Breakdowns put a dent in retirement plans

by Mark Lee

I have finally experienced something I thought would never happen. I got a phone call from my repair shop giving me an update on my truck and they told me something that made me feel all warm and fuzzy. The magic words were: “Don’t worry, Mark, it’s all taken care of under your warranty.”

After the last couple of months, that was music to my ears. Between the two trucks I’ve had work done on: the air-conditioning, a new heater core, a pair of radius arms, starter motors, AHI modules (whatever they are), an ongoing problem with the engine brake that will hopefully be solved by the warranty job and the usual preventive maintenance and servicing requirements, every one of which had me digging deep into my retiring on a Caribbean island and drinking rum for the rest of my life fund.

Last month I wrote about the difficulty in deciding whether to keep my current trucks or trade them in. That conundrum was no longer keeping me awake at night as I had decided to sell them both and become a greeter at Walmart.

I looked into it and unfortunately I don’t have enough qualifications for that, so I’m stuck with the trucks for now. If I could’ve made a snap decision I would’ve sold them both and bought older trucks that I could fix myself with a hammer and a 9/16th-inch wrench.

At the time, that appealed to me as I was sick of all the niggles and even more annoyed at the constant swiping of my debit card. However, I wasn’t in a position to do that and I’m glad of that.

An older truck may not have so much technology to go wrong, but because they lack that technology they are also less efficient and unless you have a real lemon, the increased efficiency of the new trucks will put more money in the bank. Plus, an older truck is a lot less comfortable than a newer truck. They’re louder and ride harder and after almost 30 years behind the wheel, I think I deserve a few creature comforts.

I also don’t want to be slipping on coveralls and fiddling with trucks when I’m not driving them. Even though I enjoy turning wrenches, I don’t want to have to do so on a regular basis and that is exactly what an older truck needs.

Instead of AHI modules, it will be alternators, compressors, wiper motors, steering and suspension components and stuff like that. These things all wear out and although they’re not as technical and complicated as modules, they still put the truck off the road and they will still keep my retiring on a Caribbean island and drinking rum fund from growing.

So I’m back to sleepless nights again, except I’m not. I still don’t know which direction I’m going to take with my business, but I do know that it will be a decision that is made for me. It’s quite simple, really, and all about the numbers. If trading up to a new truck is going to get me closer to that bottle of rum, then that’s what I’m going to do.

If keeping my current trucks will get me on that beach sooner, then that’s the decision I will make and there’s always the possibility of doing both. The way it’s been going lately, the trucks I have now will be like new as I replace one part at a time…salute.


A fourth generation trucker and trucking journalist, Mark Lee uses his 25 years of transcontinental trucking in Europe, Asia, North Africa and now North America to provide an alternative view of life on the road.

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