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George & Wendy Show

Wendy Parker

What owner-ops have nightmares about

I got one of those phone calls this week – you know, the one where the trucker calls his wife and says, “Well, there’s antifreeze coming out of the blow-by. We may need a new in-frame.”

This is where the wife wanders off into the woods and is never heard from again, because she has no idea where the $15,000 for a new in-frame will come from and she hopes if she eats enough of the pretty mushrooms, the animals will tell her what to do.

 "Nightmare on Elm Street"  for an owner-operator.

“Nightmare on Elm Street” for an owner-operator.

(This may or may not have happened. I can’t be responsible for my actions until this story is done being told.)

Anyway, that happened and it’s the kind of thing you can take all the Dale Carnegie classes in the world about, but let’s face it, being an owner operator is a small business and a small business that has a catastrophic expense in the first months of start up generally has a hard time financially. It’s the kind of thing small business owners have nightmares about and it’s not the kind of thing an excitable wife and business partner wants to hear. I may have been less than supportive when I suggested we pray for an electrical fire.

Long story short, Randy (the previous owner of the truck, who has been nothing but cool and helped every time we’ve had issues) told George about a hose on something that was up above the blow by and to check it, because it may be leaking down into it and not actually from it. As it turns out, this may very well be the case, because he found a leak. The pressures are great, the truck is running fine, the oil isn’t milky, and we may just have gotten super-lucky. He’s having an oil analysis today, and if it’s good, he’s patching the leak and bringing her home so he can do a turnaround back to Laredo and bank some money in the maintenance account.

The in-frame looms. We knew it when we bought the truck, but it’s been so impeccably taken care of, it was a risk we were willing to take. It’s awesome to have the person who has done a great majority of the maintenance on it for the past five years available to troubleshoot. We really appreciate everyone who has offered help and advice, there is truly a wealth of information out there.

Now if you’ll excuse me, the squirrels say it’s time for me to go home.

  • localnet

    Boy Wendy, you nailed my wife to a “T”… My “new” used truck has been down for the past couple of weeks, nothing major, thank God, but still down, and not cheap, plus lost revenue… My wife had that wandering off into the woods look too when I told her… She went to her sisters, she is now sitting on a beach in Florida sipping on adult beverages… I’m sitting at Loves in OH… ;)

    Fingers crossed, truck is running good… Knock on wood!

  • Redwagoneer

    As an owner/operator, I never spend everything I make. I keep a surplus of expenses in my bank for everything I know I have to budget for, including a hefty amount for truck repairs. So here’s what I worry about. I purchased a 2011 386 Pete with Cummins power. CA was telling me that I would have to junk my 1994 Pete 389 at the end of 2014. Huge mistake. The emission systems on these new trucks are terrible, to put it lightly. On the average, since I purchased it March 2013, the check engine light comes on once a month. Last time I had it in the shop (cummins), they had it for 3 days, charged me $1400 and couldn’t figure it out. Told me to take it straight to Peterbilt. Pete called me 4 days later to pick it up, $500 later. They told me Cummins screwed up, a workmanship error. Long story short, I have a claim against Cummins. They don’t want to pony up. Problem was I couldn’t rent a truck the week I was down. Lost wages, lost freight, and pissed off my customers. So the thing I worry about most is, when’s that damn check engine light gonna come on again. Thanks California, thanks CARB and thanks Cummins.

  • rc1234

    I keep saying, abolish the EPA….the only way is to get out and vote for politicians that share this view..most don’t have the jewels to do it, so we must hold their feet to the fire….

  • Steve P

    Between The EPA and CARD you don’t have a snowballs chance in you know where. Bottom line get 20 grand in the bank ASAP to fall back on as you will need it.

  • Steve P

    Meant CARB not CARD Sorry

  • jon

    I bought my truck in July 2012. Sight unseen from a dealer 1600 miles away. July 25 I got on an plane to go pick that truck up. Aug 8 I got the welcome news I needed kingpins and steer tires. $2700 by the time I got all done with those and a bunch of other little work. I wasn’t in business 2 weeks nor had I received my first settlement check from the carrier I was leased to yet.

    12 months later I had my own authority and 24 months later, I’m still rolling dispite such things as a blown power divider, cracked frame and a bad exhaust manifold. All said, close to $28,000 in maintenance that first 12 months.

    It’s manageable. You just have to keep your wits about yourself.

  • localnet

    We share the same luck… I’m running out of parts and pieces to repair/replace, about $30,000 here too. Have had her for 8 months… It would be nice if I could actually save some of the money I earn.

  • jon

    It’s only getting better. My truck should be paid off within 9-12 months and that’s gonna be just in time to put a new engine in after I can save my truck payments up.

  • Donald Lloyd Derrick

    Isn’t CA the only state participating in CARB?

  • Donald Lloyd Derrick

    I’m no wacko…but I don’t wanna live in an atmosphere llke the Chinese do…

  • William McKelvie

    Rely on the resources that reach out to you in attempts to lend helping hands who have themselves been through this process and have friends who have also been through this process, or just keep having the nightmares. Your choice. As far as I go, I have a base of five close, and five fairly close, then the list extends from there. We ALL help each other because we CAN, not ever to gain a sale nor popularity nor to sell any sponsors product. We all do this, why? Because it is the right thing to do. That is the only viable reason.

  • localnet

    I “Hope” I’m over the hump… Still need to do the clutch, and brakes/bearings on the steers… Thank God the truck is paid for, but it sure has drained our money…

    Baby that truck of yours and get her paid off. Hopefully the motor will go further than you think.

