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PUBLISHER’S CORNER


Ask the Right Questions to Unlock Your Parts Purchasing Power


Written by Tony Corpin | tony@stnonline.com I


n our day-to-day lives, we use countless numbers of products and services. The choice of selecting an off-brand versus the name-brand product that you trust matters greatly for many consumers. This is


often the case when purchasing school bus parts. Do you typically opt to buy an off-brand oil or air filter


because it’s cheaper? Or do you call a trusted local dealer or distributor for advice on the best product for your fleet? I personally would recommend the latter. You get what you pay for. This addage is just as true with school bus parts and product support, so buyer beware. Have you ever secured a great deal online for a product,


but it turned out to be faulty, low quality or even counterfeit? When you see substantially discounted prices, in most cases it should raise some red flags about the quality and OEM authenticity of the represented products. At the same time, realize that it’s not uncommon for many distribu- tors, dealers and OEMs to buy parts or components from overseas sup- pliers, simply because it helps keep costs down for you, the customer. Be sure to ask your parts partner if the company performs quality test- ing and validation on the products you’re buying. Do you typically use the same trusted OEM supplier, dealer or independent retailer? No matter the source, you as the customer need to remain proactive with questions. One fleet manager I spoke with recently said he care-


In speaking with school districts and equipment


manufacturers from around the industry, I found that everyone has a slightly different opinion about what quality of parts they need or recommend for maintaining their school buses at optimal levels. One consideration that came up often was the choice of buy- ing OEM-certified parts that have a guarantee behind them, or purchasing aftermarket parts that might be of a similar, lesser or better quality. Price matters to many buyers, so one approach is to ask


“Your choices


have the power to affect how your fleet performs, and the service that’s ultimately delivered to the students and their parents.”


fully invested in the better or best quality parts that are available, to help save on long-term maintenance costs. His goal is to reduce wear and tear, which can extend vehicle life for years to come. For him, this trumped saving a few bucks in the short term. Commodity-based, high-turnover products like brakes, seat covers and filters were at the top of his list. He also recommended double-checking that the prod-


ucts you’re buying meet the engine requirements and recommendations that are listed in your service guide- lines and owner’s manuals.


58 School Transportation News • FEBRUARY 2020


for a discount when buying in large volumes. For exam- ple, if you project the annual purchase of 500 oil filters, consider a bulk order instead of smaller incremental ordering, which might cost you more throughout the year. That savings will likely help offset the cost difference between OEM genuine parts and off-brand parts. Plus, buying in volume prior to price increases can add up to big savings, too. Another suggestion is to create a


consortium of local districts that en- sures greater buying power. It might be worth a phone call to neighboring districts and other peers to compare pricing and procurement needs. This could provide everyone in the co-op with savings and the supplier


with a large order. It’s a win-win for everyone. Your choices have the power to affect how your fleet


performs, and the service that’s ultimately delivered to the students and their parents. Be sure to challenge your suppliers, dealers, parts distributors and OEMs to share their research on why either a value or quality propo- sition is best for your school buses. Be price aware, but also know the benefits of using certified and validated genuine parts. Don’t risk rolling the dice without first asking the right questions. ●


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