Used truck glut all but over; but there’s still deals to be had

TORONTO, (Aug. 16, 2004) — Looking for a used truck? It’s getting harder to be selective these days. Used heavy straight trucks, day cabs, small sleepers, and single-axle tractors are always hard to find. And the effects of the guaranteed-residual sales programs that flooded lots with late-model highway tractors are starting to abate.

“People are definitely hanging on to their trucks longer,” says Oliver Silver, director of customer retention and marketing at Ryder Canada. Ownership cycles that had been tightened to three years are now being stretched to four or five. One reason: many buyers have tried to time their trades to avoid engines with new emission controls and higher price tags. As a result, the supply of used trucks is more limited and prices are firming up.

The dealer landscape has changed considerably in the past five years. With problems developing in the used-truck marketplace, truck builders began taking countermeasures. Volvo Trucks North America purchased a 50 per-cent share of Arrow Truck Sales, which claims to be North America’s largest independent seller of used trucks.

Freightliner created a separate used truck group, SelecTrucks, and actually began producing its own line of cabovers converted into day-cab conventionals. Called Legacy models, the first product had a remanufactured Detroit Diesel Series 60 engine, remanufactured Eaton transmission, and rebuilt Eaton tandem rear axles married to a new Freightliner FLS 112 cab and chassis.

Several truck manufacturers have programs to convert integral sleeper tractors into those much-in-demand day cabs. Mack offers a removable sleeper on its CH model. Peterbilt and Kenworth have kits that quickly and easily turn their integrated sleepers into day cabs.

Major leasing and rental companies, like Ryder, also now have strategies that mitigate a used-truck glut. Ryder, which owns, maintains, or is responsible for some 175,000 light, medium, and heavy-duty vehicles, strengthened its network of retail used truck centres and launched a web site listing vehicles available or coming up for sale in the near future. It also generates financing, insurance, and extended warranty quotes.

No matter where you turn for trucks, buying from a reputable source and doing your homework on a vehicle’s repair history and ownership (including any liens) can take the mystery out of buying used. The thing about buying a used vehicle is you don’t spec it, you live with it. Ryder Canada’s Oliver Silver says your first step toward a purchase is no different than if you were buying new: don’t make a move until you know how you want to use the vehicle.

A quick example, he says is to select a truck with a GVW rating that’s close to but not less than the maximum load you’re going to be carrying. Overloaded trucks wear out faster, while an underloaded truck is a waste of fuel and money.

And, if you’re going to be carrying a variety of weight loads, consider a sliding fifth wheel so you can redistribute loads, he says.

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