Truck Acquisition Considerations

August 1, 2004
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Truck Acquisition Considerations

Acquiring trucks and equipment has become an even more daunting challenge these days. Perhaps the most difficult aspect of the process is trying to stay current and informed with the accelerating pace of new technologies, innovations for vehicle componentry and operation, and more frequent new truck and equipment introductions.
There are a multitude of things to think out when beginning the vehicle acquisition process. This information is intended to assist you in defining and evaluating your purchasing decisions, so as to make the wisest choices. After all, you are not just buying a piece of equipment, you are investing in your organization’s business.
Decide on your expectations, and requirements for your trucks and equipment (fuel economy, performance, durability, efficiency, productivity, maintenance, safety, driver satisfaction and comfort, etc.)
Review your current and previous equipment specs to determine performance and problems. Also, scrutinize maintenance and operating costs. (A truck’s specs will influence these costs. Improper specs cause problems.)
Consider components and options that lessen the risk of breakdowns and reduce downtime by extending service intervals and requiring lower maintenance. Items that can be spec’d for increased vehicle uptime include brakes, wheels, clutches, drivelines, fifth wheels, synthetic lubes and coolants. Also look into extended service intervals.
Explore whether getting extended warranties makes sense. Think about spec’ing components that will add value when it comes time to sell or trade-in.  Look at integrating a complete package: a combination of truck chassis, body and related equipment.
Review your truck and equipment replacement strategy and determine if — from an economic standpoint — it would be better to trade-in or sell-off your vehicle more frequently or infrequently.
Take advantage of equipment manufacturers’ resources. They have considerable experience with specifying trucks for all kinds of applications and vocations and can optimize specs for your specific requirements.
Find a truck dealer that wants to partner with you and provide business solutions and value-added support services (such as spec’ing guidance, warranties, scheduled maintenance and parts management options), rather than just sell you “iron.”
Investigate full-service truck leasing as an alternative to buying. Among the advantages of full-service leasing: conserves cash because there is no initial investment or down payment; costs are predictable; lease vehicles are spec’d specifically for the intended application; scheduled maintenance, vehicle washings, 24-hour road service, substitute vehicles and fuel tax reporting, licensing and permitting can be included.  
Calculate the feasibility of outsourcing truck maintenance. Like leasing, contract maintenance offers some advantages, especially with programs that help maximize fleet utilization by encompassing services beyond equipment maintenance. For example: regular repairs, tire maintenance, washing, emergency road service, towing and substitute vehicles. Some programs can include licensing and permitting, regulatory compliance and fuel tax reporting. Here again, budgeting and forecasting are made easier because maintenance expenses are paid in equal monthly installments.
Search for specs, options and accessories that will improve truck safety. Research shows that 90 percent of all driving decisions are based on vision alone, so windshields, windows, wipers, lights and especially mirrors are very important. The bigger the windshield, the greater the slope of the hood and the shorter the hood itself, the better the driver’s forward and right front view. Doors with cut-down bottom sills and/or “peep” windows also aid visibility. Consider: Motorized and heated mirrors. They are easier to adjust than manual mirrors and they resist snow, ice and fogging. Accident avoidance technology and collision warning systems. Automated backup lights and alarms.
Vision systems that use miniature video cameras strategically placed on a vehicle’s exterior to aid in turns, lane changes, and backing.
Light-emitting diode (LED) marker  and stop/tail/turn lights. They provide instantaneous and brighter illumination, use less power and last longer than incan- descent lights.
Do not overlook driver ergonomics. The driver has a critical role in achieving optimum vehicle performance. The happier and more comfortable a driver is, the safer and more productive he will be. Therefore, do not skimp on driver comfort and amenities. Consider such specs and items as:
 Easy and safe cab ingress and egress (wide door openings, well- placed grab handles and well- positioned, wide, safe steps).  Comfortable, quiet, smooth- riding cab.
 Good radio/entertainment systems.  Tilt and telescoping steering columns.  Upgraded seats.  Power window on the passenger side.  Functional layout of theinstrument panel and switches. Base acquisition decisions on total cost of ownership rather than initial acquisition cost. BI

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