September 2023 marks the 40th year that National Truck Protection has been in business. NTP's story began in 1983 when the founders operated Dover Diesel Service, a diesel truck engine repair business.
“With the number of engine and other major equipment repairs they were doing, the owners thought that offering an equipment protection plan, what many call an extended warranty today, was a good way to grow the business,” said Rick Clark, VP of Strategic Partners at NTP who will celebrate his 39th year with NTP in November.
Recognizing the growing demand for equipment protection plans, they transformed the company into Dover Diesel Engine Protection Service, laying the foundation for NTP's future.
“The medium-duty segment has always been part of our equipment service plans from the start and has continued to grow, especially with the huge increase in the varied use needs for more local and regional diesel and gas-powered vehicles,” Clark said. “Because the profile of mechanical breakdowns with diesel and gas engines are a bit different, we’ve continually evolved our products and service to fit those niches and the equipment for all sizes of commercial trucks.”
To adapt to the evolving landscape, NTP introduced a more comprehensive and expanded Class 2-7 light- and medium-duty program for gas and diesel engines in 2022. This update included lower mileage terms tailored to the specific needs of local and regional businesses, ensuring that their fleet operations are protected.
The Changing Landscape of Extended Warranties
Extended warranty plans, more formally called vehicle service contracts, have also experienced changes in recent years. In 2018, NTP acquired Premium 2000, merging the two leading commercial truck service contract industry brands. This move made NTP an even more dominant player with used truck dealers and customers, spurring them to analyze and redefine its offerings to meet customers' needs even better.
“We immediately looked at the products and services we offered for both brands and compared them to our data on ‘what breaks’ and the equipment our customers needed us to cover to help protect their business,” Wade Bontrager, NTP’s CEO explained.
In 2020, NTP and Premium 2000 introduced new plans that added 38 components to their coverage, most of which were in the aftertreatment category because that’s what they saw was failing most often. Despite expanding its coverage, NTP did something that reflects NTP's commitment to supporting fleet managers and individual owner-operators. They lowered its prices.
“Why? Because we worked hard to increase our operational efficiencies to take our costs down, so we passed those savings on to our dealers and customers in the form of lower prices,” Bontrager said.
Demystifying Extended Warranties
According to Bontrager, one common misconception among truck owners is that extended warranties provide "bumper-to-bumper" coverage.
“This is more likely to have come from a salesperson at a dealership who didn’t understand what was covered and what wasn’t. So, we work closely with our reselling partners to ensure they know and share what each plan covers,” Bontrager added.
Another misperception, particularly prevalent in 2018 when Bontrager joined NTP as its CEO, was the belief that vehicle service companies didn't honor repair claims.
“That feeling was associated with all vehicle service companies, some more frequent than others, but we were included. We knew we were paying tens of millions of dollars in claims yearly, but we had room to improve that misperception about us, too,” Bontrager said.
As an industry leader, NTP took the initiative to change this perception.
“We were very transparent about what we covered and promised that if you maintained your truck properly and a component failed that was covered by the plan you bought, we would pay for the repair. Simple. Today, we have a terrific reputation for paying claims with our dealer partners and, importantly, our customers,” Bontrager said.
This commitment is reflected in their improved Google Business Ratings, which have risen from less than 2 stars to an impressive 4.1 stars today.
“We can only manage and control what we do. And in doing so, owner-operators and fleet managers know that we stand behind, not hide behind, our promise that if a customer takes care of their truck and has coverage for a part that needs repairing, we’ll pay for that repair,” Bontrager said.
Cost-Effective Strategies for Fleet Managers
Keeping medium-duty trucks on the road is paramount for fleet managers.
“The most cost-effective strategy for minimizing repairs is keeping up with your preventive maintenance (PM) schedule, especially oil changes,” Geoff Stigler, Chief Commercial Officer at NTP, said.
Additionally, conducting daily trip pre-checks can help identify potential issues before they escalate into costly problems.
“Doing daily trip pre-checks is as easy as looking and listening. In many cases (not all), you can see or hear that something is not right. If that’s the case, stop and get it checked before it turns into something much worse that will cost you money twice: out of pocket and being off the road,” Stigler added.
Adapting to Emerging Trends and Technologies
In today's rapidly evolving trucking landscape, smart technology plays a pivotal role. Telematics is a game-changer.
“Those devices are reading the “heartbeat” of the truck and can alert you before a major problem occurs. We’re developing programs that will directly integrate our customers’ telematics devices into our technical team to monitor their truck's performance. When we see a potential problem, we will alert the driver, recommending what action they need to take,” Stigler explained. “This is a great example of how we’re adding experts to our team to develop programs and services to be more than just the company “that pays for catastrophic mechanical equipment repairs.”
As electric vehicles become more prevalent in the light- and medium-duty trucking segments, NTP is poised to provide essential coverage and support.
“We are the first and only company to develop and introduce an extended service plan for a battery-electric step van OEM. As we all know, electric vehicles will continue to evolve and become a bigger part of the light/medium-duty trucking segment,” Stigler said.
Looking Forward to the Future
NTP's 40th anniversary is a celebration of the past and a glimpse into the future. Besides technological advancements, NTP is expanding its services beyond traditional equipment protection plans. An example is their Electronix Package, introduced in June. It covers components like power windows, door locks, multiplex wiring modules, and safety features like collision avoidance systems and adaptive braking.
While the trucking industry has witnessed countless changes over the past four decades, NTP's commitment to customer satisfaction and innovation has remained unwavering.