The hunt continues

2010 February 9
by Hedon

I guess the hunt wasn’t over after all cause now we have a real viable option in a whole different arena. I can’t even believe I’m saying this but we are now looking at 2000 Classic. I don’t have a picture of the exact truck we’re looking at but it’s similar to:

ok... did you ever think you'd see the day?

ok... did you ever think you'd see the day?

I know, huh!!  I never could have imagined we might be buying a Classic. In eight years on the road I’ve never driven a hood and honestly never much liked the look of them. They remind me of the Borg ship from Star Trek going down the road like a giant anti-aerodynamic block. Giant swooping blocks are just fine in outer-space where there isn’t any resistance but kinda silly rolling down the highway when there are much more aerodynamic options available.

But here’s the thing. We found this Classic nearby and it seems like a pretty good deal. It’s a 2000 and has a million miles on it. Never in a million years would I have thought I would consider buying a truck that old but this isn’t your average million mile truck. First, the engine has already had a P-3 Inframe done by Detroit. It has 300k on the Inframe. It also has only 3k on a new tranny and a little less than that on a new clutch. So basically the engine has already been rebuilt, the tranny is new, the clutch is new and the tires are almost new.

On another tact the interior is supposed to be a premium package. Course you have to keep in mind that it’s also ten years old so we have to take that with a grain of salt. It is promising that the truck was originally a Penske lease truck that was then sold to an O/O who had it for three years before he got sick and sold it back to this dealer. The dealer says he can document all of this and has all the maintenance and upkeep records on the truck. If it was an owner who cared enough to buy an ex-penske truck in the first place, he probably took good care of it. I say that because Penske trucks are almost always a lot more expensive than similar trucks you can find elsewhere. They can charge a premium because everyone knows Penske has excellent maintenance programs in place. I think that’s a good sign for us.

Another consideration for us is mpg. Clearly, when fuel runs $2.75 per gallon and you’re running 200k miles a year, mpg is an absolutely crucial part of the equation. It can make or break you. We knew in the Columbia we could look for about 6.5 to 7 mpg overall, but didn’t know what to expect from a Classic. Well it turns out that because we are looking at a pre-egr Classic we will probably be able to get 6.5 out of the truck if we’re careful with our driving. At least that’s what we’ve heard from different guys. I can certainly live with 6.5 mpg.

The other huge concern was the ride. The Classic is so much longer than the Columbia that it should ride better. The 260″ wheelbase on this truck is about a yard longer than the longest truck we’ve driven to date. Good for smoother rides but bad for turning radius. I imagine it will feel like the QE2 for a while when we first get it… if we get it.

Hmmm… other considerations… well we aren’t the type of people who like new things. By that I mean that we aren’t trade-up-for-the-sake-of-trading-up sort of people. We’ve been living in the same place for 19 years and we’re still driving a 1988 Toyota and a 1989 Isuzu for god’s sake. But why not? They run great, are almost never in the shop, and have been virtually free to drive for the past decade. The point is that we don’t get tired of our vehicles. So I would imagine that we would be the type of people to keep a truck we really liked for a very long time… as long as it didn’t start costing us an arm and a leg every month.

Another concern is that the truck is so old that no matter how good a shape it’s in we won’t be able to lease on with some companies due to equipment age restrictions. Bleh — we don’t care. We are talking right now to a tiny little company that doesn’t care what year the tractor is as long as it runs good. And our ultimate plan is to get our own authority so that shouldn’t be an issue. There’s also the problem of California… bleh — we don’t care about that either. Freight rates are so low in Cali that it doesn’t pay anyway. They can suck it.

