To Repair or to Replace: When Commercial Vehicles Break Down
A truck in your fleet has started billowing more black smoke than usual, or the lifting arm on your excavator just doesn’t lift like it used to. The time has come to make a decision: Do you spend time and resources attempting to fix your existing equipment, or do you scrap the damaged goods and spend the cash for something shiny and new?
Your business depends on your vehicles, so having a reliably functioning fleet is absolutely imperative. Repairing and replacing are both expensive and exhausting activities, but each has its own advantages in certain situations. Knowing what action to take when will help you save time and money, keeping your business booming. Hopefully, this guide will help you determine whether it is worthwhile to repair or to replace your broken-down vehicle.
Typical Maintenance and Repair Expenses
Just like personal vehicles, commercial trucks need regular checkups to remain operational. A truck contains millions of moving parts that are integral to the function of the machine, and by following a strict maintenance schedule, you can reduce the likelihood of a catastrophic failure that prevents you from transporting goods and making money.
Tire maintenance is one of the most grueling expenses, in terms of both time and money. Tires easily see the most wear, and as a result, most truckers find that 3 percent of their vehicle’s expenses are devoted to maintaining the rubber on the road. On average, a single commercial tire costs about $250 ? which means the cost of new tires for all 18 wheels totals more than $4,500. Regular tire retreading can cut that number in half, but it is still a significant annual expense.
Some estimates suggest that repair and maintenance costs for a single truck can exceed $15,000 per year. This is because commercial vehicles require special skills and parts that not every mechanic has. As a result, labor fees for commercial trucks are high; shop time with such specialized mechanics usually costs well over $100 per hour, making routine maintenance tasks, like changing filters, a thousand-dollar ordeal.
With any luck ? and with religious adherence to your maintenance schedule ? your truck won’t have any serious repairs for a few years. However, any machine that sees as much use as a big rig will definitely need some patching up eventually.
Ways to Cut Costs
There are a number of products available that help trucks remain in good condition longer. For example, diesel exhaust fluid Peak BlueDEF helps convert engine waste into harmless nitrogen and water, reducing gunk build-up as well as harmful emissions. During especially cold months, weatherizing trucks with appropriate equipment, like snow tires or chains, and chemical fluids will prevent unnecessarily dangerous conditions during the winter. Even hot months require extra care, as the bright sun can desiccate the outside and inside of big rigs, demanding expensive repairs. In the summertime, you should be prepared with custom window shades.
Perhaps most importantly, the way you drive can influence how much you spend on maintenance and repairs. Here are some unknown ways to treat your truck better and increase its lifespan:
- Allow the engine to warm up without revving for about 10 minutes.
- Avoid idling, which reduces a trip’s miles per gallon by one-third and wears engines twice as fast as normal use.
- Drive at the most fuel-efficient speed for your vehicle, which is usually around 65 miles per hour, and in wet conditions, reduce your speed by one-third.
Many truck owners decide it is time to replace their rigs when the cost of a single repair exceeds the value of their vehicle, but in truth, this is not the optimal way to replace a commercial truck. An old, completely worn-out truck has depreciated to the point of worthlessness, and you will earn nothing from reselling it or trading it in.
The best course of action is to perform an economic lifecycle analysis to determine when you will have attained the optimum value from your purchase. The calculations for this analysis are quite complex, and require data such as vehicle purchase cost, past maintenance and repair expenses, fuel expenses, downtime costs, depreciation expenses, and salvage values. Fortunately, there are a few online tools to help you understand the best time to replace.
By being smart and safe with maintenance and repairs, you can extend your commercial vehicle’s life ? but not indefinitely. Eventually, every truck needs to be replaced, but replacing too soon or too late will cost you. Before your big rig starts smoking again, you should consult your costs to determine whether now is the time to replace ? or whether you can get away with another few repairs.
© 2016, Allen Smith. All rights reserved.