Demand for vocational trucks in the construction segment have held up well in certain regions during the early stages of the pandemic.
“Surprisingly, sales and demand for dump trucks have stayed pretty consistent,” says Ken Puetz, vocational used truck sales manager, Truck Country, the largest Freightliner dealer group in the U.S., serving customers in 25 locations in Iowa, Illinois, Ohio, Minnesota and Wisconsin. “Although I can’t be sure, I can assume this is due to the fact that many of the industries that utilize dump trucks were deemed essential, which kept them working as normal throughout the early stages of the pandemic and even now.”
However, the continuing pandemic and its overall impact on the economy are still creating an environment that makes it almost impossible to predict future business conditions with any level of certainty. In this rapidly evolving business climate, you may consider running your trucks longer. There are many variables to consider including maintenance costs, downtime, fuel economy and even driver safety.
Ritchie Bros.Fleet Advantage, a provider of truck fleet business analytics, recently released a benchmark survey that illustrates the impact older trucks have on safety, repair costs and fuel economy. According to the survey, 55% of fleets said escalating maintenance and repair costs and 47.3% of fleets said improved fuel economy were factors for upgrading to newer trucks. Other factors included driver retention and improved corporate image.
“There remains a distinct correlation between aging trucks resulting in higher service and repair costs, as well as reduced fuel economy,” says John Flynn, CEO of Fleet Advantage. “This survey tells us that many fleets see these as critical areas in not only operating their fleets, but also the impact they have on an organization’s bottom line.”
Safety Technologies Minimize Risk
Ritchie Bros.Another consideration is that safety technologies in the latest generation trucks are proving very effective at minimizing risk exposure. According to the benchmark survey, 71% of transportation fleets have implemented blind spot mirrors as advanced safety features, while 66% have implemented front and rear disc brakes. The survey showed that 11% of transportation fleets estimate they have saved more than $1 million in crash avoidance by upgrading to newer trucks with advanced safety features.
In addition to their over-the road counterparts, these advanced safety technologies are being incorporated into the latest generation of vocational trucks. For instance, the recently revamped Volvo VHD includes Volvo Dynamic Steering (VDS) and the next generation of Volvo Active Driver Assist (VADA). The VDS system delivers a safer, more comfortable driver experience by adding torque to reduce steering strain at lows speeds and removing vibrations caused by rough terrain.
“VDS reduces the force in the steering wheel up to 85%,” says Andy Hanson, vocational product marketing manager. “It also reduces steering wheel inputs from rough surfaces. Both of these elements help reduce driver fatigue. VDS is only available on VHD axle back versions.”
VDS also makes adjustments to improve stability at road speeds when encountering crosswinds, highway crowning, soft shoulders or emergency situations like tire failure. The system features a powerful electric motor mounted above the hydraulic steering gear to provide additional torque when necessary. It receives input 2,000 times per second from sensors throughout the truck monitoring yaw rate, steering angle, wheel speed and the driver’s own actions.
The next-generation VADA provides integrated radar/camera capabilities, automatic emergency braking, highway departure warnings and adaptive cruise control. It reduces front and rear end collisions by up to 82%.
VADA combines camera and radar sensors to detect metallic objects and vehicles that are stationary or vehicles braking in front of a truck. If a metallic object of size is detected, audible and visual warnings are made to alert the driver, including red warning light flashes reflected on the windshield. Warnings are displayed up to 3.0 seconds before an imminent impact with the stationary object. If the system recognizes the stationary object as a vehicle and the driver does not take action, VADA will automatically alert the driver and engage the brakes to help the driver mitigate the potential collision.
Western Star’s new 49X also brings a suite of safety features to the vocational market. The 49X is equipped with the Detroit Assurance suite of safety systems, which includes an advanced collision mitigation system. The Detroit Assurance system on the 49X offers Side Guard Assist (SGA), Active Brake Assist 5 (ABA5), tailgate warning, Adaptive Cruise Control (ACC) to 0 mph, lane departure warning, video capture, intelligent high-beam and automatic wipers/headlamps.
With optional SGA, radar technology detects moving objects and pedestrians on the passenger side of the 49X that may otherwise fall in the operator’s blind spot, and alerts them with both auditory and visual warnings for safety on the jobsite or on the way there.
ABA5 detects distance and speed to moving and stationary objects in the driving path of the 49X and determines if warning or automated braking is necessary. The system works down to 5 mph, making it optimal for busy jobsites and in congested urban areas. It also recognizes moving pedestrians who are crossing in the truck’s path, alerting and applying the brakes if the operator does not react.
In addition to the safety advantages, purchasing a new truck allows you to optimize the truck specs to match your application with the most desired components and features. And while you can purchase a warranty for a used truck, the warranty on a new truck is likely to be more comprehensive. Then there are the latest telematics services included with new truck purchases that include remote diagnostics and over-the-air updates for reduced downtime.
The Used Truck Alternative
Even though they probably won’t incorporate the latest safety or operator productivity features, used trucks still offer an attractive option if the deal is right and the truck is right. A work truck can take a lot of abuse before it is resold, so you will need to perform a close inspection to ensure durability and reliability demands are met.
Used vocational construction trucks are currently in high demand. “Honestly, right now the market is really hot,” says Truck Country’s Puetz. “My biggest tip is not to wait. That used dump truck you are interested in likely has five other customers interested in it.”
