After dot.com ventures crashed like crazy a few years back, online efforts aimed at trucking seemed preposterous. But Miami-based Ryder Systems' four-year-old aftermarket parts service is showing that Internet-based ventures can succeed in the trucking market.

Ryder Fleet Products (RFP), which went live in 1999, maintains a $6-million inventory of truck parts, shop supplies and safety items that can be ordered online or by phone and fax. The system has access to more than 130 manufactures and over 15,000 Store Keeping Units (SKUs) worth of goods, according to gm Scott Gates.

Gates told FleetOwner that RFP's first-quarter revenue this year increased 141% vs. the same period a year ago—which he believes indicates that online ventures can survive and even thrive in trucking.

"The biggest growth we've seen in sales has come from independent maintenance facilities, private fleets, and regional LTL carriers, basically from all over the trucking map," he said. "We've found that companies don't maintain large parts rooms and don't have time to search for parts from multiple providers. So the ability to save time and money by using a single online ordering format seems to be a more attractive option today."

Gates stressed, however, that a key to RFP's growth is that it does not restrict itself to the Internet-based option. He noted that orders can also be placed by fax or over the phone if buyers feel more comfortable with those methods.

"Online ordering is not for everyone and we understand that," Gates said. "Though we view our Internet site as the primary 'face' of our operation, we recognize that it is only one tool. Customers today want a fast, flexible, 24/7 way to get the parts they need and they want to do that on their own terms. That's why, even though we are primarily Internet-based, we're gong to continue to offer more than one channel for placing orders."