  • localnet

    The States all have EPA Departments, and are local. Let them run the show, as they are more than likely NOT going to steal your property because a mouse once lived in the area.

  • localnet

    Oh, if you have not replaced your crankshaft damper, do it. See my post here on that subject…

  • Roger Xavier Jackson

    Dumb ass is going to starve to death, if you got 50 people smoking in 1 room what difference it will make for 2 to stop.Room is still filled with smoke

  • Roger Xavier Jackson

    EPA is a new tax and you can’t stop climate change are countries like china polluting the air.the will make all the money and finish buying our country and then when we are so poor we will work for them in the polluted air

  • Jimmy

    I have the same year model of truck that you do, except I am the original owner. Most of the people who have issues with this truck drive too fast, rev the engine too much, don’t keep up the maintenance. Mine has 650,000 miles and still has the original turbo, egr valve, clutch, and just about everything else under the hood is original. I’ve done upgrades so that’s why EVERYTHING isn’t original.

    Everytime I hear a driver complaining about breakdowns and being in the shop all the time, I ask how fast they drive and they usually say, “The speed limit”. Oops! That’s their first mistake. I keep my RPMs at 1200 to 1250 and rarely get over 60 MPH. The torque range is 1600 so in the hills I keep the engine in that range. NEVER idle this truck! I repeat! Never idle. Fire up the APU and keep it in good condition. The turbos and egrs on these engines don’t handle idling very well. I know another driver who also has this same truck and maintained 65 MPH or so. He got well over 1 million on it with no major issues. You’ve got to keep up on your maintenance and as soon as something fails, fix it immediately. Once it has over 600,000 miles on it, going through a gallon of oil every 20,000 miles isn’t too bad. I never change oil. Use the OPS EcoPur system and just add oil as needed. And I’ve got a lot of other upgrades. Running in the summer and light, I can get all around 8MPG all day long.

  • bigred

    Well Jimmy, that is great,,,,Now , how much money have you got saved as any day your SLOW truck is gonna blow….You can bank on that and Good Luck…

  • David Jesse

    I would get ahold if Pittsburgh power nearby in saxonburg , which is by Pittsburgh . If you want a honest rebuild and make precious a lean mean fuel efficient machine !

  • William McKelvie

    PP is overpriced.

  • Jimmy the Greek

    Hell 20 grand well buy you a good truck lol . I payed $25,000.00 for mine 11 years ago and i am still running it today . it,s a 1998 century

  • Thomas Smith

    Pull the light bulb out.No worries.

  • Poor truckin man

    Yes it is. I have an 2007 Cat C15 I still run in and out of CA. There are more trucks running in the state of CA that are not carb legal. So why should out of state trucks not be able to run. It’s a political b.s!!!! It caused CAT to stop making motors for class 8 trucks. Hope the other major engines refuse to make class 8 motors someone will figure this def and egr was politically movement putting money in the governments pockets.

  • Poor truckin man

    See this is why the USA in going to become a third world country. The EPA was created by the government an it’s run by the government. We need a smaller government an let it be run by the business. EPA should be run by a group of business men not our government which is funded by us the people and our taxes. Wake up America!!!!

  • Craig Vecellio

    DEF is crap. It freezes in cold enough weather, which has caused me to not be able to fill it at the pump, and it crystallizes, messing up the more delicate components of the system. I couldn’t agree with you more!

  • Craig Vecellio

    Globally, it does make a difference. Granted, the weather carries some of it around, but not all of it. Beijing is so smogged it’s considered a hardship post. We don’t need to go to the extent that CA is going, though.

  • Deez Nuts

    I bought an older truck last week and drove it 1400 miles to the house, couple of days later I find out it needs a head gasket. Granted I paid cash and got a really great deal, it still sucks to spend money on a truck that hasn’t run a single load. But I budgeted repair money in the deal for just this scenario so I’m not upset. Well maybe a little.

  • David Macom

    Beijing sits on the edge of the Gobi dessert, In what looks like a valley much like LA. Think dust storms have any thing to do with the air quality?

  • Mike

    Obviously someone with absolutely no experience with these new pieces of ****. You can’t run a truck that has a DPF with the check engine light on. In 1000 miles with it on (if you make it that far) you will have done $7000 worth of damage. This stuff isn’t worth it’s weight, I as well have a 2011 Pete and it’s absolutely terrible. I’m actually thinking to sue peterbilt over it. Every 6 months I add up my shop costs. Since day one I’ve averaged $24,000 in exhaust repair expenses.

  • Thomas Smith

    The last truck I owned was a 2005 KW W900 with a CAT ACERT. After 2 years I had made less than $0. I walked away and working for a fleet owner for 8 years now. I now drive a 2012 Cascadia which sometimes runs good and sometimes doesn’t.

  • Paul

    Get a 2006-7 truck under 600k with Detroit and Eaton Fuller, bypass EGR, good to go

  • Roger Xavier Jackson

    Starving the American workers and not the real polluting corporate companies that taint water and air is to me the turn of blind eye

  • Craig Vecellio

    Right…because the Gobi desert just popped up recently.

  • Craig Vecellio

    I agree…and the Cali regs, excessive as they are, put the responsibility on the corporate owner of the truck, not the company driver. Unfortunately, that hurts small businesses the worst, but those are still corporate companies. I’m not blind at all. strives to maintain an open forum for reader opinions. Click here to read our comment policy.