Readers debate viability of pre-2000 model year approach to avoiding ELD mandate

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Updated Jan 22, 2017
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“What are they going to do when shippers won’t load their trucks because they’re too old and unreliable? David Jesse, commenting on the “Eyes on the Prize” cover story in the December issue.

Join the discussion under the December cover feature story on the ELD mandate and its pre-2000 model year truck exemption via this link.Join the discussion under the December cover feature story on the ELD mandate and its pre-2000 model year truck exemption via this link.

Following the December cover story, in which several operators discussed pros and cons of their plans to hold onto or actively seek 1999 and older model year trucks as a means of avoiding the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s electronic-logging-device mandate rule, a variety of readers responded by questioning the wisdom of such moves, particularly with regard to the reliability of older equipment.

A regular commenter posting at Tdktrans took the sentiment farther, suggesting that to get utilization out of a vehicle with such age for appropriate profitability, an owner-operator might do well “to have two — one to run, and one for a spare. And one for parts if you can store it.”

He told the tale of his 1997 International 9300, which he “paid $7,500 for in 2010. Paint, tires, and a few minor repairs made a pretty solid truck, for short-haul. Then the O-rings on the cylinders failed — $6,000 repair. Then an injector failed — $5,000. Then it started getting a whirring noise in the rears — $6,300, rebuilt both rears. Then it started missing out again. Cam, rockers and the right injectors, $9,800. All the time this truck was in the shop or sitting, my 2000 Freightliner FLD was ticking along like the energizer bunny and paying for all the repairs on the ’97. On these old trucks, it’s an investment, not an expense.”

Along comes the ELD mandate. “I picked up a 2009 Cascadia,” a former Walmart fleet truck, “in the slump of the truck auctions for a song,” he continued. “I paid less for this truck than I paid for my first cabover in 1984. Shined it up, new tires, fixed the minor problems and six months later put it on the road. All I have to do is plug up the ELD and its ready” come December. “All this time I was switching back and forth from the International to the Freightliner to get the use out of my investment.”

Moral of the story? See above, though there are plenty of examples elsewhere of 1990s-model trucks in good working order in successful owner-operator businesses. “I’m a lot closer to the end of my trucking career than the beginning” in 1978, the reader continued. “I’ve seen a lot of changes — hours of service, drug testing, CDL — and made it through. This ELD mandate is just another bump in the road.”

J. Pearson likewise pointed to clean-air regulation in California virtually prohibiting pre-2007-model engines and some similar action at port facilities elsewhere that might increasingly limit the use of older-model trucks, regardless of that era of engines’ reputation for reliability. Though commentators have been suggesting California’s model might move elsewhere, no states have adopted it wholesale to date. Nonetheless, Pearson wrote, “A 1998 is still a 19-year-old truck, and as more and more states have air pollution problems, the area that 1998 can travel will get smaller and smaller until everywhere you travel will be [limited to] post-2007 engines. Then what does one have? Somebody in Mexico might buy it…”

As for Tdktrans, “After looking at the expense of the 1997 rebuilding, I figured I could keep up with the EGR on the 2009. Plus, I wanted to have a nice truck to finish up my days.

“If they overturn the ELD mandate, I’ll still have a nice truck to drive , with two spare trucks. If not, oh well.”

More views from the discussion:
Nogalesreefer: Dont worry, guys, Trump will throw this stupid mandate into the trash can.

Cliff Downing: One can hope. I tend to be cautiously hopeful. I am not as convinced as many others that DT is going to upset the apple cart or drain the swamp. He has already nominated party insiders, cronies and such for some positions. I see a little bit of an effort to get some folks in that will knock a few things down, but no wrecking ball for sure.

His pick for Transportation Secretary is Elaine Chao, who is the wife of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. She wasn’t all that stellar in the Bush Administration as Labor Secretary and somewhat of a moderate and sometimes liberal, and her husband has sided with Obama more times than not. That should give you an idea how well getting a lot of this nonsense repealed or stopped is going to happen.

Responding to Tdktrans’ story about the 1997 International, Ive007: I bought a 1999 Freightliner. Two injectors went bad. That’s all. Three years later, no problems. I think you just had bad luck on that truck.

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