Clunkers in the trucking industry.

If you remember back to the first of July I told you we had driven over 10,000 miles (paid and unpaid) in 30 days.

This month we will be lucky to do half that. Because 14 days of it was spent in hotels in three cities on one load that, normally, would take 3-1/2 days to complete.

Other than the aggravation and anxiety caused by the one truck I drove continuously breaking down we will get away from this with a minimum of financial damage. The same cannot be said for the new owners of that truck.

We made it to Barstow, California Wednesday with no problems. Thursday we ended up in Santa Nella, California with problems developing once again. That blasted truck stopped working once more. The transmission problem all over again.

We had a solution for the final 97 miles of the trip. Swapping out Joe’s back truck with mine. He towed mine while I drove his to the buyer.

This experience has allowed me to think about a company driver that decides to become an owner operator. Take his/her life by the reins to finally live the American Dream.

Going to an auction to purchase a used truck has been one way to get a good truck that can be put to work immediately and start paying for itself with reliable performance. The buyer has to know there are problems waiting. Tires, for example, cut a big chunk of change out of the owner’s pocket and this has to be dealt with by knowing that it WILL happen and to plan for it in advance. Either set aside money from each settlement or just get 8 rear tires replaced immediately. This is no easy feat. Rear tires cost, on average, $600 per tire plus installation. Steer tires are $800 each. Steer tires are front tires on the truck This could set the owner back $6,400 plus installation but this is an expense that will be a game changer in the long run. Keep in mind, this $6,400 is NOT “Top of the Line tires”. Top of the Line will run $8,000 plus before installation.

Historically, at auctions, the better trucks have the lowest Lot Numbers. The people with money don’t want to wait all day long going through 800 trucks, or more, to place their bids and buy. Going by this “rule” may have bitten the buyer in the butt and the wallet big time. Then, too, maybe it was just the “Devil in the details with Lot Number 13” in this instance.

Whatever the buyer paid at auction for Lot #13 is unknown to me. What I do know is $950 was paid in Tucumcari, New Mexico; $450 for a tow to Albuquerque and a shop bill of $350 ($800) in Albuquerque, New Mexico; and $7,900 in Flagstaff, Arizona. This same truck is in a shop in Oakland, California for further repairs as I write this. This truck already has nearly $10,000 in repairs against it before it will make a dime for the new owner.

A normal, everyday, owner/operator would be seriously financially damaged by this truck if it were purchased by a single person and not a fairly large corporation.

The single owner/operator, happily living his/her dream, driving this truck to haul their first load with it would, more than likely, be facing bankruptcy before the year ends.

In the “real” trucking world loads have a time limit for delivery. The trucking industry is fast paced and demanding. If you can’t get the load delivered they won’t wait. Another truck driver will be dispatched to your location to get the trailer load on their truck while you sit, unpaid, for 17 days.

This can be a cruel world to be a part of. Not everyone is cut out to be an owner/operator. A company driver would fare no better in this situation but at least the company driver still has the option to get back to the home terminal to take another truck and keep going.

If you are considering buying from an auction there are steps you can take to help yourself.

First, physically go and see the truck you are thinking of buying. Walk around it. Look at the tires. Come equipped with a tire tread gauge. $4 from a Napa, AutoZone, O’Reilly’s, Pep Boys, Checkers, or any other auto parts store will be money well spent.

Second, check all the visible lines and hoses. Make sure the lines and hoses that are disconnected are done so for a good reason. If the truck had a “Wet Pack” (hydraulic lines and pump to work a dump trailer) that has been removed then know these capped off lines and hoses were for something that is no longer there.

Third, check the fuel tanks. Look inside the tanks themselves. Remove the caps and actually look inside the tanks. If you see one tank looks about 1/4 full while the other tank is about to run over will be a good indicator that there is a problem. Fuel is being sucked out of one tank but not going back to the other in circulation as it should be.

Fourth, in the cab of the truck. Make sure the “Data Port” is visible, intact, and secure. If you see a hole in the lower dash where the Data Port should be this is a very strong indicator that the previous owner is hiding the fact that this truck has major problems with the ECM (Electronic Control Module). Run, don’t walk, away from this truck. Bid on it only if you want to use it as parts. NOT to make a living to feed your family.

We in Drive-Away have these trucks to drive only as long as it takes to pick them up and deliver them. Our money and family are not tied up in these trucks. Our hopes and dreams of financial independence are not tied up in these trucks. Yours will be. So be smart when purchasing a truck from auction.

Take fantasy out of the equation. Stop imagining yourself sitting high in that beautiful truck driving your family to riches. Take a good look at the truck of your dreams. Look for the warts and the problems before you make your bid. If you don’t take these necessary precautions you could have the Devil as your passenger. He has ridden with me this month and it has not been fun.



About Message In A Fold

I am an over the road truck driver in Drive-Away Transport part of the year, and the sole bookkeeper of this operation the other part of the year. I do a lot of whining until I can get in my craft room and play with paper and glue. View all posts by Message In A Fold

2 responses to “Clunkers in the trucking industry.

  • gardenpinks

    I can imagine that the new owner of the truck that gave you so many headaches has now realised that he/she did not get the bargain he/she thought it was. I can’t see how this truck is ever going to repay itself especially as it only got to the new owner because it was finally towed there by Joe. I bet you couldn’t get away from this load quick enough once you had delivered it 🙂 I would have been running away at top speed kicking my heels high and singing at the top of my voice to have finally got it delivered 😀 Hope you have no more nightmare journeys like that one 🙂 Have a good weekend Love and hugs Lynn xx

    • Message In A Fold

      I feel bad for them. They are in the process of taking four trucks off their line and selling them at auction. These three were to replace the four. Hopefully two of them will not be such a major problem as the one I drove.

      You know it! I was so happy to distance myself from that truck that I did do a little ditty and sang out of tune 😀

      Love you – Leslie

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