Owner-Operators & their new trucks

Every year we check the OOIDA database to see who among our owner-operators has purchased a new truck within the past 12 months. Nationally, 1999 was a record-breaking year for new truck sales. OOIDA members purchased new trucks in record numbers, more than doubling 1998 totals.Freightliner again led the OEMs who attracted our new truck buyers with 32.8 percent of our owner-operator market. This represents a 2.8 percent gain over 1998 totals. Kenworth again finished second with 21.8 percent of our buyers, up one percentage point from a year ago. Peterbilt came in third with 17.5 percent of our owner-operator market, down just slightly more than one percent from 1998.Volvo also dropped a little more than one percent, down to 10.5 percent of OOIDA buyers. International's share of our market also dropped slightly, down to 7.5 percent compared with 8.4 percent a year ago.Western Star gained ground with our owner-operators. Their increase from 5.2 percent of our market a year ago to 6.8 percent this year can only partially be attributed to the OOIDA discount buying program, as the program was only in effect for the last four months of our tracking period.Sterling dropped from 3.6 percent a year ago to 1.2 percent. Mack edged up slightly to 2 percent from 1.2 percent last year.There were a number of small fleet owners among our new truck purchasers who bought multiple new trucks due to increased business. Some stuck with the same nameplate citing brand loyalty due to good experience, others mixed nameplates according to availability.Once we had our list of new truck owners, we sent each owner a survey to ask how they liked their new equipment and how it is performing. One question we asked was what option our owner-operators would add to their new trucks if they were buying the truck today. The response we heard most often was a generator or auxiliary power source.

Here's what our owner-operators had to say about their new trucks.


The majority of Kenworth owners who responded to our new truck survey told us they are happy with their new trucks and would recommend them to other owner-operators.

Kenneth Walsh of South Attleboro, MA, is disappointed with the ABS braking system and the Eaton 18-speed overdrive transmission on his custom Kenworth T2000. "The brake system gives false readings," he says. He likes the width and steering, but would add power mirrors next time.

Charles Dalton of Carrollton, OH, especially likes the way the truck handles under a load. Douglas LeMaire of Beaumont, TX, likes his W900L saying, "A very nice truck, super vision while driving." Ronald Skaggs of Morehead, KY, says "The good looks, ride and roominess sets his Kenworth above the others." Keith Nark of Cobleskill, NY, likes the auto-shift, maneuverability, and the fact that it's easy to wash. Nick Meisch of LaMoure, ND, is very satisfied with his choice, but would try an auto-shift next time. Dale Mondt of Sheffield, IA, says, "I just plain like everything about it."Only about 1 percent of Kenworth owners we surveyed had gripes about their trucks. Some owners specified problems with ABS braking problems, "orange peel" paint, loose bolts, and rattles and squeaks.

James Gray, Jr. of Rayland, OH, says a steer tire wear problem on his W900L was linked to his kingpins. Kenworth replaced them at 50,000 miles and Kenworth also replaced his steer tires. Steven Siu of North Plainfield, NJ, got 120,000 miles out of his first set of steer tires on his T800, but expects more. Steven says he is also having a problem with gears grinding in his Eaton 13-speed transmission.

Brian and Sharon Judd of Gallatin, TN, say this about their Kenworth T300. "This engine and transmission combination make the perfect expediting truck." The Judds customized the 72-inch sleeper with a microwave and TV/VCR.

Greg Billingsley of Marshall, MO, is having electrical problems with his T2000. He cites phantom error codes and a faulty warning beeper as the major annoyances. He does like the arrangement of the cab and the ride, and is very happy with the mileage and power from his 450-hp Cummins engine.

Richard Schoonmaker of Kingston, NY, and Frank Blackburn of Tonganoxie, KS, told Land Line they have experienced wind noise around the doors, but are satisfied with the overall performance of their trucks.

