Play the cards you’re dealt

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The relationship between you and your truck dealer has never been more important than now. If you have not yet made up your mind about a new truck before the Oct.1 deadline for new, lower emissions engines, you still have time – just not much of it.

Ronald Whiteford II, president of Whiteford Kenworth in South Bend, Ind., suggests fleet owners sit down with their truck dealer and establish a plan as soon as possible. October looms as both a business reality and an economic uncertainty. There are a lot of unknown variables and much of the discussion about the new engine performance is based on speculation. While nobody knows exact costs increased purchase price estimates range from $3,500 – $5,000 per truck. The EPA estimates the engines will cost $15,000 to own over their lifespan.

These uncertainties have fleet owners worried. In fact, CCJ research shows that nearly 54 percent of readers surveyed are very concerned about the new engines. Their chief concerns are reliability (cited by 38.2 percent), fuel economy (29.7 percent) and purchase price (11.5 percent). These concerns have led many fleets to pre-buy to avoid the new engines. Many have already placed their orders.

But, the decision to pre-buy is not a cookie-cutter one. Whiteford says he meets with his customers and tries to present as much information as possible relevant to their individual trucking needs. “I try to match them with the right model, right specs that will help them continue their successful trucking business.”

Most dealers take a consultative approach to help their customers make smart buying decisions. Whiteford relies on 17 years of experience to help him calm the jangled nerves of fleet owners as they face big purchasing decisions this summer. “I’m optimistic that the trucking industry will absorb these changes smoothly. Looking down the road, this is just another cycle in the long history of trucking. Most big changes have caused concern at the moment but eventually the industry will come back stronger than ever,” he says. He’s confident the manufactures will produce engines that will perform because it is in everyone’s best interest for them to do so.

The end result? Cleaner air, greener image for the industry and technological improvements that will ultimately be in the best interest of the trucking industry. The reality is, October 2002 is a done deal. How you play your cards is a decision you need to make with as much specific information as you can gather.