The “technical tsunami” that is approaching heavy-duty collision repair bays has been described as something to prepare for “in the future.” However, that future just drove up to many repairer’s doorsteps yesterday morning.
The heavy-duty (HD) collision repair industry has been described as being as much as 20 years behind the automotive collision repair industry. Taking a look around the market, listening to repairer experiences, and gaining an understanding of the current tools and procedures available only confirms this perception. This is not a reflection of the repairers themselves; they are doing incredible work with what they have available to them.
To say that the need for OEM repair procedures is critical to ensuring the safe and proper repair across the heavy-duty industry may seem extreme, but it is a fact. Vehicle materials are changing, new ADAS features keep showing up on all brands of vehicles, electric vehicles are entering the marketplace, and the absence of OEM collision repair procedures and documentation continues to be a challenge faced by all.
Facilities large and small, from both the independent and dealer side are dealing with the same challenges. This current state of the industry is not due to the lack of ability or desire from the shops; they want to perform safe, proper, and timely repairs for their customers. However, the urgency in providing them access to the proper repair information is still a serious problem.
Many heads from within the industry have been asking for guidance on repair processes, procedures, training and equipment for quite some time. In fact, it was people who serve on the HD Repair Forum’s advisory board that helped get the ball rolling on the attention needed for heavy-duty collision repair professionals throughout North America.
These shop owners’ commitment to finding solutions for collision repair procedures and documentation, access to parts pricing and availability, and proper education and training needs for their technicians has been going on behind the scenes for many years and was a driving force behind the initiation of the HD Repair Forum.
The HD Repair Forum started providing the industry with news, information, and increased access to networking opportunities and resources in the fall of 2017. It held its first annual conference in the spring of 2018. The growth of the program and recognizable industry collaboration that has developed these past two years is a product of those individuals who spoke up and came together with others making the need for assistance known.
Its latest offering, a six episode webinar series was developed in place of the in-person 2020 event; a way to bring the most pertinent educational sessions to the market. The latest installment aired earlier this month, brought further awareness of the lack of available repair procedures but also provided insight into some of the available solutions out there.
John Spoto, National Heavy Duty/Commercial Manager of 3M provided perspective on how automotive collision repair best practices are available and applicable to the HD world. The webinar covered several topics, such as the repairability of high strength steel, welding best practices, use and necessity of torque specifications, and corrosion protection. While all of these topics likely warrant their own webinar, the highlight of this episode was the guidance given in deciding when to section and when to replace the entire panel.
Also noted to those not interested in investing the time to learn more was to please remember one thing: If the truck manufacturer doesn’t provide sectioning procedures, the best course of action is to replace the entire panel at the factory seams. The example provided in the webinar explained that sectioning structural components, that are part of a monocoque cab design, could be the difference between a proper repair and one that fails in a subsequent accident.
In addition to the bit of relief given, that there is some guidance out there, it is important to note that there is an increased awareness amongst OEMs for this growing need. In fact, John shared several examples of OEM repair information available from Daimler.
The trucking industry is moving forward with the implementation of ADAS, and at the same time there is the growth of electric vehicles and alternative fuel vehicles. The list of tools and additional training needed to repair vehicles with these features is within itself a tall order and an expensive task.
Those most involved and working tirelessly to drive the needed change are hopeful this represents the continuation of engagement from all of the OEM’s as they look to companies like Daimler.
For more information on the HD Repair Forum, its committee work, or its 2020 webinar series please visit us at www.hdrepairforum.com or contact us at 281-819-2332.