Western Star

The vast majority of Western Star owners who responded to our survey are "very satisfied" with their new trucks. The roomy cab and sleeper and smooth ride rated as the favorite features with most of our new truck buyers. Rodney Keller of Hartley, IN, says he "just loves it overall." L.T. and Mary Martin of Natural Dam, AR, say, "It's a good sound truck." James Merriman of Strasburg, IL, says his Constellation "rides like a dream," and power and handling are very good.

David Attea of Kennedy, NY, likes the "appearance and drivability" of his Western Star 4964EX, and "cannot think of anything else I would add" in the way of options.

Richard Ballinger of Buffalo Gap, SD, says his Constellation came from the factory with a bent wheel and improper alignment. He has also had some electrical problems, but he does like the way the truck handles.

Larry Ward of Clarksville, AR, says his Constellation Millennium Edition has a problem with vibration when the brakes are applied. Also the truck continues to pull to the right, even after an alignment.


James Picard of Oklahoma City, OK, would buy a Peterbilt 379 again and likes the power and fuel mileage. James pulls a reefer with his 600 hp Cummins.

As usual, Peterbilts rated high among the owner-operators we surveyed. Resale value, ride, looks and style, handling, dealer help, and parts availability are the features our owner-operators cite most often as what they like best about their rigs. Owners had good reports on Pete's Concert Class sound system. The traditional "big truck" styled 379 continues to top the owner-operator sales list. In fact, it was the only model the owner-operators who responded to our survey purchased.Frank L. Rhyand of Beavercreek, OH, likes Peterbilt for "ride, style and the fact it has no rattles.""Petes look best!" is the comment of Donald Bish of Brimfield, IN. Don would buy another Pete although the truck needed another head gasket at 150,000 miles. Robert Hudgins of Clyde, TX, said "Petes hold resale value." He would recommend this truck to other owner-operators.

Chhinda Singh of Meadville, PA, Chhinda is happy with his 18-speed Eaton transmission and would buy another Peterbilt 379. "But with a different engine next time," he says. He would add more features like a bigger sleeper, refrigerator, sink and table.

This year only about 5 percent of owners cited problems with their Peterbilts. Cheryl London of Farwell, TX says, "Steer tire on left cups out. I'm on my third set of tires in 95,000 miles." Doug McRill of Arlington, OH, says, "My steer tires are wearing badly and sleeper windows leak." Even so, he would recommend the model to other owner-operators. Peterbilt is working to assist both of these owner-operators with their concerns.

George Royael of Long Pond, PA, says his 379 has oil leaks, engine sensor problems and the upholstery was not finished properly.


Marvin Jornov Jr. of Hudson, NY, wouldn't add or change a thing about his International 9900I. Marvin pulls a flatbed for Hildebrandt with a Cummins 525 and an 18-speed Eaton tranny. Marvin spec'd the sleeper with all the extras and rates the visibility as great.

Comfort, ride, styling, and handling are the features mentioned most often when International buyers are asked about their favorite features. Most are very satisfied with their choice and would recommend International trucks to other owner-operators.

John Ohmer of Tidioute, PA, is satisfied with his International 9300 equipped with a 475 Cat engine and a 13-speed transmission. John leases to Churchill Transportation. John especially likes the tractor's looks, ride and power.

We heard only a few complaints. James Stephenson of Puryear, TN, says the hood on his 9900I is hard to open and there are rattles and air noise around the right door. Theodore Micklasavage of Stuart, FL, says his 9200I has some electrical problems and he complains about air and motor noise, but likes the look of the truck.


Though only a handful responded to our survey, Mack owners said they were "very satisfied" with their new rigs. Albert Tocci of Tulsa, OK, gives his Vision all-round high marks, but he especially likes the smooth ride.

Bernard Lapeyre of Dallas, TX, purchased two new Vision models. He says his Macks' suspension, easy turning, and driver comfort amenities are the features he likes most. "They ride like a car," says Bernard.

