Parts and labor expenses increased by 1.9% during the third quarter of 2023, according to recently released data from Decisiv and American Trucking Associations’ Technology and Maintenance Council (TMC).
“This return to increasing parts and labor costs highlights the fact that fleets must remain vigilant when it comes to managing their maintenance expense data,” Robert Braswell, TMC executive director, said in a news release.
“This important parts and labor cost analysis report is an excellent tool to help Council members see how their operations are performing and plan accordingly.”
The increase, outlined in the latest Decisiv/TMC North American service event benchmark report, follows a 1.3% decline in the second quarter across the top 25 vehicle maintenance reporting system (VMRS) level codes. The jump in costs reflect an equal rise in parts and labor expenses—both of which rose 1.9% during the third quarter. On a year-over-year basis, parts costs are up 0.9% and labor costs rose 4.9% for a total combined increase of 2.5%.
Detailed data from Decisiv on quarter-over-quarter combined parts and labor costs indicated increases in 18 of the 25 VMRS system codes. Year-over-year, parts and labor cost increases were seen in 22 VMRS system codes. The data on 25 VMRS system level codes accounts for more than 97% of total parts and labor costs for more than 7 million assets and over 300,000 monthly maintenance and repair events at more than 5,000 service locations.
Considering truck tonnage, and consequently mileage, continue to decline, the likely explanation for higher parts costs is the impact of ongoing inflationary pressures, Decisiv and ATA said. In September, ATA’s seasonally adjusted For-Hire Truck Tonnage Index decreased 1.1% compared to the previous month and was down 4.1% year-over-year, the seventh straight annual decrease and the largest over that period. In the same month, ATA’s not seasonally adjusted index, which represents the change in freight tonnage actually hauled by fleets, was 6.8% below August.
The labor costs side of the equation is equally challenged, driven in large part by the ongoing technician shortage affecting dealers and fleets. Based on data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the costs associated with technician recruitment will not see any relief for the foreseeable future, with a projected need of about 23,900 heavy vehicle and mobile equipment service technicians each year on average over the next decade.
“Despite running fewer miles to handle lower freight volumes and the influx of less repair intensive new trucks, fleets and service providers are still challenged by inflationary cost pressures on parts prices and higher labor costs,” said Dick Hyatt, Decisiv president and CEO. “The data in this report, however, enables everyone in the service supply chain to anticipate and focus on areas where cost control measures will prove most valuable.”