4 Things That Matter When Choosing a Semi Truck
Semi trucks: what could be better, bigger, or more beautiful to the men (and women) who love trucks and trucking? But buying a new semi truck is a big decision, and these giants come with a fairly gigantic price tag to match. If you’re ready to upgrade your semi to a newer model, the decision-making process is rather more complex than it would be if you were buying a family runabout. After all, your business will depend on that vehicle for many years, and you (or your drivers) will be spending a lot of time behind the wheel.
We take a closer look at some of the obvious, and less obvious, things you should consider when purchasing your new semi truck.
1. Get Into the Tech Specs
Choosing a brand you’ve always liked isn’t necessarily a bad way to go, but it’s worth remembering that tech specs can vary dramatically, even within a single brand and manufacturing year. If, for example, you were to visit an International truck dealership, they will offer you models that incorporate Eaton Fuller or Allison transmissions. Which is better? As with the technical differences you’ll find within any brand, “better” depends on the application the truck is intended for.
In this instance, we’re looking at all round versatility with the Eaton and its 18-speed automatic transmission, but the 6-speed Allison may be the better choice for construction work or for precision side-loading of containers.
Engine brands also vary. Using the International brand of semis as an example, we’re looking at a choice between the International (Navistar) engine, and the hard-going Cummins. Which has the better reputation? For anyone who knows about trucks and trucking, Cummins comes out on top. But that doesn’t mean you should dismiss a Navistar engine out of hand. Once again, the type of semi truck and the way it will be used will dictate your choice.
2. Consider Total Cost of Ownership
Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) is a biggie when choosing a new or used semi truck. Essentially, this figure consists of way more than just the purchase price. It includes all the costs involved in keeping your truck on the road during its working life. So, it includes expected maintenance costs, fuel costs, the value of warranties, the expected cost of downtime, and, to end the equation, the resale value of the truck.
Needless to say, calculating TCO for yourself means assembling and verifying a lot of data, and in most instances, you’ll be looking at averages rather than pinpoint-accurate figures. However, if you don’t have all the data you need, you can look at using TCO software to help you, and some semi-truck makers will offer TCO figures as a selling tool.
However, TCO is by no means the only thing you should be thinking of. The lowest TCO, while good for your finances, doesn’t necessarily indicate the suitability of make or model for the specific application in which you plan to use it, and it doesn’t factor in the degree of job satisfaction your drivers and their assistants will experience. Cheaper is good, but it isn’t necessarily better.
3. Driver Satisfaction
The quality of the semi that truck drivers spend their days (and sometimes their nights) in ranks high on the list of factors that determine job-satisfaction among truckers. The other two factors in the top three to consider are time spent at home, and remuneration. Management-based factors will be up to you, as will the choice of semi, but it’s worth considering driver satisfaction when choosing your new vehicle.
To do this, you need to think about the type of work your drivers will be doing. For long-haul drivers, safety, cab comfort, the experience behind the wheel and the comfort of sleeping quarters are sure to rank high on the list. For shorter trips with many stops, ease of loading and unloading as well as maneuverability may be the more important considerations.
Of course, the types of loads you will be transporting will also have an influence. Overpowered trucks will cost you more in regular running costs than they need to. Underpowered trucks will incur higher maintenance costs due to excessive strain on the engine and transmission and will be very frustrating to drive.
As with any task, choosing the right tools for the job at hand makes everything easier for all concerned. And a satisfied driver will deliver better work-performance than one who is unhappy with the vehicle he or she has been allocated.
When choosing a semi, approach dealers with the specifications for the job the semi and its driver has to do, and see what they recommend. From there, you can start going into greater depth regarding the pros and cons of the models and brands you’ve been offered.
4. Finances and Financing
Knowing what you want and being able to afford it may not be one and the same thing. That semi is a big expense and it’s not the kind of money that most small or mid-sized businesses can just dig into their pockets for. The fact is that your final decision may ultimately rest on the financing plans available, your eligibility for access to them, and the cost of the down payment.
While evaluating the tech specs and the ideal models to fulfil the tasks your truck will undertake may be well within your field of expertise, expert third-party advice on the financing plans you’re offered may be helpful. After all, thinking you know what they entail may not be the same as fully knowing what you’re letting yourself in for. A financial accountant can be as useful in helping you to choose the right semi truck as your practical experience in a trucking business.
Buying a Semi Truck is a Process Not an Event
Patience pays dividends when it comes to making the right judgement call when you invest in an asset like a semi truck. You probably already knew it wasn’t going to be a simple matter, and as such, it’s worth the time you’ll spend considering every aspect of the purchase. From “fun” things to consider like engines and transmissions to matching them to suit your type of work and finding financing that suits your pocket, there’s a lot for you to do before you clinch the deal.
Start with a “job description” for your truck, talk to dealers and get information, and then think things through. When you can tick all the boxes, you’re ready to make your decision and rule the roads in your new rig.