Yet more considerations… truck is not pepto-pink which is a good thing. On the other hand, it’s supposed to be dark blue with white fenders, which wouldn’t be our first choice. On yet another hand, we don’t really care about the color when push comes to shove. Hmmm… it’s supposed to have really good tires all around. Also, it’s a 13-speed which we have never driven but I’m sure it will be a piece of cake after a few days. A down-side is that it doesn’t have an APU already installed. That kinda sucks, but you can pick a good one up for around $3k used and have it installed. An up-side is that they are only asking $14.5k which is dirt cheap. Let’s repeat that… they’re only asking $14.5k which means we could buy it and a used trailer for what we were talking about spending on the 2006 Columbia. That’s a pretty good up-side. Also, we could just pay for it so we don’t have to finance anything and pay 15% interest, which is the best they’re offering first-time o/o even if they have good credit.

Well that’s pretty much what’s going through our minds at this point. We are going to try to go down there and check the truck out later this week, but before that I need to get with Eddie and Jeffro to find out what else I need to focus on while inspecting the truck. Even though the large-ticket items have already been replaced or overhauled, there are still quite a few parts left on a truck (duh!) and I expect that every one of them will be on the verge of failure. We just need to minimize our exposure to high-cost repairs. I’ll update once we know more.

Here’s the specs for the truck junkies:

2000 Freightliner FLD13264T Classic XL

Condition USED
Sleeper Size 70″
Sleeper Raised Roof Condo
Engine Specs Detroit
Engine Type 12.7 L
Horsepower 500
Transmission 13 Spd
Check for Over Drive Yes
Engine Brake Yes
Suspension Air Ride
Ratio 3.58
Tires 22.5LP
Wheels Polished Aluminum
Wheelbase 260″

1,050,000 miles with 300k on a P3 Inframe. New tranny. New clutch. Premium interior. Good tires. DOT inspected and ready to roll. Supposed to be dark blue with white fenders but don’t know about the interior color.

9 Responses
  1. 2010 February 10

    Nice! Reminds me of my first truck – a 2002 Classic. Loved the ride. Turning radius not so much, but I got used to it. I could get it in anywhere, eventually. I often thought it must be like driving the QE II – just sailing down the highway. And I averaged 6.5 to 7 mpg in it (it was governed).

    • 2010 February 16

      Yeah, I keep reading about how those old Classics take a football field to turn around in… hope I get used to that quickly. Not looking forward to being the newbie-nervous-slow-ass driver who takes twenty minutes to hit a hole at the Pilot all over again. Maybe once we get it I’ll take it up to a truck stop and practice before we hit the road.

  2. 2010 February 10

    You are in for a fun time learning the O/O ropes. Try to have fun and don’t worry too much about the equipment. Half the point of being an O/O is enjoying calling the shots.

    • 2010 February 16

      I’m definitely looking forward to it! Thanks so much for all the advice the other night — sorry to babble so long but I really enjoyed talking to both of you and you really were serving up some serious words of wisdom. :)

  3. 2010 February 10

    I’ll get back with ya tomorrow, it’s midnight now and I got up at four thirty, so it’s been a long day. I’m sure anything I’d have to add now would be drivel, as it were!

  4. 2010 February 10

    Ed had some very good advice – you can get too hung up on detail and miss the big picture. If you do get an older truck, you can just count on more down time accompanied by repair bills. This is true no matter the brand – your condition report didn’t say anything about the rear ends. They might run on for years, but chances are you’ll be getting the power divider rebuilt – if it hasn’t already.

    When I started for my company the first truck they had me in was a 2000 Classic. Not an XL, and it had a day cab, 500 Cummins, thirteen over on tall rubber and either 3.90s or 4.11s – I can’t remember for sure. Later, I was “promoted” to a 2002 Classic with a 550 Cat – everything else was pretty much the same. So, I’ve had some experiences with some Freightliner peculiarities.

    The most irritating is the headlight and turn signal wiring. It’s in the open, and it goes bad. Just because a headlight is out does not mean replacing it will fix the problem. I think rocks hit the wiring, damaging it where it can’t be seen, and the resulting corrosion is well hidden. Expect problems there.

