a lot of companies even that make the original equipment manufacturer part and the aftermarket part. It’s kind of like dismissing all generic drugs.

You can’t do it. You know, aftermarket parts are here. They’re used, they’re high-quality products and they’re an essential part of the trucking industry. That’s what allows these trucks to be repaired affordably.

So I would just say that we need do more education on the hill about the quality of aftermarket parts and how that protection exists in the auto industry. And of course, it should also extend to the commercial motor vehicle industry.

And I know we’re going to talk about it a little bit, some of what we’re working on on the hill with right to repair legislation, but ensuring that we continue to support the aftermarket parts manufacturers and ensure that vehicle manufacturers are mandating the use of OEM parts is an important part of that equation.

Jamie Irvine:

It’s funny as you’re talking about that, what I immediately think about is, I’m a consultant, I work with manufacturers that are aftermarket. And I know that oftentimes because they are looking at what happens with the original equipment, their parts are actually engineered to address issues that came up from the original equipment manufacturers after let’s say the engine was in service for five years.

So to say that aftermarket is unable to produce quality parts is just categorically incorrect. Some perhaps don’t, but most are at least meeting OEM specifications and in many times exceeding it. So that really resonates with me, for sure.

Brielle Hopkins:

Absolutely and I also like to say, no one’s going to tell your story better than you. Policy is a lot about showing and telling. So if you are an aftermarket parts manufacturer in the trucking industry, let’s do a little show and tell, let’s take your member of Congress to your factory.

Let’s show them the high-caliber work that you put into creating your product. Talk about how important the aftermarket is, show the quality that goes into the design working out those kinks, just like you had suggested, education is absolutely everything.

Jamie Irvine:

That makes a lot of sense. Mark, how do you want to see the right to repair legislation written? So it protects the owner-operator, the repair technician, and the parts manufacturer distributor.

Mark Karon:

It’s a very simple answer. We want any future legislation should prevent dealers from being able to abuse trade practices and that the vehicle owner should be able to buy as part or have his truck repaired anywhere he wants to whether at the dealer or at the independent repair shop or himself without any threat of a penalty.

And also any law that extends the right to repair warranty protections should apply that when they apply it to consumers, they need to also apply it to commercial vehicles. We should not be segregated from any legislation as a separate class.

Jamie Irvine:

That is such a critical part to make sure the commercial side is represented. Brielle, what’s important here that I keep hearing you say is that we all need to get involved. So what does everyone listening today who works in the trucking industry on the independent side need to do to help the cause?

Brielle Hopkins:

So I would just say also the Auto Care Association is working with Congress to get right to repair legislation introduced. We hope that that legislation will be introduced in the house of representatives in about a month. Okay. Fingers crossed. We need to create buzz around us.

So every single one of your viewers, tell your friends, there’s a link that I believe that you’re going to provide in your podcasts, which will take you straight to our advocacy center. It’ll take you two minutes.

You put in your address so they can connect you with who your members of Congress are. We have a template, you just sign your name and you say right to repair is important for me, it’s important for the trucking industry.

And you may think that that one email doesn’t make a difference, but it really can. And you know, thousands of emails, wouldn’t it be great if after this podcast, we got a thousand people writing their member of Congress and sending that message to the hill that will make their ears perk up.

That’s when you know, they’ll pick up my phone call a bit more quickly because their constituents are in their ear about this right to repair issue. So please click on that link. Write your member of Congress, it’s so easy. And if you want to go a step above that and you want to share your story, you want to bring your member of Congress in tutorial facility, meet your business, please, you know, send me an email. I’ll be happy to facilitate that.

You know, the more awareness we can bring to the independent commercial motor vehicle repair industry and this right to repair issue, the better.

Jamie Irvine:

You’ve been listening to the Heavy-Duty Parts Report. I’m your host, Jamie Irvine. And we’ve been speaking with Mark Karon the president and CEO at Total Truck Parts and longtime advocate of our trucking industry and Brielle Hopkins, vice president of federal affairs at the Auto Care Association.

Now all of you listeners to The Heavy-Duty Parts Report, we need you to get involved today.

Go to heavydutypartsreport.com/rtr.

Now this link is in the show notes. You click it, it’ll take you right through to the advocacy center. This is very, very important that each and every one of you do this.

That’s heavydutypartsreport.com/rtr.

All links that are spoken of today are in the show notes. So if you want to be able to go ahead and submit this, that link will be there. And also any other links that we talked about will be available. So take action today, we really, really need you to take action and then let us know on social that you’ve done.

So this is very, very important because we do not want repair restrictions to infringe on our ability in the trucking industry, to be able to do what we do. We’re the backbone of society. And we need to preserve the independent side of the business, both on the repair side and also on the parts. So take action today.

Thank you so much, Brielle. Thank you for being on the Heavy-Duty Parts Report. I can’t tell you how much I appreciate it.

Brielle Hopkins:

Thank you so much. Really appreciate it.

Jamie Irvine:

And Mark, it was really great to have you on the show. Thank you for sharing with us your experience and thank you for your longtime support of our industry and your advocacy.

Mark Karon:

Well, thank you very much. And I just wanted to add that if anybody who’s listening to this is having a particular problem getting access to information or anything to reach out to us at cvsn.org, and we’ll do our best to get you what you need to know in order to be able to complete your repairs, whatever you need to do. Thank you very much.

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