In 1996, after two years of planning, I began shopping for my very first truck. I had been saving money and sold nearly everything I didn't need, in order to have enough to put towards a down payment on a brand new truck. In the price range that my budget allowed, four trucks became contenders. One was a used Ford cabover with a Caterpillar engine that was in really good shape. Another was a Volvo which was also Caterpillar powered. The third truck was an International 9300 that was Caterpillar powered as well. All three of these trucks were high-powered for the time with horsepower ratings of 425.
I knew from my previous experience that these trucks would not deliver the efficiency of the truck I had put together at Grinnell. The search continued. I stopped in at the Charlotte Freightliner dealership and spoke to Larry Watson in regards to what I was looking for. Larry did not have anything that really fit my criteria at the moment. All that was in his yard were FLD 132's with big Caterpillar engines. A few days later, Larry called me back and told me that he had a truck that I might be interested in. The truck he had was part of a fleet order that had been canceled. It was a 1996 FLD 120 70” mid-roof, Detroit Series 60 12.7L 360/400 HP/1450 FPT engine with a Rockwell 9-speed overdrive transmission followed by a 3.73 rear axle ratio riding on lo-pro 24.5 tires. This truck had really close to the same specifications as the truck that I had put together at Grinnell. Two differences on this one was a 3.73 vs. the 4.11 rear axle ratio that the Grinnell truck had. Also, the Grinnell truck had an Eaton 10-speed transmission. The overall gear ratio was basically one notch taller than what I had spec'd out. In my mind, this was going to be a good combination because I knew how well this combo had worked in regards to efficiency on the truck I had at Grinnell. Being geared a little taller also seemed like a move in the right direction because this truck would spend more time on the highway. The truck I spec'd out at Grinnell was averaging fuel mileage in the neighborhood of 8 mpg but in its duty cycle, the truck was only loaded in one direction. I ended up purchasing this brand new 1996 truck from Larry. The lifetime fuel mileage came in at a successful 6.7 mpg average.
There were a couple of reasons that this truck did not do as well on fuel as my previous ride at Grinnell. One reason was that I was now loaded in both directions and the second was that my main outbound freight was chain link fence stacked 13'6” high. Hauling chain link fence is like pulling a parachute; every little piece of wire grabs the air. Quite simply, transporting chain link fence is an aerodynamic disaster.
I drove this new truck for 643,000 miles and would have probably driven it farther, but I had an owner-operator who wanted to purchase it from me. I told him that if I could find a truck to replace it we could make a deal. I called Larry back up at Charlotte Freightliner and he found me a brand new 2001 70” mid-roof Freightliner Century Class. I liked this Freightliner truck and it was in my proper blue color. So I started the process of purchasing my second new truck. Unfortunately, in the middle of this, the owner-operator that was leased to me backed out of the deal. It was at this point that I called Larry to see what we could do and I ended up trading in my 1996 FLD 120 for the 2001.
It felt like I was making the right decision. Other than an air conditioner compressor and an alternator, nothing had been replaced on the 1996 truck. Everything else done on the truck was just normal preventative maintenance. I thought to myself that it was probably a good idea to get rid of this truck because when it starts needing parts replaced, I would lose the reliability that I had become accustomed to.
Reluctantly, I traded in the truck in which I had started Albert Transport Inc. I felt really good about this decision until several years later when I saw a blue FLD behind me in traffic. This wasn't just any FLD. My old FLD had a stone chip on the visor that was like an identifying birthmark. I could see that it was my previous truck. I got on my CD at this time to get the driver's attention. I wanted to talk to him about my old truck. He told me that it had been a good truck for him as well and he was at over 1.2 million miles and the only thing other than preventative maintenance he had done was to replace another air conditioner compressor and just recently, the clutch. We parted ways down the highway shortly after that. I thought to myself, “I guess I should have kept my truck a little bit longer”.
In my next installment, my journey in fuel efficiency continues.