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What Services Do Fleets Need in 2022? 

Learn about what fleets need in 2022 and beyond, and how Penn Power Group is leading the way to the future.

Episode 186: The world of trucking has become more complex than ever before. What services do fleets need to be successful in 2022 and beyond?

My guest today is Harry Schlereth the CEO of Penn Power Group.  

Harry Schlereth the CEO of Penn Power Group. In this episode, learn about what fleets need in 2022 and beyond, and how Penn Power Group is leading the way to the future.

Penn Power Group provides Fleet Services and Heavy-Duty Parts to commercial fleets in the United States. They have been providing dealer-level support for over 50-years. 

Guest Website: PennPowerGroup.com

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Transcript of Episode:

Jamie Irvine:

You are 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 keeps trucks and trailers on the road longer while lowering cost-per-mile.

The world of trucking has become more complex than ever before. In the last few years, we’ve seen that complexity increase. So what do fleets need in 2022 and beyond when it comes to their maintenance programs and their fleet services? That’s what we’re gonna talk about today. My guest today is Harry Schlereth. He’s the CEO of Penn Power Group. Now Penn Power Group provides fleet services and heavy-duty parts to commercial fleets in the United States. They’ve been providing dealer level support for over 50 years. Harry, welcome to The Heavy-Duty Parts Report. So glad to have you here.

Harry Schlereth:

Thanks for having me, Jamie.

Jamie Irvine:

I’m excited to talk to you, Harry. We’ve gotten to know each other a little bit over the last few months and it’s an impressive organization that Penn Power has. And with that legacy of over 50 years, your team certainly knows how to take care of a commercial fleet. But let me ask you what has been the biggest change over the last few years that maybe has added to the complexity of maintaining fleets and what’s caused that complexity to increase?

Harry Schlereth:

Yeah, so some of the things that definitively have increased the complexity is how complex these units are and how much additional electrical diagnostics need to be provided to support these units. In the old days, you could use a generic code reader and you might be able to bypass certain things. The EPA standards were a lot less stringent at that point. Now, for a technician to come to your site and fix, diagnose and repair a unit, we need complex diagnostics equipment. We need OEM certified technicians that are able not just to diagnose, but to make that repair while they’re at your location, so that we’re not incurring additional costs to transport that unit to our facility so we have it in a controlled environment to do further diagnostics.

Jamie Irvine:

Yeah, I think back to the old mechanical days, and it was so much simpler and now we have all these complex systems. And to your point, there’s so much electronics. It’s only going to become more complex as the industry shifts to new technologies. Harry, just maybe for me some of the steps you’ve taken to move the company forward and enable your company to be able to service fleets in a more full capacity.

Harry Schlereth:

Yeah. So for us over here at Penn, the culture change from an OEM manufacturer in specific segments of the market, kind of put us in a niche. We did very high quality service, but we were doing class seven and eight and traditionally Detroit diesel, Allison and Carrier repairs including warranty. For us to meet the needs of the customer moving forward is we have to be able to do additional fleet maintenance for those units that we traditionally would not do in our service centers before. So our technicians have had to make a conversion from specialists in engine and transmissions and reefer repairs, to generalists on brakes, diagnostics and general maintenance of fleets. So that’s been one of our larger challenges changing the culture in our shops. And the second piece of that challenge is our major focus and emphasis on providing services that don’t just have to be provided within our service center, that they could be provided at the customer’s location on their schedule when their fleets are not actively running routes or on the road.

Jamie Irvine:

So you’ve made these changes in response to the needs of your customers. So let’s just talk about your customers for a little bit. Again, as things have become more complex, it’s put pressure on the fleets and it’s made them have to consider a more comprehensive maintenance program. So when we talk about comprehensive fleet maintenance, because that’s really what you’ve shifted from right from service center and dealer focus to now comprehensive fleet maintenance. What are we actually describing when we talk about comprehensive fleet maintenance?

Harry Schlereth:

So for us, what we want to do is present a program where we are involved in the maintenance of their vehicle to make sure that we are inspecting it and doing preventive maintenances, that not only keep them compliant with the warranties of the OEM manufacturers, but also forecasts and identifies forecastable breakdowns that are going to impact their cost. Every time a truck breaks down on the road, there is a tow involved. There is a call there’s emergency service that needs to be done. There are loads of whatever they’re transporting has to be offloaded to another vehicle. A lot of these companies are specialty organizations where you cannot rent a unit to replace the specialty unit that they have. So for us, a comprehensive maintenance program means that we are identifying a lot of their forecastable breakdowns before they happen, which is gonna be increasing their ROI, increase their uptime of their fleet.

