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4 Tips for Rookies Before Buying an Expediter Truck
Becoming an expedite owner-operator empowers you to be your own boss, travel the country, and seize control of your time and financial future. And the big piece of equipment you need to get into the expediter game is a truck -- typically a straight truck that's equipped with a sleeper and van freight body.
But when you consider that the upfront investment can range from just under $100,000 (for a used truck) to over $200,000 for a fully loaded new truck, there's a lot at stake in the truck you eventually purchase.
How do you choose a truck that best fits your business and budget -- and reduce your risk of making a costly rookie mistake? Here are four tips.
Tip #1: Confirm that the expediter lifestyle is right for you.
Why: Expedited trucking can be highly profitable, if you're smart about how you run your business. But there are also challenges, such as the periodic long wait times between loads. For some folks, that's no big deal. But for traditional truckload drivers who are used to steady freight, any extended time between loads might be disconcerting.
Action: Before making an investment in a truck, consider "test driving" the expediter life by driving for a fleet owner first. This experience will also be valuable in building your credibility with banks who might finance your truck in the future. Where can you find fleet owners to drive for? Consult with trucking carriers and network with other drivers to get connected with fleet owners who are looking for drivers. Also, Expediter Services offers a unique program that can help you get real-world experience with expediting before you take the plunge to buy a truck.
Tip #2. Choose a carrier.
Why: Your carrier will have unique requirements for the truck you purchase, such as whether or not you need a refrigerated body, liftgate, and so forth. It's a lot easier (and less expensive) to make the adjustments at the time of truck purchase than after the fact.
Action: Before purchasing a truck, consult with your carrier to confirm what you need to include in your truck specification to ensure it complies with their requirements.
- Expedite NOW Magazine
- ExpeditersOnline.com: The Owner-Operators Guide to Selecting a Carrier
Tip #3. Consult with specialists in expediter trucks.
Why: When it comes to purchasing expedite straight trucks, ignorance is NOT bliss. So, deal with folks with expertise in the unique requirements of the expedite market. Take engine selection, for example. A common mistake that non-expedite dealers make is to recommend a medium-duty class 7 engine to reduce the truck price, when you actually need a class 8 powerplant to handle the high annual miles your job will require. The issue is that the smaller engines are designed for 400,000 to 450,000 miles, whereas heavy-duty engines can go as far as one million miles before needing major overhaul. So, although the class 7 engine offers a lower upfront price, you will lose a lot of money over the life of the truck in terms of premature engine breakdown and poor resale value.
Action: Shop only with dealers with deep expertise and experience in spec'ing and selling expediter trucks. They are familiar with your carrier's truck requirements and also have longstanding relationships with the third-party vendors (for the sleeper, freight box, liftgates, auxiliary power units, etc.) to ensure you receive the quickest response possible when any issues arise with those components.
Here are truck dealers known for specialized expertise in the expedite market:
- Stoops Specialty Trucks
- Middle Georgia Freightliner-Isuzu
- Fyda Freightliner
- Freightliner of Knoxville
- Ellenbaum Truck Sales
- Expediter Truck Sales
- Neely Coble Company
- Sprinter of Fort Mitchell
- Buckeye Western Star
Tip #4: Explore the used truck market.
Why: At about half the cost of a comparable new truck, a good reliable used truck might help a rookie expediter get into the business sooner. But, in a tight resale market, the challenge is finding an available truck that will fit your need and budget.
Action: Despite the limited supply of used expediter trucks, consult the resources below to find out what trucks are available now or expected to be available in the coming weeks. But before you invest in a used truck, make sure it's equipped with an appropriate heavy-duty powertrain, complies with your carrier's requirements, and has been well maintained to minimize unpleasant surprises.
- See truck dealers listed under "Resources" in Tip #3.
- ExpeditersOnline.com: Selecting a Used Expedite Truck
- ExpeditersOnline.com: Classifieds - Trucks For Sale
The Bottom Line
As a rookie, it's easy to get caught up in the excitement of getting your own truck. But with the steep upfront investment, there's also a lot of risk involved. Protect your future (and your finances) by using these four tips to guide you through the important truck purchase considerations.