My purchase of a glider kit is getting closer. I have a buyer for the truck I want to replace with the glider, and hopefully by the time you read this I will be putting the first of many miles under the glider’s bumper. It took a lot of soul searching to make the decision to go for it. The main reason was the price; to start with, glider kits are only available as old-style longnose trucks.
They already carry a premium over an aerodynamic model, possibly because of the extra man hours required to build one, and possibly because of their desirability among the people who want one. Now, add the cost of a donor chassis, the man hours and parts required to rebuild the engine and transmission, and then put it all together and the numbers keep getting bigger and bigger. Factor in the 30% hit from the exchange rate to Canadian dollars and the final number at first looked to be out of reach.
So, I started crunching numbers. Yes, I could afford it, but it was still more expensive than a new truck and a lot more expensive than the truck I already run, which has been trouble-free and has a good few years of life left in it. I checked out the cost of a new truck and was shocked to find out the difference in price was not as great as I first thought. New model years, coupled with the exchange rate on both the truck and warranty, have increased prices significantly, making the glider start to make sense financially.
But why a glider in the first place? There are a few negatives. It can’t go to California, a lot of companies will not sign one on, the old longnose style has terrible aerodynamics, the cab is small, and they’re not the most maneuverable truck at the best of times. And then there’s the rebuilt engine and transmission. Why suffer all that when I could go to a dealer and pay less for a truck that has none of those drawbacks?
To me, the answer is simple: reliability. As I said, my current truck has performed faultlessly, but how long is that going to last? The truck itself is very well made and the mechanical parts are strong – it’s the electronics that worry me. There are so many sensors and gizmos controlling the emissions system that can, and often do, go wrong, and when they do go wrong it’s not obvious what the problem is and diagnosis can be difficult.
But the biggest problem is that these issues often cause the engine to derate. I cannot afford to chance that. I had such a fault on my other truck, and phoned the closest dealer. It was a Thursday and I was informed the earliest they could get me in was the following Tuesday. I told the service guy the fault code and he said it was a quick fix, but it still couldn’t be done any earlier than the Tuesday. I was told my best option was to keep going and get towed in if it shut me down. Seriously?
How can I run a business when the equipment I rely on to provide my income can be shut down by something as insignificant as a faulty sensor, and then have to wait for at least four days to get it replaced? Or I can take a chance and risk breaking down on the side of the highway requiring a tow for the tractor unit. On top of this, I’m going to need accommodation, which is not cheap. Then I’ve got to try and make up for lost time, so my time at home with the family suffers.
With a glider, this is less likely to happen. There are no sensors on the emissions system because it doesn’t have one. All that is reason enough to buy one, in my mind, but the main reason is even simpler. The idea of business is to earn as much and spend as little as possible, and the glider, in my opinion, is the best way to do that.
I’ve already acknowledged they’re more expensive to buy than a new truck, but that’s only when you compare it to one new truck. Over a projected 15-year lifespan a glider will need one in-frame, whereas a new truck will need replacing when the warranty runs out. If I manage to get five years out of a new truck before that happens, I will need three new trucks within that 15-year period. If I work them hard, I could need five. Now the glider is cheap by comparison.
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.