Ritchie Bros.Be careful about matching a used truck to your actual needs. “I’ve seen many people underestimate the type of truck they actually need,” says Puetz. “Many want a non-CDL truck, but based on what they are hauling, they need a heavier-duty truck with increased GVWR that requires a CDL. Make sure to get the right truck for your job.”
It also helps to work with a knowledgeable used truck source. “In our organization, we make sure to do a full 86-point inspection on all trucks. In addition, if we come across a truck with a badly worn dump, we replace the dump body on those trucks,” says Puetz. “My suggestion is to make sure you are working with a reputable, top quality company.”
Ritchie Bros.Used dump trucks require attention to details. “For end users, which make up the majority of our buyers, the most important thing to research is the specifications of the truck to ensure it can meet their job requirements,” says Doug Olive, senior vice president, pricing and appraisals, Ritchie Bros.
“Ritchie Bros. has been selling dump trucks for more than 60 years,” says Olive. “The biggest mistake buyers make is not doing their research. Make sure you know and understand the specs for your job and buy the truck that best meets your needs. Some key specs to pay attention to are overall weight, front and rear axle ratings, length/height/weight of the bed, style of gate, style of hinge release, style of hoist system, engine/transmission and horsepower. Also, with dump trucks, the engine hours are probably more important than mileage due to all of the idle time.”
Ritchie Bros.During the pandemic, research has proven more challenging. “At Ritchie Bros., we try to make the inspection and research phase for our buyers as easy and efficient as possible,” says Olive. “While we are currently conducting our auction 100% online, we still offer in-person inspection at our auction sites with all necessary COVID safety protocols in place. We also offer IronClad Assurance for items that cannot be inspected in person. In addition, we provide necessary maintenance and ownership records for items. By being open and honest, we build buyer confidence, which delivers results for sellers.”
The more you know about a truck and its history, the better purchasing decision you can make. Research the mileage to make sure it is correct. Do a little research on how the truck was initially built, then give it a complete physical that includes oil analysis on the engine, transmission and differential. Do not forget to include an engine coolant sample.
Today’s electronic control units offer a wealth of data to potential buyers; you have the data there if you ask for it. If you read the printouts on the electronic engines, you can pretty much tell what is going on. You can find out how many times it has had “check engine” codes or any kinds of fault codes indicating something needs to be checked. Make sure any fault codes were addressed.
Ask the seller for any supporting maintenance records or other supporting documentation, as well as any applicable state or DOT inspections. Pay special attention to frames, crossmembers, springs, suspension components, torque rods and front axle kingpins for worn-out bushings. Outside of the obvious crack or suspicious welding marks, make sure you don’t see any suspicious cracks or rust marks on the frame, springs or crossmembers. It could indicate that something is wrong, or is in the process of going wrong.
Finding what you need on the used market may take more effort. For example, dump truck configurations are regional, so availability will depend on local market conditions.
Online Auctions Allow Access to Large Inventory
Online auctions such as Ritchie Bros., eBay and Purple Wave Auctions offer a vast selection of used vocational trucks.
Purple Wave Auctions ranks among the largest no-reserve Internet auction firms in the country. “We sell equipment all across the nation,” says Mike Braun, assistant sales manager.
Ritchie Bros.In the era of social distancing, the company maintains a traditional auction experience through the Internet. In addition, Purple Wave does not require equipment to be moved from the seller’s location, which saves the seller time and money.
“We have not seen the overall demand for [used] dump trucks increase as a result of COVID,” says Braun. “But we are seeing the overall increase in demand for used equipment across the board. In fact, as an auction company, we are seeing more dealerships become interested in used equipment due to the fact that we believe new equipment from the manufacturer has slowed.”
The online auction house is not a newcomer to the market. “We have been selling used dump trucks for more than 10 years,” says Braun. “The most common mistakes that customers make are not doing enough inspection to make sure they are getting what is expected.”
Ritchie Bros.This includes horsepower, weight, transmission, etc. “Know your local regulations and verify that the truck you are looking at meets your needs,” Braun advises. “Look closely at the pictures, contact the seller, do your due diligence. There is a difference between hauling heavy rock, sand, dirt or other material. This can be determined from inspection, discussion with the seller and knowing your equipment.”
Ritchie Bros. is perhaps one of the best-known auction services. “Since mid-March, Ritchie Bros. has been conducting its auctions 100% online and has experienced record-high bidder registrations and strong buyer demand,” says Olive. “For dump trucks specifically, we have seen varying trends, depending upon axle variation.”
Tandem-axle dump trucks are in short supply. “Over the past decade, we have seen a steady decline in the number of tandem-axle dump trucks sold through our auctions,” notes Olive. “In Q2 2020, we saw a record-low number of tandem-axle units, resulting in a record-high median price ($15,500) for the second quarter. Current top-selling makes and models include Kenworth T800, Mack CH613 and Mack CV713.”
Tri-axle dump trucks are the No. 12 most commonly sold item at Ritchie Bros. “Between April and October 2020, Ritchie Bros. sold 360 tri-axle dump trucks,” recalls Olive. “In Q2 of this year (April through June), we saw some very strong pricing, with median pricing hitting $40,000. However, Q3 saw the median price drop to $33,000. Current top-selling makes and models include Kenworth T800, Mack CV713 and Mack GU713.”
In Q2 2020, Ritchie Bros. saw a decline in quad-axle units year over year. “Median prices were also down,” notes Olive. “However, in Q3 2020, we saw volumes return to normal levels and saw median prices jump to $43,000. Current top-selling makes and models include Kenworth T800, Peterbilt 357 and Mack CV713.”