Jamie Irvine:

Right? And it’s all about that, right? That return on investment, lower total cost of operation. That’s what we’re trying to achieve on behalf of our customers. These fleets that are so essential to keeping our supply chain and the trucking industry rolling. So what’s at stake for a fleet? If they don’t have the right partner, if they don’t partner with someone who first of all, is willing to adapt their business model to meet the needs of their fleet. And second of all, doesn’t offer that comprehensive program that you just described?

Harry Schlereth:

Probably quality and service. If you’re not getting quality service, you’ll probably get shoddy work. If you’re looking for a low cost provider, you’re gonna get what you’re paying for. The fact that we are have been delivering OEM certified service for 50 years, gives us a great understanding of how to deliver quality fleet services and quality fleet services keeps your trucks in compliance. It keeps you in compliance with your manufacturer. So you don’t void your warranties. And when you have a major engine malfunction, they tell you, well, I’m sorry, but you didn’t have a certified quality provider maintaining your PMs on the regular cycle that they should have been. You’re gonna have to pay for that engine yourself or the transmission’s out of warranty because you did not follow the proper process. So those are some of the big failures is one thing.

The downtime of the vehicles is second. The third thing is there’s a lot of organizations out there because of the supply chain demand of microchips and manufacturing trailers and other units right now, where everybody is being challenged to extend the life of their units. So these units preventive maintenance and forecastable maintenance is more important now because the age of the unit we’re holding them in our fleets longer than we did prior. And they’re just gonna break down with the amount of miles and hours that they have on it more than they did prior.

Jamie Irvine:

We’re just gonna take a quick break. We’ll be right back. Don’t have a heavy-duty part number and need to look up a part? Go to parts.diesellaptops.com or download the app on Apple or Android to create your free account. Looking for high quality fuel injection for heavy duty applications? Having one supplier for fuel injection allows you to better serve customers by providing them with a complete line, which increases your sales and profitability. Learn more at ambacinternational.com/aftermarket. We’re back from our break and before the break we were talking about, first of all, why things are more complex for fleets and what a comprehensive maintenance program really includes. And Harry did a great job of explaining that, but he also talked a little bit about some of the changes at Penn Power to address these additional needs of fleets in 2022 and beyond. Harry you’ve been instrumental in really changing the direction of Penn Power. And when we see the new brand it’s Penn Power Group Fleet Services, your slogan is We Can Handle It All. Why did you settle on that? And what does it really mean for your customers?

Harry Schlereth:

Yeah, so traditionally again, for 50 years we were providing high quality OEM service in a defined territory where if you had a Detroit diesel or an Allison or Carrier, and you had warranty work or major repairs, you had to bring it to our service center. So we worked on a reactive model in a very defined area, class seven and eight. And in those traditional model areas, what I found out over the years in my experience is that there are numerous areas to touch a customer where I can impact the maintenance uptime of their vehicle throughout the course of the life of the vehicle. And if you equate it to the life of an engine, you may lose an engine every 200 or 300,000 miles, but a preventive maintenance plan should include a wet, a dry PM, and repairs that are done on a quarterly monthly cycle.

So what we’ve done essentially is we’ve increased the number of touches by increasing the number of things that we can do to help you maintain your fleet. Not only can we do the comprehensive items, the engines, the transmissions, but we can also do the brake jobs, the DOT inspections, the state inspections, and maintain your vehicles between PMs and try to decrease the amount of forecastable breakdown. So what we’ve essentially done is provided the customers an option to have mobile fleet service done at their location on their schedule when their trucks are not out on route and do as much repair work as we can at their facility. And if indeed, we cannot complete it at your location, we certainly will transport it back to our shop for a major overhaul, engine repair or something that can’t be done in the field, if that makes sense.

Jamie Irvine:

Right? And like, I love that We Handle It All because that’s really what I’m seeing. Like very few companies can do what you do. You’ve got the dealer level experience and training and service that you can do. You’ve got the service centers, you’ve got the roadside assistance, the mobile repair, the onsite work that you can do in comprehensive maintenance program. So when you say you can handle it all, you’ve even got a robust parts department and a PDC that you can ship out of with all of your service centers acting as satellite locations. So this is a comprehensive program. It’s really like a bumper-to-bumper kind of thing. And I think when I look at the future of fleet maintenance, I think this is the level that it has to be at. So you guys are leading the charge. That’s fantastic. One of the things you’ve done recently is you’ve launched a brand new website. We’re gonna have links in the show notes of how people can check out the new site, but what are users on the site going to experience with this new completely redesigned website?

