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Used truck buyers forced to overcome DPF fears

Used trucks with low kilometres are getting harder to find than hen’s teeth. Because of their dislike of 2008 and newer EPA engines, many truck buyers have been reluctant to commit to diesel particulate filter (DPF) technology. Instead,...

Used trucks with low kilometres are getting harder to find than hen’s teeth. Because of their dislike of 2008 and newer EPA engines, many truck buyers have been reluctant to commit to diesel particulate filter (DPF) technology. Instead, truck owners have tended to hold onto their pre-2007 Class 8 trucks causing a disruption of trade-in cycles.

“One of the trends I’ve seen is with guys who used to run three or four trucks who are now cannibalizing them to keep one running,” says James Morgan, part-owner of Morgan’s Diesel Truck Parts of Kingston, Ont. “Lately I’ve even seen stuff I’ve never seen before, like a 1988 International hauled out of the bush and put back on the road.”

Morgan thinks that the distrust around the newer EPA engines runs deeply through the owner/operator and small truck fleet community.

“The most popular (used) trucks right now are between 2000-2007. Some guys get cold feet with anything 2008 or newer,” he says. “For the highway, what they’re looking for is something like 475 hp or better with a 13-speed transmission. Used Petes and Kenworths tend to fetch a better price. For newer engines, I’m seeing a preference for Cummins or Volvo. In the glider kits, 60-series Detroits are popular as are Cat single turbos from 2001-2004.”

Morgan suggests that speed limiters governing trucks to 105 km/h are also having an effect on the preferential spec’s.

“A guy running multi-axle loads at 105 km/h on 336 rear-ends is going to be on the gear shift a lot of the time, which wasn’t a problem when they were running 110 km/h. Most of my customers run heavy and want no less than 1,850 lbs of torque to carry them over the hills.”

Although many of Morgan’s clients are logging and speciality haulers, certain models are universally popular across the board.

“If I had a 2005 Kenworth day cab or small bunk on my lot that was clean and half decent, it wouldn’t sit for more than a couple of weeks,” he says.

But the used truck market could be in transition now, according to Jason Queenen, general manager for truck sales at Expressway Trucks in Ayr, Ont.

“I’m seeing some guys right now with older equipment and their company has told them to upgrade,” he says.

Of course, Queenen still gets a lot of calls from prospective buyers looking for pre-DPF trucks from 2006 and 2007, “but those trucks don’t exist anymore. And we didn’t sell a lot of new trucks in 2008-2009, so it’s getting very difficult to find good used trucks.”

Queenen acknowledges that one exception might be a private carrier or local manufacturer that is up-cycling its regional truck fleet, but those situations are also extremely rare.

Vic Gupta, sales manager at Arrow Truck Sales in Mississauga, Ont., thinks there has been a sea change in buyers’ attitudes towards EPA technology starting in 2012 that has continued into this year.

“At the beginning of 2012, guys were still looking for trucks without a DPF,” he says. “But after the second quarter, those trucks became hard to get. From the third quarter on, we started selling a lot of trucks with DPFs.”

According to Gupta, 50% of the trucks his branch sold in 2012 were equipped with DPFs.

“People don’t want to come out of their comfort zone,” says Gupta. “But our customers who have gone over to DPF units have been generally pleased. We were convinced that educating the customer was the key to selling those trucks.”

Queenen suggests that some of the negative feeling toward DPF equipment is a myth.

“There were some hiccups from all of the OEMs but overall, they pretty well have it worked out now,” he says. “We’re selling trucks second-hand and we aren’t seeing any issues.”

Queenen compares the opposition to the way drivers and owner/operators used to feel about automated transmissions.

Many of the new trucks sold these days are equipped with automatic transmissions, and they’re also holding up quite well, he says.

But the reluctance to upgrade to newer models in recent years has caused a constriction in the used truck market.

“This is going to be the year that brokers are going to be buying new trucks,” says Queenen. “They’ve waited long enough. But the problem is that their (trade-in) equipment is going to be miled right out. The US used to take stuff that had a million kilometres on it, but not one million miles. We used to rely on the export market for that, but they won’t pay $20,000-25,000 for a truck.”

Queenen thinks that some prospective buyers have an unrealistic expectation of the value of their trade-in.

“Maybe some of them are looking for a big discount. But it’s easy to do the research and, in most cases, their repair expenses are about the same as the previous trucks they owned,” he says.

Queenen suggests that truck owners’ incomes have taken a hit the last few years and this may be part of the equation. “Back in 2004-2006, times were pretty good and guys got used to living on the income they made back then – so it’s easy to point a finger at the truck. But if a truck’s got 250,000-plus kilometres on it for every year that it’s on the road, that tells me it’s been working.”

Fuel mileage is of course a major consideration and Queenen has noticed that truck buyers are getting beyond the 475-500 hp, 13-speed manual shift cookie-cutter spec’. “We’re seeing fleets dropping their horsepower down to 425 hp,” he says.

Rear-end axle ratios are also changing as trucks are running at lower rpms. Queenen has seen buyers favouring 3.36 and 3.42 rear-end ratios in the automatics, and 3.55 and 3.58s with the 13-speed transmissions.

“You don’t see the 3.70 or 3.90 set-ups like you used to,” says Queenen. “Truck buyers seem to be doing their homework.”

Arrow’s Gupta agrees that fuel economy is a most important consideration: “Many of our customers are looking for a trucks three or four years old, with 425-450 hp. Small bunk sleeper tractors are very popular and can be used for either regional, city or highway work. It’s a good time to buy,” he adds. “There are some very aggressive interest rates available.”

Dennis Sheehan, co-owner of Sheehan’s Truck Sales in Burlington, Ont., thinks that used truck buyers should look seriously at new trucks as well.

“New truck pricing is as good as it’s ever been,” he says. “Everything including the exchange rate is favourable. We’re selling new trucks right now cheaper than we were in 2000.”

But if you’re not interested in acquiring new iron, Sheehan mentions there are still decent used trucks available, including plenty of 08s and 09s. “There’s something there for everyone out there,” he says.

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2 Comments » for Used truck buyers forced to overcome DPF fears
  1. mz says:

    well there goes some more of our freedom , now ya got truck news squeling out the industry with phone numbers to call, and now in this articale the propoganda is so thick i could barely read it

  2. Tom says:

    The only reason I can see for 3.36 to 3.58 is for the truck to run fast.
    I would not use those ratios on my pick-up. My F350 is 4.38 and running at
    105kph it works fine with good fuel economy. My last tractor had 4.10s
    and worked very well. The tractor before that had 5.13 and it also worked great.

    Driving at 110kph or faster is dangerous. How does anyone expect the truck to stop quickly at thos e speeds. Perhaps you don’t know but brake testing is done at 55 mph on smooth dry concrete. Welcome to Canada1

    I once tested a truck with 2.75 differentials and the customer comlaint was no gradability. Duuh!

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