If you've decided to get your CDL and become an owner-operator, one of the first things you're going to want to consider is what kind of truck you're going to invest in. When you're just getting started, it's often easiest to invest in a used truck, because it is the most cost-effective. Here are some tips to help you maximize your investment and get a truck that's fuel-efficient and in good condition.
Truck Body Considerations
- Aerodynamics – The truck's aerodynamics are going to be an important part of your purchase decision. The aerodynamics of the truck can directly affect the fuel consumption, so evaluate the body carefully before you choose a truck model. Look for one that features smoother lines along the top of the cab and around the mirrors. The sleeker the body style, the better the air will travel over the cab and the less resistance you'll experience.
- Aero Fairing – Invest in a truck that has chassis-side fairings and extenders to help you save on fuel consumption. If you can find a truck that already has them installed, you'll get more for your investment. If you can't find a used truck already equipped with them, consider working with the used truck dealer to have them installed before you take delivery.
Engine and Drive Train Features
- Miles Per Gallon – Like your passenger car, every tractor trailer has a mile-per-gallon rating that defines what kind of fuel mileage you can expect from the truck. When emissions regulations for commercial trucks shifted, it led to a focus on greenhouse gas emissions. This change created a focus on fuel efficiency, so investing in a newer model, even if it's used, will give you better fuel mileage than with a truck that's ten or fifteen years old.
- Automatic Transmission – An automatic transmission will help you to get better fuel economy, because the transmission will shift at optimal times for both power and fuel consumption. You won't have to worry about delayed shifts pushing the engine too hard or burning too much fuel, because the shifting will all be done for you. You can even have the automatic transmission tested and programmed for the most optimal shifting based on engine RPMs.
- Engine Size – When you're considering horsepower, torque and engine displacement, it's important that you're objective about your needs. You'll want a truck that's got enough engine for the loads you'll haul, but you don't want to invest in too much, because that will lead to unnecessary engine power and excess fuel consumption. Consider the types of things you'll be hauling and how much weight your truck will have to pull on a regular basis, then choose an engine that's rated for sufficient weight without going too far over that weight range.
Consider Your Driving Style
Once you've addressed all of these features, you'll want to think about how each one will apply to your specific situation. For example, if you will spend most of your driving time on the interstate, you won't have as much need for detailed gear options and frequent shifting. If you'll be doing more driving on two-lane and rural roads, you'll want to have a transmission with a more versatile gear structure and engine.
As you can see, there are a lot of features to consider when you're looking for your first commercial truck. Luckily, with the information presented here and the successful completion of a CDL class, you'll be in a good position to secure the right truck for your new owner-operator venture. The more time and effort you put into the shopping stage, the more likely it will be that you'll find a truck that's a good fit for your needs.
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