Truck News


Dealing with difficult dealerships

As a travelling man or woman in today's trucking industry, it is inevitable that sooner or later you will have to pull your rig into a dealer's lot for any number of reasons from service to the purcha...

DAVE HOLLEMAN: Trucker/writer
DAVE HOLLEMAN: Trucker/writer

As a travelling man or woman in today’s trucking industry, it is inevitable that sooner or later you will have to pull your rig into a dealer’s lot for any number of reasons from service to the purchase of new equipment.

There are three main types of dealers you might encounter during these times depending on the piece of equipment you’ve got issues with: truck, engine or trailer.

There are several main functions any dealership is in the business of performing.

Hot off the lot

The purchase of new equipment is always a large and time consuming exercise and the dealership you are dealing with can either make the transaction smooth or stressful.

In the purchase of a new tractor, especially in today’s economy, it is imperative you do your homework before you sign anything.

You owe it to yourself to talk to drivers who have driven similar trucks and crawl all over a similar unit (with permission of course).

Go to the shows and talk to the OEM reps, read any magazine stories you can on the product, check out the Internet for information and then finally, sit down and talk to a dealer.

Personally, I went to many dealerships and literally spec’d out the same truck four times before I settled on a dealership that met my standards.

I had my truck custom ordered, but even if you are buying off the lot you should have a concrete picture in your mind of what you want and your price range.

O/Os should not be afraid to shop across the country, or at least within their region of travel.

If you drive across Canada, than you should shop across Canada.

I live in B.C. and I purchased my new rig in New Brunswick, for example.

When buying new equipment, the major component you have to look for is the warranty.

One problem that shopping across a large region can cause, however, is that other dealerships don’t always want to honor your warranty if you didn’t purchase the equipment from them.

From an OEM perspective this is taboo and seems to be strictly a Canadian phenomenon.

If a dealership refuses to do warranty work on your truck, or if their service level is second rate, hit ’em where it hurts: in the pocket book.

Down by the bay

The next largest arena dealerships enter is the fight for your service dollars.

Just because you purchased a truck there, doesn’t mean that you need to bring it back for every single oil change and everything in between.

Personally the only time my truck is ever in a dealership is for warranty work (which is not too often). The rest of the time I prefer to do business with a non-dealer, heavy-duty repair shop.

What you’re looking for is a shop with a relatively low labor rate that still maintains a higher level of workmanship.

I also don’t get my engine worked on by a truck dealership.

In the past I’ve found that actual engine manufacturers’ dealerships offer higher levels of service and knowledge.

Regardless of where you get your service work done, I recommend dealing with the same shop on a continuous basis whenever possible – providing of course they consistently meet your service standards.

Not only will this allow the shop to get to know you and your truck, it will also allow you to get to know the shop, mechanics and the level of service they have to offer.

In today’s tight marketplace where competition is fierce, there is no reason to put up with shoddy service when you can take your money elsewhere and get the respect you’re paying for.

Another key part

Finally, another area dealerships deal in is the parts business.

Again, it is imperative to shop around.

Obviously, dealerships are going to have a certain level of monopoly on parts specific to the product they are selling.

However, in the area of generic parts, you should have a good idea what they cost before you give the a-okay to replace the whole works.

While it’s much more likely that an owner/operator would actually interact with all three types of dealerships than a company driver, if you drive a truck it can’t hurt to know this type of stuff. n

– Dave Holleman is an over-the-road owner/operator and a monthly contributor to Truck News.

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