Losing the Whopper truck

Remember the jingle: “Hold the pickles, hold the lettuce, special orders don’t upset us?” Until recently, many truck makers could have used that same slogan.

But increasingly, agreements between truck and engine makers are making it more difficult to “have it your way.”

Such agreements, which limit your choice of what engine will power your rig, are part of a trend called vertical integration. The practice is common in Europe, where manufacturers typically predetermine a truck’s entire makeup.

What’s driving this trend? For the most part, cost. It’s more expensive for truck makers to offer a range of component choices than it is for them to narrow the field to one or two suppliers. Another factor is emissions. As engine makers wrestle with ever-tightening regulations, truck makers are jockeying to ensure they’ll have emissions-ready engines for their rigs. Both of these factors drive up costs to the manufacturer and to truck buyers.

What does all of this mean to you? It depends on how married you are to your favorite truck and engine brands.

The short term answer for many owner-operators may be getting the specs they want by taking advantage of the glut of attractively priced, nicely appointed used trucks.

If you’re determined to buy new, the good news is you still may have choices – at least for a while. Some truck makers – and their dealers -have made it clear that the customer’s needs remain job one. Despite these assurances, however, the time will come when the cost of having things your way will become prohibitive. When that happens, it will be up to you to decide whether you define your vehicular image by the power under your rig’s hood or a particular body style.

As for freedom of choice, well, at least there’s still Burger King.

On another note, welcome to readers of Owner Operator, which has been merged into Overdrive. You’ll find a bigger, broader mix of stories to help you run your business, maintain your equipment and keep up with the industry. Let me know how we can serve you better.

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