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Got a problem? Take action

Donna Ryun

Problems? Everybody has them. While some problems just go away on their own, others stick like glue and seem to grow to gigantic proportions the more we try to ignore them.

The trick is to figure out when we need to take action and exactly what action we should take before a stressful situation becomes a monster.

It's helpful to know something about the demons we face so that we can develop a strategy to deal with them. Here are a few questions from truckers who want to know what they're up against and how to get help with a battle plan.

Q: I've got more money going out than is coming in, and I find myself needing to rob Peter to pay Paul. What happens if I miss a truck payment or two? I don't want to lose my truck, but I can't make a full payment this month. Can I just let it slide for now and hope for better times next month?

A: First, let's talk about what could happen if you ignore the problem with the hope that it will just go away.

When you originally set up the loan for the purchase of your truck, you signed a contract. If you miss a payment, that's a violation of the contract, and the finance company can repossess without any advance notice.

Once they've repossessed the truck, they can require you to pay off the entire loan before they will give it back. If you can't come up with the money, they can sell the truck at auction and if they don't get enough money to cover what you owe, they may be able to sue you for the difference.

Fortunately, you've anticipated the problem and there's still time to take action. Contact the lender and try to work out a plan to save your truck from the repo man.

Many lenders will make arrangements to delay a payment, accept a partial payment, or modify the contract in order to help you through a difficult time, particularly if they see that you want to fulfill your end of the deal.

If you are able to come to an agreement with the lender, make sure that you get it in writing, and then follow through with the terms.

Contact your state's consumer protection office to discuss any additional options or rights that may be available to you in the event that the lender won't negotiate. Check your local telephone book for the office nearest you.

If your debt is out of control, there are counseling services available to help you. Many are free. The National Foundation for Consumer Credit has money management programs to help teach you how to handle credit and to set up debt payment plans. To find the counseling service nearest you, visit their Web site at or call them at 1-800-388-2227.

Q: I bought my truck new a couple of years ago, and I've had an annoying little problem with it that keeps bringing me back to the repair shop with the same issue every visit. So far, the service warranty has paid for the repairs, but when the warranty period is over and the problem crops up again, I'm worried that I'll be stuck with the expense of repairing a truck that never stays fixed. I don't think that's fair, but what can I do?

A: This problem doesn't look like it's going to go away on its own, so you're going to need to take action.

Recurring problems such as the one you've described may be the result of a manufacturing flaw. Dig out all of your repair orders and provide copies for the dealer, and the manufacturer as well. Check your operating manual for the manufacturer's contact information.    The documentation will help to substantiate your complaint.

It's possible that other owners of trucks like yours have experienced the same repair problems on a recurring basis. If that's the case, the dealer may have already made the manufacturer aware of numerous complaints about the trucks and/or defective parts. The manufacturer may then issue service bulletins notifying other dealers of the problems, authorizing them to make the repairs without cost to the consumer even if the warranty has expired.

Make sure you ask your dealer about any "secret warranties" that may affect your truck.

You should also contact the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration with your complaint if a safety issue is involved. You can mail  your complaint to:

U.S. Department of Transportation,
National Highway Traffic Safety Administration,
Office of Defects Investigation (NVS-211)
400 Seventh St. SW
Washington, DC 20590

Or you can make your complaint via the telephone safety hot line at 1-888-327-4236; the fax: (202) 366-7882; or the

Your complaint to NHTSA could lead to a safety recall if a trend is detected, so it's worth your time and effort to notify the agency with your concerns.

And remember, when problems arise, take action! Remember that you can always call OOIDA toll-free at 1-800-444-5791 with your questions or concerns. We'll be happy to discuss any options that may be available in order to help you with a resolution.

Q: I’m a truck driver with no health insurance benefits. Doc says I need a prescription drug for the long term. It’s expensive, so I may have to do without and take my chances. Any suggestions?

A: The drug may be expensive, but allowing your health to deteriorate would be costlier in the long run.

Generic drugs are cheaper than brand names, so be sure to ask your doctor and/or pharmacist if one is available. While you’re at it, ask your doctor for free samples of the drug to get you started.

Do some comparison shopping. There’s often a wide range in prices between pharmacies for the same prescription drugs, so it pays to shop around. Since you will be taking the drug long term, check out mail-order pharmacy options. Mail-order prescription drugs are often less expensive.

Contact the Federal Drug Administration for suggestions on economical ways to purchase prescription drugs by visiting the Web site or calling 1-888-463-6332.

If you simply cannot afford the prescription, consider contacting the drug company. It’s possible they can offer some assistance. You won’t know if you don’t ask.

You can also contact the Partnership for Prescription Assistance, which matches up consumers with free or reduced-cost prescription medicine programs at various drug companies. It is a free service. For more information, visit on the Web or call 1-888-477-2669.

If you have questions about doing business as an owner-operator and/or an independent trucker, please e-mail them or send them to PO Box 1000, Grain Valley, MO 64029. We can't publish all of your questions inLand Line, but you will receive a response, even if your letter is not published.