    Freightliner also has the main ground on the left side of the frame by the starter. Look for a stand off stud with a short cable running from the starter to that bolt. It will be towards the back of the engine compartment. If the truck has the “jumper” option, there will also be a positive terminal close by – jumping the truck is easier – pop the hood, black on the ground stud, red on the positive stud. The stud deteriorates over time and eventually won’t flow enough current to start the truck. You can turn on the key and everything else will work, but the motor won’t turn over fast enough to fire. After pulling our hair out for about a day and a half, the mechanic I was helping decided to check that connection and the bolt twisted in two. This, after running new cables to the starter, new batteries and a new starter. If the ground cable is bolted directly to a hole in the frame, that problem has been fixed – someone else figured it out and eliminated the stud.

    Batteries – look ‘em over and see how much warranty is left. Check out how clean the terminals are and if the cable ends are eaten up with corrosion or lookin’ good. Part of your preventive maintenance should be to take the battery box cover off at your favorite self serve truck wash and blow the dirt and grime off once in a while. I never rinse – I figure soap is a base, and it’s a pretty acidic environment, so there will be a little help for a short period. The batteries get covered in dirt and grime, and any time you run in the wet, all that moisture is held there on the terminals helping corrosion.

    It sure doesn’t hurt to have an extra single throw switch as a replacement for so many on the dash – FL is all about cost cutting, so the switches aren’t the best, and they wear out. One of their design quirks that irritated me was their Jake brake setup. Everyone else uses a three position switch (for engines with three heads) labeled three, one, two – for varying how much of the jake you want to use. Plus an on/off single throw switch. FL has two single throw switches – one for 2/off and one for 4/off. They just saved a buck or two, but to turn the jakes completely on requires two switches and that little dab of extra concentration while plummeting down the side of some mountain. Whee.

    The park brake buttons are the drizzles in a FL, too. You’ll notice the main yellow park button leaking a bit of air when releasing the brakes, and maybe manipulating it can get it to stop. That’s a high wear item. There is no kit to replace the o-rings in that manifold – the entire thing has to come out. The problem is that FL built the dash around it, so a mechanic will have to Dremel out a brace or two just to fix it. There are only about three hundred twelve (well, maybe not THAT many) air lines that hook to it, and some are just not accessible as it sits, period.

    The turn signal breaker – the relay that “clicks” – is a Freightliner proprietary item. NAPA won’t have it in stock when you throw on the left signal and all you get is the light on, but no blinky. It is a roughly rectangular chunk of plastic that plugs in to the fuse panel located under the dash behind the rectangular panel held in by Dzus fasteners – just in front of the shifter. There is no easy way to get to it, you have to lay on the floor. In their ultimate wisdom, FL labeled all the breakers and fuses and whatnot with little paper “stamps.” After a couple years, the adhesive dries out, and a bunny gaseous eruption will blow them from their proper place on to the cab floor. Now all the little black plastic boxes are mystery relays and breakers. There is a schematic printed on the back side of the cover with the dzus fasteners, but it’s a schematic, not a guide to locating specific circuits on the board. Unlike the Binder I drive – all that is behind the glove box. Everything must be removed from the box, and it flips completely over, exposing the board and the handy guide printed on the back.

    Just remember, Freightliner loves you, if you’re a fleet manager wishing to purchase maximum equipment for minimum price. Everyone else, not so much.

    The cab air ride has a weak point. The valve seems to last fairly well, as well as the bag – FL didn’t make those. Goodyear probably makes the biggest share of that stuff for all the truck mfgs. The valve – made by another big supplier. Alas, hooking the valve leveler to the frame is a FL exclusive. It’s a little length adjustable rod with plastic ball joint ends. The ball joints wear out, and the ball falls from the socket. So, if you think your shifter has moved, or it looks like your sleeper has dropped closer to the frame, look to see if your leveler valve is even hooked up anymore. The corners of my cab actually got into the exhaust flex pipe when that happened to me – on both the 00 and 02. It’s easy enough to get to and fix, just a pain when it breaks. You can reach the leveler arm and raise the cab temporarily – but the air will bleed off and the cab will lower. You will be buying one of those rods – count on it.

