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Engine blown

Your Engine has Blown: What Now?

By Sean M. Lyden - Staff Writer
Posted Jun 20th 2016 9:00AM

It's an owner-operator's nightmare. You're an expediter, whose objective is to get time-sensitive freight to the customer as quickly and safely possible. But the one tool you need up and running so you can make a living for your family is broken down on the side of the road. And it gets worse. Your engine has blown. So, what should you do?

EO spoke with John Lalonde, expediter sales representative for Fyda Freightliner in Columbus, Ohio, to get his advice.

EO: What is the typical expected engine life for an expediter straight truck?

Lalonde: The most popular engine in a new expediter truck today is a Detroit DD13, which has a B50 life expectancy of 1 million miles.

("B50" means that 50 percent of those engines are expected to be operational without major overhaul at the rated number of miles, with the other half of those engines experiencing failure prior to that threshold.)

With that being said, half of those engines will likely blow up at 700,000 miles or so. What causes that to happen? I'd like to say poor maintenance, but who knows. I've seen some engines blow up with 10,000 miles on it. Was it a fluke? The bottom line is that, overall, these engines that we're running today in the new trucks are long-lasting, long-life engines. But on the flip side of that coin, that cost to overhaul or replace these engines is astronomical now, compared to just 20 years ago.

EO: What kind of money are you talking about for overhaul?

Lalonde: Back in 1997, you could overhaul a Detroit engine in a truck for about $8,000 to $10,000. Today, you're looking at $30,000 to $32,000 real easy. This is not only because of inflation, but also because of all the [exhaust] after-treatment technologies put on those engines.

EO: So, what are the best options for expediters after their engine has blown?

Lalonde: Say it's a fluke, and the engine blew up at 10,000 miles. Well, that's going to be under the standard warranty.

(The standard factory warranty for a DD13 engine covers up to two years, unlimited miles. Lalonde recommends that, if you're purchasing a truck, you should add a 4 to 5-year, 500,000 mile warranty to the truck to protect yourself financially from catastrophic engine failure down the road.)

If the engine blows when the truck is outside any warranty -- say it's got 550,000 or 600,000 miles on it -- now you're faced with the question: Do I spend $30,000 on that truck by replacing the engine?

If I'm talking to a customer right now, and he's asking me this question, I'm saying no. That's because ultimately, when you put $30,000 into a truck that's got 550,000 miles on it -- and let's say it's 6 years old -- the only way you're going to recoup that value out of that money is to continue to run it until it doesn't run anymore, another three, four, five years, or whatever it may be.

But what's going to happen during that time is now your transmission is going to go. Now your rear axle is going to go. Now your cab mounts are going to go. Now your engine mounts. Now your radiator is going to go. It's just going to be a vicious cycle of continuing to throw money at your truck.

But ultimately, it comes down to dollars and cents -- what somebody can and can't do financially. Or their credit, if they can get financed on a new truck. That obviously has a lot to do with decisions people make when they're in this situation.

EO: Any parting advice?

Lalonde: If your truck is under warranty, then it's a no brainer. You'll get it fixed. But if you've got to come out of pocket $30,000 dollars to repair it, I'd exhaust every effort to get rid of that vehicle and get a new one.

I'd hate to see them sink that money into [a replacement engine] because in six months to a year, they'll regret doing it, especially if they had to borrow the money to do it. Now they're making payments on a repair that puts themselves into a deeper hole.

Lalonde will be presenting a workshop on "What You Need to Know Before Buying a Truck," at Expedite Expo 2016 in Lexington, Ky., on Saturday, July 16, at 2pm. Take advantage of over 20 workshops designed to help you succeed in the expedite business by registering for free HERE.

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