One of the great debates within the realm of owner-operators is whether to buy an older truck or a newer truck. That may sound like an obvious decision to some but when you actually look at the deeper issues that spark this debate you begin to see where the divide lies. We recently did a poll on in a social media group in which that divide was clearly demonstrated in the responses. Let’s take a bit of a deeper look at some of the arguments on both sides of this issue and see which side you land on.
So everyone should know by now about the ELD mandate to replace paper logs with electronic monitoring devices that plug into the trucks OBD-II port. In theory, this sounds like a fantastic move forward removing the hassle of handwriting records and just generally trying to keep on top of your paperwork. With the ELD these issues are removed as the truck’s diagnostics directly report the data needed to the logging device without effort from the driver. However, even though these devices have been federally required it is not popular with all the drivers in the industry. We will not go into the reasons here for sake of staying on-topic but nevertheless the ELD mandate actually only pertains to trucks manufactured during or after the year 2000. For this reason some drivers prefer to get an older truck strictly as a loophole around having to use an ELD device.
Every vehicle requires both planned and unplanned maintenance at some point. As many miles as commercial trucks put on though, that maintenance because much more regular and costly. The argument for this represented in the answers of our poll and much of the industry is that newer trucks have been built in a manner that they require you to take them into a shop for service preventing owner-operators to perform much the labor themselves which would keep the cost down. This same argument is had with our everyday vehicles as well with the “car guys” typically prefer a vehicle that they are able to tweak and repair themselves. However, when the health of that vehicle determines your cost vs your profit margin it hits a lot closer to home for many drivers.
Dispatchers represent the carrier when negotiating freight. They take a percentage off the carrier’s negotiated rate, so they are motivated to find you high paying freight. The higher the rate they can find for the carrier, the more money they make. Good dispatchers will keep portfolios with their carrier’s lane preferences, desired freight rates, and equipment specifications. Using this information, the Dispatcher then contacts the shippers or freight dispatcher on the carrier’s behalf to find loads that meet the carrier’s requirements. Only after a load is agreed upon does the dispatcher charge the carrier a fee for the service. (Also note, if the carrier uses factoring, many dispatchers will create and submit invoices to the factor on the carrier’s behalf.)
We had multiple responses touching on this where drivers felt that generally speaking newer trucks are just not built as well as the classics. One stated that every time he passes a shop it is nothing but newer trucks that he sees lined up for repairs. It is like the old saying goes “they don’t build them like they used to”. Another driver in agreement with this point shared that he would only drive old Peterbilt Trucks built-in 1987 or older. His justification for this is that the motors back then were strictly mechanical without all the computerized components to potentially go wrong. Yet, we do have input from the other side of the debate where several advised any of the newer trucks will do well for you if maintained properly. One advised to sell them at 350,000 miles for a new truck and you will do fine.
The voice we received in the polls seemed to slightly favor a classic truck. That obviously is not to say that is the voice of the industry as a whole, more specifically, only those who saw and responded to the poll. However, even with the advantage points of a classic truck in being able to perform more maintenance yourself and so forth, we can’t dismiss the many perks modern trucks have to offer. Things like improved aerodynamics and fuel economy, interior room, sleeper sizes, electronics, and the simple yet blunt point that who doesn’t enjoy the feeling of a new vehicle? Many of the conveniences we see in most trucks today would require some serious DIY work on your part to install them into the older rigs, and some do opt to go that route. It is always nice though when the grunt work is already done for you and there is a lot to be said for that.
At the end of the day, this is all in fact personal opinion. Nevertheless, the opinions of both sides of this debate are firm in their views on the matter, leaving us with the reality that we simply have to weigh out the pros and cons of both sides and make the best decision for you and your company. A lot of the points presented are not applicable across the board. If you are good with your hands and have a fair mindset for completing your own maintenance then maybe an older truck could be a good fit for you if the other factors align as well. However, if you are not, then that decision would not be a responsible one for your situation and a modern truck may be the best option to keep you on the road and profitable. It is all about paying the bills when push comes to shove on these matters and what will keep your company the most profitable. Do you know which option is the best option for you?