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Maintenance Costs Ease in Q4, Report From TMC, Decisiv Finds

Parts Costs Decrease of 2.2% Drives Overall Drop
Rob Ziemba of Decisiv
Rob Ziemba, senior director of marketing at Decisiv, called 2023 "a year of moderation" regarding maintenance costs. (John Sommers II for Transport Topics)

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NEW ORLEANS — Maintenance expenses in the trucking industry decreased 1.4% in the fourth quarter of 2023 compared with the prior quarter, driven by lower costs for parts, according to a report from maintenance software provider Decisiv and the Technology & Maintenance Council of American Trucking Associations.

The TMC/Decisiv VMRS System Service Data Quarterly Report found that parts costs dropped 2.2% on a quarter-to-quarter basis, while maintenance labor costs dipped 0.2%.

TMC and Decisiv work closely on repair and maintenance data related to Vehicle Maintenance Reporting Standards. Their joint report uses information gathered from fleets and drivers using that coding system.

The fourth-quarter downturn in overall industry maintenance costs partially reversed a 1.9% increase in the third quarter. In the second quarter, maintenance costs declined 1.3%.

TMC and Decisiv discussed the report’s findings during a March 3 news conference at the 2024 TMC Annual Meeting & Transportation Technology Exhibition.

“We see that the overall trend is definitely trending down,” said Rob Ziemba, senior director of marketing at Decisiv. “So [those are] all good signs that the inflation pressures that we’ve been seeing during the COVID epidemic and the recovery after … are definitely easing.”


Parts costs fell 2.2% in 2023 compared with 2022, but labor expenses climbed 4%. (FleetPride)

On an annual basis, the report found that maintenance costs edged up 0.2% in 2023 compared with 2022. Parts costs fell 2.2% year-over-year, but labor expenses climbed 4%.

The report concluded that both quarter-to-quarter and year-over-year decreases in parts costs may be an indicator that inflationary pressures are easing as supply chains normalize.

“What we had in 2022 was basically a perfect storm,” Ziemba said. “But since then, ’23 has been a year of moderation. It’s been bouncing up and down a little bit, but for the most part, it’s pretty stable.”

While the cost of parts continues to ease, labor costs have remained more elevated.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics has projected that employment for diesel service technicians will grow 4% through 2031. It also projected that over the next decade, the country will have an average of about 28,500 job openings for diesel technicians each year.


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Ziemba said he believes this high demand for technicians will keep pressure on labor costs moving forward.

“On the parts side, it is looking a lot better,” he said, adding that new trucks coming into service appear to be reducing the demand for parts. “Also, we’re seeing the decrease in freight tonnage.”

The report found that during the fourth quarter, powerplants were the top average service cost at 33.5% of total maintenance expenses. That was followed by exhaust at 15%, cooling at 6%, brakes at 5.9%, fuel systems at 5.3%, and cab and sheet metal at 5.6%. Ziemba noted that cab and sheet metal has been experiencing a steady increase.

“These are the big cost components that we’re seeing,” Ziemba said. “This really hasn’t changed over the past several years. Powerplant, exhaust, cooling, brakes. Those all remain the big-money items.”

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