Is data driving your business?

By Todd Davis, NTEA President
Phenix Truck Bodies & Van Equipment
Pomona, California

This article was published in the May 2018 edition of NTEA News.

Successful businesses have increasingly recognized data as an asset, not just a byproduct of business activity, and use it as a tool to drive strategy and optimize operations. Our industry is no exception. The challenge for most businesses, including mine, is not a lack of data but rather what the information represents and how it relates to performance. At Phenix Truck Bodies & Van Equipment, processing, interpreting and organizing available figures, and turning them into what we feel is useful information, is certainly not a science for us, yet the outcome of this analysis has become essential to staying competitive and setting our strategic path. As your Association, NTEA is committed to providing information and translating it into insights you can use.  

In today’s competitive landscape, NTEA’s leadership is dedicated to advancing the evolution of data collection and expanding resources for your operation. The objective is to provide member companies with the tools to help process, interpret, evaluate and create your strategies and make more informed decisions. Using NTEA’s synthesized information can potentially identify current and future needs and preferences while assessing changes in the environment that affect a variety of business decisions. I’d like to highlight a few NTEA tools that our team has found valuable and speak to some resources in development.

The Association conducts an ongoing research initiative — Business Conditions Survey — to provide industry peer data from both Distributor and Manufacturer member companies, like Phenix. The figures are presented, in addition to insight on expectations regarding hiring, sales levels and business strategies. Read the article summarizing results from the latest survey  (as published in the May 2018 NTEA News). When combined with our regional data, my team finds this information valuable, as it helps us understand and compare sales and quoting activity, backlogs, production capacity and employment levels to the industry. The year-to-year comparisons give us a good feel for directional movement within our space.

Additionally, we find NTEA’s OEM Quarterly Chassis Report consistently provides details on the most current truck chassis and commercial van shipments and sales numbers. Offering specifics about incomplete commercial units entering the market for upfitting, this timely tool assists in decision-making related to potential market changes and opportunities.

A variety of specialty NTEA reports have given us a deeper understanding of significant segments. The recently released U.S. Construction Sector Report, which was a new resource developed this year, contains a data-based perspective on the growing construction sector, giving readers long-term planning tools. Commercial Van Overview and Market Data Insights is a report that summarizes available van platforms and upfit options; shares perspective on current and expected activity in the marketplace; and highlights many reputable data sources. Cross-Border Compliance Guide addresses the complexities and nuances of trade between U.S. and Canada that companies need to know, specifically in regard to vocational truck importation and exportation. The 2018 Fleet Purchasing Outlook explores the commercial vehicle landscape and measures common acquisition incentives. Resources like these give our team the tools we need to create and refine strategies in multiple business segments. We can’t find customized work truck industry data like this anywhere else.

So, what’s in the works? At The Work Truck Show® 2018, NTEA demonstrated a pre-release of a new Vehicle Center of Gravity and Axle Weight Calculator which will launch this year. The calculator accepts various body, equipment and accessory configurations; allows for wheelbase adjustments and axle additions; and supports evaluation of conformity to U.S. Federal Bridge Law. Calculations are performed in an easy-to-use format, will be available through and can be used free-of-charge by NTEA member companies. This tool is meant to provide members the ability to process available data and make informed design, build and sales decisions.

This year, NTEA will conduct an industry benefits survey. The results will help you benchmark employee benefits against industry standards. My team plans to participate in this research initiative, and I look forward to reviewing the collective results.

The Work Truck Industry Financial Benchmarking Survey is another research project being introduced to all NTEA members (formerly limited to distributor involvement and known as Distributor Financial Benchmarking Survey). Contributors receive a confidential, tailored benchmarking report, as well as an overall aggregate report of the financial and operating profiles of participating members.

In October, NTEA will be hosting our reformatted Executive Leadership Summit at a new, convenient location — Hyatt Regency Baltimore Inner Harbor in Baltimore, Maryland. Those who know me well know I’m particularly fond of this event as it provides an opportunity for company executives to get current, focused data and information from economists, thought leaders and industry peers. This year, the Summit has been condensed to a one-day event. The modified time investment combined with content from powerful and informative speakers will make it the best yet.

Like most NTEA members, Phenix continues to evolve. Association data, information and trend resources have proved invaluable in the process. Even so, as compared to others, our industry still lags in relevant data and industry-specific insights. Information that is and is not available creates challenges for us all. NTEA works diligently to collect figures from multiple sources, sharing raw numbers, processed information and trends. The Association will keep developing tools for effective data usage to guide safe and effective product design. NTEA will continue offering events where data and insights can be collected efficiently. We recognize the need for more and will uphold our commitment to work toward delivering additional information from new sources.

Ultimately, we all need to establish a data strategy. Data will need to translate into information and insights that drive our businesses forward.

Find additional market data resources at or contact the NTEA team (800-441-6832 or if you have any questions on the offerings mentioned in this article.