In the 11 years since Farm Equipment has conducted its annual Dealer Business Outlook & Trends survey, only one issue has made it into the Top 5 biggest concerns each and every year. Want to guess what it is?
North American dealers’ biggest concern going into 2016 shouldn’t be too difficult to guess: farm commodity prices. Next on the list this year are “farm input costs,” which is followed by “increasing cost of new equipment” at #3. Rounding out the Top 5 is “used equipment inventory,” which I kind of thought might move up to #2 this year.
What concern, at #4, is keeping dealers up at night, even more so than used equipment backlogs?
While other hot issues have moved up and down the list of dealers’ biggest concerns over the years, the one that is always near the top is the “availability of technicians.” Whether the industry’s sales are up, down or flat, the industry is in dire need of recruiting and training technicians.
With the sale of new and used wholegoods down significantly this year, one of the open-ended questions we asked in our survey this year was, “If business levels in 2016 continue on the current path, how will you approach the market differently next year?” Of the 282 respondents, 178 took the time to answer this question. Easily more than half of these said they would be getting more aggressive with parts and service in 2016 to try to shore up anticipated revenue shortfalls.
Our best estimate is there are nearly 7,000 farm equipment dealerships operating in the U.S. and Canada. Assume that half of these could profitably use two more service techs — right now. (For the record, 51.2% of dealers participating in this year’s survey said they are looking to add service techs in 2016.) That means we could use a little over 7,000 service techs this year. With the onset of precision farming, the pressure to find talent for our service departments has increased even more.
Guess who’s also looking for this same talent?
In the Sept. 22 issue of Successful Dealer’s Daily Report, the American Trucking Assn.’s President and CEO, Bill Graves, called on the country’s policymakers, schools and trucking industry to do more to address the nation’s large and growing shortage of truck technicians.
It goes on to report that, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, trucking will need to recruit 67,000 new technicians by 2022 due to growth or to replace men and women currently working in the industry. This does not include the more than 75,000 new diesel engine specialists BLS anticipates the country needing by 2022.
I know a lot of dealers are doing a tremendous job of recruiting and developing service talent. But sometimes we need to be reminded that, even in the toughest of times, we can’t afford to slow down our search for high quality, talented employees. It’s obvious that the trucking industry isn’t letting up.