Heavy-duty collision repair is becoming increasingly complex due to a variety of factors, including the conversion from steel to aluminum bodies, the changing componentry and design of trucks and the proliferation of onboard sensors.
This added complexity is causing more fleets to consider outsourcing this type of specialized work, industry experts said.
“It’s almost like repair shops have to be not only experts in repair, but in finding the repair information, depending on the year, make and model of the truck,” said Joey Fassett, general manager at Al’s Automotive and Truck Service Center in Exeter, N.H.
On a typical day when a collision job rolls in, Fassett’s team does an inspection to identify all parts that may have been impacted. “Then we find out what pieces have to be replaced, what work must be done, and everything that goes into it for the insurance estimate,” he said.
As Fassett’s team identifies the components, they also plan how to put them back together.
“We have to follow all the specs required to make the truck roadworthy again so that everyone is safe,” he said.
“Those specs are whatever research and due diligence repair shops do to ensure they’re addressing the right systems, using the right parts and materials, and following procedures in a way that conform to the initial integrity required of each component,” Fassett said.
Jim Kolea, president of PennFleet Corp., a collision-repair company in Boothwyn, Pa., cites an example highlighting the importance of accurate repair.
“Think about all of the sensors in a truck with crash-avoidance technology,” he said. “If any of those sensors are out of alignment by even one degree, it could cause an accident.”
As for one large fleet, PepsiCo Inc. “does not own a body shop,” said Lee Kirby, senior fleet manager at the White Plains, N.Y.-based private fleet operator. “All of our equipment that has body damage is outsourced, and we have many shops we use at different locations we handle.”
PepsiCo has about 20,000 heavy-duty trucks, Kirby said. “The big item we look for in collision repair is turnaround time or the amount of down time. Other than that, we are agnostic on how repairs get made.”