David Mlechick Jr. of Hebron, IN, is happy with his decision to buy a Mack Vision CX613, equipped with a Fuller transmission. David especially likes the graduated horsepower, turning radius and headlights.


Sterling owners - where are you? Only one Sterling owner, Eugene Maggio of Grain Valley, MO, responded to our survey. While his opinion cannot be considered representative of owner-operators, Eugene likes the room in his Sterling day cab, but has had some problems with air leaks and loose wires.


Volvo owners give their truck high marks for the quiet, smooth ride, roominess, and cab layout. Volvo owners were very satisfied overall with their choice. Only two of the owner-operators who responded to our survey indicated they were notsatisfied and would not recommend Volvo to other owner-operators.

Ed Wolfe of Warsaw, IN, reported problems with vibration in his 660. He says the front shocks and steer tires were replaced, and that seems to have solved the problem. While he indicated he was satisfied with his Volvo, he said he would not recommend the truck to other owner-operators because of problems with Volvo service.

Robert Pinkerton of Stinnett, TX, is very satisfied with his new Volvo. Bob runs with a Cummins engine and an Eaton 13-speed transmission. He rates his Volvo 770 as a smooth ride.

Gilbert Tiermann of Bakersfield, CA, reports that when the cruise control is on in his 770, the truck sometimes accelerates to maximum speed and the cruise control cannot be disengaged using either the clutch or the brake. Otherwise, Gilbert is very satisfied with his Volvo.Jack Flanagain of Hudson, CO, had a few problems with his 770. The turbo on his Cummins engine went out at 37,000 miles and he lost the alternator at 49,000 miles. Both of these problems have been resolved. However, Jack says the paint on the fairing doesn't match. Still, he is very satisfied with his Volvo.

Two owners of new Volvos reported premature steer tire wear. Peter Klauer of Lake Oswego, OR, reported excessive vibration and steer tire wear on his 770. He indicated he thought the problem was solved, but did not say how it was solved. Howard Ingalsbe of Napoleon, MO, said his right front steer tire on his 610 wore out at 61,000 miles, but the left one lasted 120,000 miles.


Freightliner owners cite the ride and roominess as the features they like best about their trucks. Many of the owner-operators who responded to our survey said they were satisfied with their new Freightliners. Of his new Classic XL, Richard L. Beisner of Homeland, CA, said "It rides and drives like a Cadillac. I am very happy with it."One owner noted the effect the record-breaking sales of Freightliners in 1999 are having on owner-operators. Gerald "Jerry" Naile of Falling Waters, WV, expressed satisfaction with his Classic XL, but says he will not buy another Freightliner because of low resale value.

Linda Clapp of Grand Island, NE, pulls a reefer behind her Freightliner Classic XL. She says she's somewhat dissatisfied with her choice. The truck looks and rides good, but it had to have a complete overhaul at 8,500 miles. Sleeper windows leak and doors rattle. She said larger fuel tanks, different rears and a fuel separator would be on her list the next time around.

A number of Freightliner owners complained about minor problems such as chipped or peeling paint, air and water leaks around doors and windows, loose bolts and screws, doors that wouldn't open or close properly, and problems with upholstery sagging or fraying. Carl Wayne Thomas of Peggs, OK, says his Century Class is "falling apart on the inside."Dale Tyson of Samson, AL, noted more serious problems with his Classic XL, saying he had 61 days of down time in the first five months. With only 61,000 miles on the truck he listed steering problems, hood alignment problems, and serious vibration that is starting to affect tire wear. Dale also reported that the Eaton 15-speed transmission and the clutch had to be replaced at 9,000 miles when the front main shaft broke.

Dennis Marchi of Lakehead, CA, says he is very dissatisfied with Freightliner service and found customer relations "horrible." He says his Freightliner Classic has had problems with the transmission, vibration, and has been back to the shop over problems with the auxiliary braking system three times.