    Speaking of exhaust – really look over the flex pipes. If they’re pretty new someone has been right on top of things and replaced them when they went bad. Nothing like having a little more diesel exhaust in the cab with ya when a seam lets go. Some of the solid pipe can go bad, too. This isn’t a FL exclusive – all trucks have this exhaust problem. Age and corrosion. The 06 Binder I drive has all new flex pipe as of several months ago.

    FL didn’t spend any more money on radiators than they had to. We’ve had a lot of trouble no matter the brand of motor with ‘em – they’ll clog up internally and externally. The trucks with a single air cleaner hidden under the hood seemed to overheat more than the ones with dual external variety. So, when you’re climbing Floyd Hill, watch the water temperature and before you even start, kick the fan on manual. You might have to back out of it and drop a gear or three just to keep it from getting too hot.

    Older long wheelbase trucks seem to fall victim to sympathetic vibrations, too. After a few u-joints and rear gear rebuilts have been done, the driveline is just a tiny bit out of whack, so at certain speeds you’ll get some vibration. One of my buds has an old 359 that has really been affected – he really needs to have some new driveshafts manufactured for his baby. You should be able to feel that bobtailing, but it may only show up hooked up. New trucks can have this problem.

    I’ve said it before – get an analysis done on the engine oil. Belts and hoses – I’d bet by now they’ve been replaced at least once. Look at the pulleys – if they’re grooved out in the V, or the outer edges are really thin – you’ll either be replacing them or wearing out belts super fast. As the V widens, the belt has to go deeper into the groove to be tight, and there is only so much adjustment available. The belts might be loose and there might not be any more adjustment left. This is really kinda rare – but you need to look for it anyways.

    Most of the rest is a crap shoot – you can’t tell by looking at an alternator if it will last or not. A bearing that looks perfect today might fail tomorrow. This is nothing new to you two, I’m sure. By buying an older truck, you’ve got more flexibility in your available capital (credit!!!) for repairs than a newer, higher priced ride. I’ve ragged on Freightliner here, but if I was gonna jump into the ranks of owner operators, I’d be doing exactly what you two are – buying an old Freight Shaker. They’re just too cheap compared to the other brands. There are very good reasons for that, but not all are related to quality or perceived quality. Their financing arm was a leeetle too aggressive, and there are tons of repos out there that have helped drive the prices down. And, I’d rather drive a Classic than a Columbia any ol’ day. Call me traditional, I guess.

    Good luck! I’m excited for y’all!

    • 2010 February 16

      Jeffro,

      I honestly can’t thank you enough for all the advice. Between you and Eddie you guys have actually got me to a point where I am able to sleep through the night again. I will admit I was getting a little wound-up over all the things I needed to think about while looking for a truck, but I’m feeling much better now.

      I’ve made a list of everything both of you have mentioned and feel like I’m much more prepared to get all this done properly. I know in the end we will either get lucky or we won’t but at least now we’re not just prancing in without a clue like I see so many drivers do when they finally step out into the o/o world.

      So, seriously, thanks again.

  5. 2010 February 11

    brad, having driven some “real” trucks in a former life, says he thinks it may take you a little while to get used to the conventional but that you will love it once you do…..just don’t loose your patience with shifting…it’s like riding a bike and will eventually come back to you …even tho you will hear “eeeerrrrrrcccchhhhheee” quite a bit a first!!….

    this is some even more awesome news and we will be keeping our fingers crossed that everything works out that you get it…..after reading stace’s earlier post i really feel you guys need to get back to work….lolololol……

    • 2010 February 16

      Boy I hope Brad’s right! It sure is a big footprint. Ugh on the shifting — not only have we not shifted at all in the past three years, but also neither of us has ever shifted a 13 speed. I searched out the pattern so I know the general idea, but I still expect a lot of red cheeks the first couple of days. :)

      Thanks for the thought-power! Hopefully everything will be worked out this week… course we still couldn’t possibly go back to work right away cause now the Olympics are on. ;)

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