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Starter Rig - Build Or Buy? (Straight Truck)

Anomaly

New Recruit
Offline
Hi all... Introduced myself previously in Newbies Paradise and had a few questions, to which I was directed to read more of the threads. Unfortunately, my time for browsing is somewhat limited driving OTR, and I am just not having much luck finding answers to those questions.

I am curious whether I would be better off to buy an existing expedited straight truck with sleeper (right tool for the job, as it was referred to, but would involved getting into an obscene amount of debt right off the bat), or if it would be kosher to modify a used rental truck or perhaps build my own.

I have an older GM P20 (aka Workhorse) chassis with a 6.2 diesel that was originally an RV but has serious roof issues. I am told, however, that the 6.2 was simply a variant of an industrial/marine engine built for the military, and not really suited for highway driving. It is also a 3-speed automatic with presumably low gearing, (as low as 5.29s) and could possibly be a bit thirstier than necessary.

I have found a line on a 2000 GM ex-U-Haul rental in my home area for around $7k. Looks like a decent truck from the photos, but it is a gasser, and according to the info, seemingly has a better towing capacity than payload (5,500 lb payload vs 10,000 lb hitch capacity, not sure if that means it can actually tow that much). It is a gasser, however, which I am not sure would be a wise choice for expediting. Nor am I crazy about the idea of a hydraulic brake setup in the event of crossing mountains. Another possible concern is the low deck of a U-Haul truck, it cannot line up with a typical receiving dock, but would shine with doorstep service. However, I am not sure what percentage of expedited deliveries would have such a need.

I have also found a number of deals on used late-model rentals ranging from $8,000-$19,000, depending on size and capacity. My idea would be to stretch the frame on such a truck to add a sleeper, or perhaps simply install a shorter box body to allow the existing frame to accommodate a sleeper.

I am wondering what anyone else's take on this is. I would love to get a nice Columbia or Cascadia, ready to go and built for the purpose, but start-up capital constraints bump that to the "someday soon" file and I would hope that I can get started with a basic 16-24 foot truck for under $20,000.
 

akkshole

Veteran Expediter
Owner/Operator
US Air Force
Offline
I am not partial to the rental trucks. Buy a relatively newer sprinter/transit/promaster. Also have enough money to run for 4 to 6 months so that way you can be broke in a yr instead of 3 months. Without learning this industry driving for a fleet owner, odds are against you with learning curve. Driving for a fleet owner gives you time to see what this is about before tying up any safety net of capital and losing it as fast. As many have said the way to make $1 million in expedite is to start with $2 million.
 
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SWTexas1

Veteran Expediter
Owner/Operator
Offline
Drive for an owner for 6-12 months, then decide what you want and how you want it set up. I would be willing to bet, you change your mind dozens of times over that period.
 
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Ragman

Veteran Expediter
Retired Expediter
Offline
I have found a line on a 2000 GM ex-U-Haul rental in my home area ......
Stay away from the U-Haul garbage. They are not set up to haul freight. They are built for the do it yourself home goods mover.

Look at some off lease Penske or Enterprise Internationals.
 

Anomaly

New Recruit
Offline
Yeah, I kinda figured the U-Haul would need some upgrades to be feasible, but at 185k on a gasser, I think my money would be better spent on a diesel. The question is, could I make a go of it with an older one until I can afford newer, or just bide my time and wait until I can afford newer in the first place? I have an older low-mileage motorhome chassis (P20 aka WorkHorse) with a diesel, albeit a full-mechanical GM 6.2 with a 3-speed. I rather think I'd be doing a lot of work that probably sounds a lot easier than it really is to bring that one together though.

What's it like driving or a fleet owner?
 

Dallen323

Seasoned Expediter
Driver
Offline
Yeah, I kinda figured the U-Haul would need some upgrades to be feasible, but at 185k on a gasser, I think my money would be better spent on a diesel. The question is, could I make a go of it with an older one until I can afford newer, or just bide my time and wait until I can afford newer in the first place? I have an older low-mileage motorhome chassis (P20 aka WorkHorse) with a diesel, albeit a full-mechanical GM 6.2 with a 3-speed. I rather think I'd be doing a lot of work that probably sounds a lot easier than it really is to bring that one together though.

What's it like driving or a fleet owner?
 

Dallen323

Seasoned Expediter
Driver
Offline
Driving for a fleet owner isn't a bad way to learn about this business. I work for a fleet owner that pays by the mile w2 takes out taxes etc. Alot of fleet owners want you to work as an independent contractor for a percentage of the line haul . You pay your self employment tax and your own occupational hazard insurance etc.It's just a matter of what you prefer.check out some of the ads in the free classifieds to get a feel for what they offer. I wouldn't jump in and buy a truck until you try the business for a year at least. I will send you a pm with my fleet owners info if you want to talk to them they also offer a lease purchase after you work for them a while I think. Best of luck with whatever you decide to do.
 

ATeam

Senior Member
Retired Expediter
Offline
I am curious whether I would be better off to buy an existing expedited straight truck with sleeper (right tool for the job, as it was referred to, but would involved getting into an obscene amount of debt right off the bat), or if it would be kosher to modify a used rental truck or perhaps build my own.
I agree with those who are advising you to drive a fleet owner's truck for a while before buying/building a truck of your own. Diane and I drove fleet owner trucks for three years before building our truck. That gave us time to truly understand what we wanted in a truck. Had we plunged into a truck build straight away, there is no way we would have ended up with the truck we truly wanted.

While driving a fleet owner's truck, you not only gain first-hand experience about what you like and don't like in a truck, you get to talk to other truckers about what they like/dislike about theirs. Diane and I took dozens of truck tours as we thought through the truck we wanted. Every chance we got, we asked people who had built their trucks, "If you had it to do over again, what would you do the same and what would you do different?"

The answers varied because truckers vary. A guy who was tall and had a bad back might say with feeling he would definitely go with a stand-up cab and a door to the sleeper he can use without ducking to get through. Short drivers with healthy backs have no such concerns. A driver that serves customers who have lots of small freight would argue with feeling for lots of rows of E-Track in the box. A driver who does a lot of industrial loads may argue in favor of a larger box and smaller sleeper.

There are many such trade-offs you must consider to end up with the truck you truly want. But there is no way to know what your particular trade-offs will be until you have been hauling expedited freight for a while. There is no better way to learn what your personal trade-offs of importance are than driving other people's trucks first.
 

tknight

Veteran Expediter
Offline
Also driving for a fleet owner you'll see first hand how much income is really there and will you be able to make that payment on that new truck every month for the next 5-6 years!
 
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