Harry Schlereth:

Yeah, that’s a great question. So my goal with the website was to make it very clear, products, services, and how to get to those on our website and make it very clear to our customers what we actually did without losing the 50 years of traditional legacy reputation in the industry. Yeah, we do the traditional OEM lines. We do parts for those, but now we do more. We do the emergency service, we do the unscheduled service. We do the scheduled fleet maintenance at your location, and we do yard trucks and the same, we’ll put comprehensive maintenance programs on those units as well. So that’s the look and the feel and the concept that we have been shooting for with the rebranding of our website. So that it’s a very easy and enjoyable user user interface where the customer can get to where they need in a very simple fashion.

Jamie Irvine:

Right. And one of the things that I like about the site is you’ve got it broken up in the top menu parts, you have a dropdown, it shows you all the categories. Service shows you the services that you offer. You’ve got your manufacturing line. So you don’t lose that legacy. It’s a very easy to navigate site. It’s everything that is needed to tell people about what Penn Power is all about in 2022 and what you’ve done in the past hasn’t been lost, but where you’re going is very, very easy to see and to follow. So very good job on that. But specifically for the part section of the site, I know that you’re not quite done. So what’s coming next in the parts. That’s gonna really take the site to the next level.

Harry Schlereth:

Yeah. So we’ve got a three phase strategy as it relates to our website, which again, the launch was phase one, you know, upgrading the interface, making more friendly, user friendly, attractive, state of the art. Wow. As far as parts that’s our next step here. We, in our 50 years, we’ve been selling parts to many companies across the Northeast United States for years. And it was traditionally call us on the phone, come up to our counter and we’ll provide you with those parts. We’ll either ship them from our service centers or from our regional distribution center. Our interface now is going to be much more marketplace oriented, where you’ll be able to go to our website and source and locate the parts you’re looking for, whether they’re OEM or aftermarket parts, within a very, very short and reasonable amount of time so that we can ship them out to you and make them available to you. So we’re shifting our over the counter, traditional, we’re still gonna continue that, but we are gonna expand it with a really good E parts sale solution for everybody to see as well.

Jamie Irvine:

Yeah. And you hit the nail right on the head. It’s not just about setting up a situation where you either do it the traditional way, or you do it with a digital sales channel or ecommerce platform. You’ve integrated the two. I know that you’ve put a lot of work in behind the scenes to make sure that your systems are in place. That what happens online is represented offline and vice versa. I also know that you’ve got another phase coming that relates to the service side of the business. Can you tell us a little bit about that? I know people will be anxious to hear what you’ve got planned there.

Harry Schlereth:

Sure. So one of the challenges that I came across in identified in my career, is reactive and proactive business. Most of our customers have fleets of units and they know when the maintenance is needed for those to maintain the warranty aspect of, of that truck. So what we are are moving towards now is going to be a scheduler for our contracted customers and non-contracted customers where they’ll be able to go into our service centers and into our mobile fleet schedule, and basically find an open slot and schedule maintenance, preventive maintenance within those open slots. So we’re gonna have a scheduler which will be phase three of our website, which will make it much easier for our customers to find out when service slots are available in our service centers and at their location.

Jamie Irvine:

Get that big red, easy button right on your site and make it easy. No matter whether they’re looking for parts or service, that’s the name of the game, take care of your customers. They’re gonna take care of you, Harry, it’s been a pleasure talking to you about all of this. If there was just one thing you want to leave anybody who’s listening, maybe they’re an owner operator, maybe they have a small fleet, or they’re in a regional fleet. Like what’s one thing you just want them to remember about maintenance and repair that you’ve learned over the years in this business?

Harry Schlereth:

The companies that value maintenance at the end of the day will reduce their expense and extend life of their units. So a comprehensive maintenance program, although it might be expensive, In the long run it is gonna save you money, downtime and increase your efficiency. So my suggestion would be is focus on a comprehensive maintenance program with a quality provider, someone you trust. That’s giving you high quality service at a fair price. And it’s a partnership with a long-term reputable organization.

Jamie Irvine:

You’ve been listening to The Heavy-Duty Parts Report. I’m your host, Jamie Irvine. We’ve been speaking to the CEO of Penn Power Group Fleet Services. They really can handle it all. To learn more about Penn Power Group Fleet Services, visit pennpowergroup.com, check out their new site. It is beautiful and there is much more to come. So you’re gonna want to subscribe to their email list so that you get the notifications when some of these new features comes up. Harry, thank you so much for being on The Heavy-Duty Parts Report.

Harry Schlereth:

My pleasure Jamie.

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