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Evaluating used heavy trucks: Part 4

Is it worth the money to make the jump to a brand new truck?

In the first three parts of this series we looked at what’s available in the used truck market, and we used three specific trucks to demonstrate what your buying power gets you in the low, mid, and higher price ranges. The low-end truck had a price tag of just under $20,000, while the upper-end model came in at around $65,000.

We choose all three trucks from the same brand, and they were basically all the same models, with only minor differences. That allowed us to really highlight the price differences when it came to condition, mileage and age. Of course, it is quite possible to find more expensive used trucks, often depending on the model. The classic designs that have been around for decades, like the Kenworth W900 or Peterbilt 379 (often referred to in the trade as the “cowboy” trucks) usually command a price premium. The “cool” factor gets figured into the price tag!

Overall, we’ve shown it’s possible to bring home a pretty good highway tractor for less than the cost of a new pickup. The most expensive pickup truck we’ve ever road tested here at Grainews had a taxes-in sticker price of about $106,000. So if anyone is willing to put out that much for a pickup, does it make sense to add another $80,000 or $90,000 to that total and buy a completely new truck tractor to haul grain with?

For many, probably most, the answer is a clear no, because there are some pretty reasonably priced trucks out there that will easily meet typical on-farm needs for much less. But for some, it may be an option well worth considering. These are some of the questions farmers need to consider. How long is the haul for a typical load of grain from the farm to the delivery point? How many hauls are made each year? Would having a truck reliable enough to easily make frequent longer hauls offer more grain marketing options that could make the trip worthwhile

If the answers add up to considering a brand new truck, we took a look at one more Freightliner in our used truck series, and it was a brand new Cascadia with a sticker price around $190,000. Even at that, it would be far from the most expensive machine in a fleet on a farm that operates mostly new equipment. And buying new means a producer can get exactly the options that are of the most value rather than searching the used truck market for one that comes close.

Choose what you want

“If you want to keep (a truck) going reliably, this is the way to do it,” says Roger Pockett, sales account manager at Freightliner Manitoba. You can make it as low end or as high end as you want it to be, or you can take one off the shelf.

“The great thing about Freightliner is we build it piece by piece. It’s not like car dealers, who will just give you three option (packages). I could put as many gauges as I want in the panel. I can have more or less switches. You can do two different interior colours. You can have leather steering wheels or a regular one, heated and cooled seats. Usually the grain guys put rubber floor mats throughout the whole thing, because they don’t want carpets. And if we’re ordering stock (trucks) we have the grain buyer in mind, and we put those grain features in.”

Most producers are likely familiar with handling a manual transmission, but ordering an auto-shift version might be an option to consider. It makes driving an easier job and improves fuel efficiency.

“The price difference used to be much larger, around $6,000 or $7,000. Now it’s dropped about $2,000 or $3,000, that’s due to exchange rates,” Pockett says. “Before when you had a manual transmission, a driver could destroy that rear end. (The auto shift) actually takes a little bit away from destroying it, because in automatic mode you won’t be shifting at the wrong time. It does a lot of the thinking for you.

“The shifter is the same (as older auto-shift versions) it just has a different look. The thing about the DT12 is it’s a smoother transmission. It has more glide instead of jerking the truck, which is something people don’t want to experience. You can also go to economy mode, or performance mode. Performance mode will give you bigger shifts; economy will give you shorter shifts. If you’re worried about the automatic, you can put it into manual model. In manual you can hold a gear or you can shift it up or down.

“Hill assist is a great feature, because you don’t want to be rolling back and hitting something behind you. You just go from the brake to the accelerator. If you do actually want to go backward, you can just turn it off.

“They have creep modes, when you’re starting off just tap the accelerator and it will just creep along, for example if you’re in heavy traffic it will keep you going.”

When spec’ing out a brand new truck, a buyer can give the other powertrain components some thought too, getting exactly the package needed to make sure the truck handles the job.

“If a guy is hauling a tri or tandem axle trailer, he’ll usually go with a 40,000 pound axle. If he’s hauling Super Bs, the general preference is for 46,000 and also with four-way lockers. So if you’re in the field, you can make sure you have all four wheels driving you out.

“To pull a Super B, you need to make sure you have at least 500 horsepower, a lot of people use one with 1,650 (pound-feet of) torque, but a lot of people want to go with 1,850 torque to help do the job. And it will always be 500-plus horsepower or you can go up to 600.”

If opting for a new auto-shift transmission, there is a heavier version to match those engine and other drivetrain component specs.

“It has two clutches,” says Pockett. “So it can take the Super B weight. Whereas one clutch will be for a tri-axle or tandem axle (single) trailer.

When ordering a sleeper cab, choosing the low or mid-rise bunk is a better choice than the full height version, which is designed to also act as an air deflector for higher van trailers.

The Cascadia comes with a choice of two interior colours and the sleeper berth can be configured the way a customer wants.
photo: Supplied

“The next thing to look for is clearances,” he adds. “And make sure you have clearance at the top, so if you’re at the elevator you aren’t hitting something.”

Opting for a vertical rather than under-body exhaust to avoid potential fires in fields may be another good choice.

And after spending some time behind the wheel and on the road with this new truck, I have to say I hated to take it back!

About the author

Machinery Editor

Scott Garvey is the machinery editor for Grainews.

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