A Product Everyone benefits from
30 Aug 2008
When I decided to get my tractor trailer license in the summer of 2000, I had no idea about how much this was going to change my life. I had dreamed about becoming a long distance truck driver since I was a little boy, but nobody had ever encouraged it and so I believed it could not possibly ever become my career.
After obtaining the license I was surprised how easy it was to get a job. I was in the midst of a lucrative, but not very enjoyable career as a fork lift mechanic. Leaving this behind, while having a family to provide for was scary, but the temptation was strong and very soon after passing my driving test, I was navigating an 18 wheeler all across the United States and Canada.
It took me about a year to decide that I wanted to try my luck as an owner operator. Various calculations seemed to indicate, that this was a way to better pay and a truck that I could truly call my own.
After several weeks of combing through various truck dealerships looking for a good used truck within my budget, I came across a true beauty. A 1995 model Peterbilt 379. The truck had a damaged bumper and several other minor problems, but was in very good shape overall. The actual mileage on the truck was extremely low for a six year old model, but confirmed by the dealership.
Later I found out that this truck had been out of service for two years while it was seized by US Customs.
After going through an unbelievable pile of paperwork I was finally incorporated and the rightful owner of the truck of my dreams. Even the bumper was replaced before I took delivery.
Almost immediately I started to work the truck pretty hard, averaging about 10,000 miles each month. There were only very minor problems during the initial month of operation and the dealership took care of everything without charge. After this period however, I was on my own regarding repairs. The truck was simply too old to be covered by any warranty. At the time this was a big concern, because I now owed a good chunk of money on this piece of equipment. For a while, every rattle made me very nervous.
Months went by without any major problems. The truck was so comfortable to drive, I was able to go 10 hours straight if needed. Compared to my company truck, this one was riding like a Cadillac on the highway.
The first major problem occurred about a year and a half into the venture. I was hauling a load of beer from Wisconsin to Edmonton, Alberta, when I noticed my radiator overflowing. At first this made no sense to me, but a closer examination revealed that I had diesel fuel in my radiator. A sign of major trouble!
I checked into the Peterbilt dealership in Edmonton and was told that my injector cup seals needed replacing and that this was common after some wear and tear had taken it's toll. The repair was going to take about two days, so I rented a hotel room. Later that night the phone rang. It was the dealership calling about more bad news. My engine needed a new camshaft. Now the repair was going to cost over $ 5000 for parts, plus labor. This came as quite a shock and at the worst possible time. Thanks to a business credit card I was able to pay for the repairs, totaling over $ 7000. The better part of the next three months went by, working like crazy to catch up with the finances, but business was good and I had learned my lesson. From this time on, I always had a healthy balance in my account , just in case.
Since then I only had two other breakdowns that left me stranded for several days. Both times it was transmission related. Two years ago, after passing the million mile mark, the engine received a complete "in frame" overhaul, the most expensive work done on the truck to date. I was able to pay for the repair without borrowing a penny.
Today my truck has about a million and a half miles on the odometer and it is still going strong. I have made the decision to keep this truck as long as possible. So far it is worth it. The truck has been paid off for over fife years now and just keeps going. Times are tough in the transportation industry right now. Many owner operators are getting into financial trouble with trucks that are only a few years old and not yet paid for. I have no idea how long I can keep my good old "Pete" going, but I know I'll be back out on the road next week, the week after and probably many more to come. If you see me out on the road (hopefully well behaved), wave the JPG magazine, or something at me. It would be fun to bump into some fellow photography freaks for a change, as life on the road get's pretty lonely at times.