Dealerships will be getting more maintenance business from North America’s truck fleets, at least in the short to medium term, thanks largely to their continued development of skilled technicians, according to Kumar Saha, an industry analyst with Frost and Sullivan’s Automotive & Transportation practice.

Saha discussed the shifting aftermarket parts and service business in North America for an audience of industry suppliers in Las Vegas last week at the annual Heavy Duty Dialogue .

“Class 4 to 8 truck repair and maintenance channels are finding it increasingly harder to attract skilled technicians because of the complex and dirty nature of the work,” Saha said. “Dealerships are expected to grow their skilled technician numbers in the short and medium term because of their ability to offer higher wages and training.”

This is creating pressure on independent repair facilities to upgrade their knowledge and skills, he noted.

“Despite the slight economic recovery, fewer independent shops are providing the level of training they historically provided. In 2010, 55% of independents offered formal training services versus 87% of dealerships.

“Technical skills training is really an uphill battle for smaller players because of the considerable investment required,” Saha added. Fleets with alternative power vehicles are also going to dealerships.

Saha had advice for maintenance professionals when it comes to the rapidly emerging area of “prognostics” or predictive maintenance, as well: “Ignore this at your peril.” Smart trucks can dramatically reduce costs, he explained, and deliver a variety of benefits. For fleet managers, prognostics can mean reduced downtime and increased peace of mind. For truck dealerships, prognostics can allow dealers to identify and address potential defects more quickly, providing greater customer satisfaction. Independent maintenance facilities can use it to help reduce inventory costs and increase service business.