WARRENVILLE, IL – Steve Keate believes that the role of truck dealers in the industry will undergo serious change in the near future, change critical to the success of truck OEMs. "The trucking industry is a business where the vehicle has to be on the road for the customer to make money," Keate, president of International Truck & Engine Corp.'s truck division, told Fleet Owner. "If the vehicle is down for even a short period of time, it is devastating to that customer's business. So the customer is now looking to the dealer for support to help keep it running." Dealers must be ready to go well beyond merely selling trucks to being an "insurance policy" for the customer in case the customer has a problem, he says. That means not only handling the initial purchase decision, but helping the customer spec the right truck for their application and be a point of contact for emergency service. To help customers keep vehicles on the road and minimize downtime, dealers must also move beyond merely being a local service and parts provider, Keate said. They must fill the gaps in the customer's maintenance network and become more of a business partner for the customer over the life cycle of their vehicles. That means dealers must work more closely together within national networks, providing support to each other's customers across the nation, meaning also that the number of service locations and not the number of dealers per se will become the critical measuring stick in the future. In that light, International believes its dealer network will change in the future. From 400 dealers and 1,000 retail outlets today, the company believes it will have 200 dealers and 1,500 retail outlets in the future. "While we expect to have fewer dealers overall, we'll have greater scale," says Keate. "Also, consistency across the dealer network will be more important so customers will receive the same quality level of service no matter where they go in the network." Keate said that is the reason the company developed its Diamond Standards program for our dealers, to define performance standards across many levels of the dealer's business. For dealers themselves, scale and technical skills will be the key ingredients for future success. Keate said that means they'll need to make investments to retain skilled technicians and other personnel so they can have the resource capability the customer will need. That also includes providing rewards for dealers who attain these new goals, so financial incentives for dealers to make these changes are a part of International's plan.