Buying Safe

On October 29, the Eastern Seaboard of the United States was slammed by Hurricane Sandy. The storm made landfall in New Jersey and produced tropical storm level winds even 580 miles from its center; New York Harbor saw a record-breaking 32.5 foot wave while flood levels in Battery Park topped 13.88 feet. Effects to the trucking industry from this storm were far reaching, from impassable roads to fuel shortages; but one of the greatest effects is the damage to equipment.

The storm surges and flooding experienced along the Eastern Seaboard not only submerged trucks under feet of water, it also sometimes swept trucks away. As the region continues to clean up from the effects of the storm, fleets are looking for ways to minimize the financial impact their company experiences. Trucking fleets make their money by moving goods, and to move goods you need trucks and trailers to haul it. According to Transport Topics, approximately 80 percent of trucks damaged in the storm are being automatically totaled by insurance carriers. This creates a new issue for trucking fleets that will last long beyond the visible effects of Sandy - damaged trucks in the used truck market.

After Hurricane Katrina flooded the south in 2005, alerts went out across the nation warning consumers of what could be an influx of damaged and questionable vehicles and goods salvaged from the cleanup. Many reminded potential buyers of services like CARFAX, a popular vehicle history search database that could alert buyers if that vehicle had been in an accident, flood or fire. Vehicles that have been submerged in water can create long term safety and maintenance issues, even if everything looks fine on the surface. Electrical components can corrode and short circuit, mechanical parts can rust and seize or break, water trapped in engines, transmissions and axles can taint fluids even after being changed. While insurers are totaling vehicles for salvage, many fleets are buying these trucks back and making repairs and placing them back on the road. Eventually these trucks may make their way into the used market. There is no national VIN search database similar to CARFAX for the heavy-duty truck market. But when considering your next used truck purchase, consider a few of the simple tips below.

  • Get it inspected: Perhaps the most important tip when buying any used equipment is to have a third-party, or one of your own, mechanics give the truck a full checkup before purchase. If the dealer or seller has an issue with you getting your own inspection done, that should raise a red flag and make you question the situation. Mechanics not employed by the seller are recommended to remove the chance of a conflict of interest.
  • Ask for repair receipts: If buying directly from a fleet or private seller, ask if they have the repair receipts for any previously done work. While not always available, many fleets and drivers maintain repair records for their equipment and repair receipts can often disclose if a truck was in a serious crash or flood.
  • Buy from reputable dealers: Reputable dealers have reason to sell you quality equipment; they make their money off word-of-mouth and loyal customers. Private sellers, while not inherently bad, do not often have to worry about their next truck sale and make it even more important to have privately sold rigs looked over by a trained mechanic. Similarly, not all dealers follow the same moral standards; a quick check on the Better Business Bureau can alert you if a dealer has had complaints reported from other customers or is a Better Business Bureau member.
  • If it's too good to be true, it probably is: You've been told this all your life, and it's right. Used trucks were not the only rigs impacted by the storm, new dealership lots also have been affected and equipment sent to the junkyard has been known to show up back in the supply market. That 2012 Freightliner with just a few thousand miles being sold at an extreme discount likely has a reason for the rock-bottom price. Review blue book values and check prices on similar rigs to get an idea if that deal is too good to be true.
  • Verify the title before purchase: Many states require salvage titles to be issued when a truck has been salvaged by insurers and later repaired. A careful check of the title can protect you from a very expensive mistake. Never rely only on a title check though, as crooks have been known to re-title vehicles in other states to lose the "salvage" designation.

A bad truck can nickel-and-dime fleets and owner-operators. Following a few simple steps with each used vehicle purchase can protect you from a costly mistake, no matter where you purchase it.

This entry was posted on December 10th, 2012 by jhubbard and is filed under Recent News & Updates.