Line One
Dashboard Confidential
What if they gave a recession and no one came?

By Dave Sweetman


The nation’s economy is in turmoil, the trucking industry is wacky, fuel prices increase daily, and tolls in many areas have doubled. Bandits disguised as politicians (and vice versa) look for new ways to separate us from what few coins we have left. What’s a poor trucker to do?

In my case, I did the unthinkable. I bought a new truck. A friend of mine has proclaimed that I should have “STUPID” painted on my forehead. My friend has a good grip on the situation, or so he thinks.

The facts are, I had a paid-for 2003 with good equity. It still looked new, ran well and should be a “keeper.” It being out of warranty, but still low enough on miles to make for a tasty trade-in value, was also a consideration. Because my job requires me to absolutely be on time, dependability and no fear of breakdowns is a big consideration also. It’s a little tough having a car show or race without the cars.

Consider also, that with the new Cummins ISX motor, proper gearing and transmission, as well as the aerodynamics of Kenworth’s T660, I have picked up just a tad under a half-mile per gallon increase in fuel mileage. In a typical month of running, that translates to a healthy chunk of savings.

Having just completed my first round from New Jersey to California in the new truck, I found my decision to be pretty solid.

The Onan Energy Command 30 genset that ARI installs with its sleepers is a very smart unit. Besides being so quiet that it is barely audible, an auto setting allows the unit to turn on and off as temperature and battery levels require. Set it and forget it, and it maintains comfort levels and saves fuel at the same time. I’m loving this unit already.

In the dollars and cents department, my options for financing the balance of the purchase price were even better than the last time, because the new interest rate is more than 2 percent lower than the previous one. A strong track record with my bank made a difference in getting that rate.

I also know that many banks are skittish about touching anything related to trucks, so I have always been careful to protect my credit rating. Or as my boss once told me, “Two things you can’t buy. Good credit and a good friend.” Good advice, I’d say.

Enough about my truck – more to the point, there has to be someone who has some confidence in the economy.

My predictions are that this will all shake out and fuel prices will stabilize, but won’t drop to previous levels. The trucking industry will not go away, as we are a needed service, but we must have a realistic business plan and know what it takes to make it work. Waiting for the government to step in isn’t our only option.

I know what works for me, and I try to make the right business decisions so I can keep my customers happy and keep paying my bills. It takes discipline, and sometimes you have to spend a dollar to save a dollar.

Besides, I helped put a few Americans to work with my truck purchase. Folks in Ohio built the truck; folks in Indiana built the sleeper. The components, from the engine, transmission and most of everything else inside, put folks to work. Maybe we could use a bit more of that.

Yeah, I know. I’ve heard there’s a recession, but I refuse to participate. It’s not easy, but someone has to step up. Now maybe it’s your turn. Buy something made in America.

Happy trails. LL


Dave Sweetman can be reached at