As fuel prices and commodities prices have gone through the roof in the past year, fleets are looking to cut costs any way possible. Knowing that, counterfeiters have stepped up efforts to get potentially unsafe materials into the marketplace, as customers often can't tell the difference.

“Things are getting worse in the counterfeiting realm,” Andy Cifranic, brand manager for Bendix Commercial Vehicle Systems, told Fleet Owner. “It's still a relatively new phenomenon, really only becoming a problem in the last half a dozen years or so. I would speculate it is because of globalization and the spread of information, as well as the higher cost of doing business nowadays.”

According to Cifranic, most counterfeit goods are coming from outside the U.S., primarily Southeast Asia. “Businesses find an opportunity to buy something that looks like what they are already buying at lower prices,” Cifranic said. “There is a big safety risk, especially since these are safety-related products.”

In June, representatives of the Motor & Equipment Manufacturers Assn. (MEMA) and its Brand Protection Council (BPC) testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee that enforcement efforts for protection of trademarks, trade dress, patents and copyrights should be increased. Jeff Thurnau, patent counsel for Gates Corp. and a member of BPC, testified before the Senate Committee and urged the passage of legislation to strengthen motor vehicle suppliers' ability to address their protections for trademarks, trade dress, patents and copyrights.

“Every year, counterfeiters steal companies' good names and brand reputation — and put consumers at serious risk with unsafe, fake parts,” said Bob McKenna, president & CEO of MEMA. “The crime takes a huge toll on the motor vehicle parts industry, costing the global industry $12 billion in lost sales and U.S. parts makers $3 billion annually.”