Usually when we think of the trucking industry we think of the big dry van and flatbed truck. You know the image is of a fancy rig hauling the long van/box trailer. Of course they do make up a large percentage of the trucking industry, but there is much more into it. After all, we are all familiar with reefers and flatbed trailers, even have seen a load of new cars being hauled to the dealership. But even small flatbed trucks should be a part of your fleet.
Actually commercial vehicles come in all shapes and sizes from small taxis to large passenger buses. Even just within the trucking industry there are several types of vehicles. They all vary by classification, based on their Cross Vehicle Weight Rating (GVWR). The United States Department of Transportation identifies them using one of the following eight classifications.
Most flatbed trucks would fall into either the class 6 or class 7 categories. As an example, you might use these when your load doesn’t justify the use of a big rig and trailer, for LTL (less then load) freight, or for specialty freight and odd sized loads. People commonly see these used at hardware stores to deliver lumber and other purchases. But their uses are as varied as there are trucks on the road.
So what is it? A flatbed truck (or if you were in England, flatbed lorry) is a truck that has a flat open bed, without permanent sides or a roof. This makes the flatbed truck easy and versatile to load and unload, so basically loads that can be in the elements (or covered with a tarp), such as common construction materials.
Now when you look into getting a flatbed truck here under are present few pointers for you to consider.
Just like any purchase that you make, you have to shop around first, find what you need, and one think for sure you must inspect the flatbed truck first before you decide to buy it. I would recommend that you have a professional mechanic, not associated with the dealership, look it over. If it is a trusted dealership or you are buying new flatbed truck, just a quick check might be fine. But if it is a private seller, an inspection is a must.
You need to check for rust and other damage. Take it for a test drive. Make sure it handles well and runs smoothly. If you have any questions ask. Now is the time!
I have heard two different thoughts on this. Some say with the newer vehicles it’s harder to adjust the odometer. But if you are buying a used vehicle, find out if the engine has been replaced, or rebuilt. Ask about the transmission and the drive train. Check the brakes.
Find out if they kept their maintenance logs on the flatbed truck. If so, you can compare odometer readings for accuracy there as well. Of course it isn’t always the number of miles but the type of miles.
You don’t want a flatbed truck with too many miles.
Maintenance is the number one most important thing you can do for your truck equipment. So if you’re going to buy a used flatbed trucks, you must know the maintenance record. It is very important to know that the flatbed truck was well maintained, by a properly certified licensed mechanic.
Check to see if the truck oil was changed regularly. Check to see if the tires were rotated and balanced. Everything that you do on your fleet is for the good of your business. Buying a flatbed truck that was not properly maintained could cost you more than a new one.
Every state and metropolitan area has different standards for inspections, though the core issues are the same across the board. Make sure the flatbed trucks inspection is up to date. If they have the previous inspection records, check those as well.
It is better to get too much information than not enough.
This is so important when purchasing any used vehicle. But if you’re going to buy a flatbed truck for your business you must know its history. Run a Carfax report on it. That is right! You can run a report on Carfax for big trucks as too! Check other records, do whatever it takes, but don’t just take the owner’s word for it.
The last thing you want is an unsafe flatbed truck. If it was in an accident, repaired and back in service there could be a whole slew of unseen problems. The frame could be bent or have a hairline fracture. The last thing you want is an issue while hauling for a customer.
Something to think about; if the vehicle looks great but was in an accident, there must be a reason they are selling it. Don’t buy it, think about it first, and then make the decision.
Not every company can afford to give every driver their own assigned vehicle. Smaller companies will of course have fewer drivers. But if it was a larger organization the flatbed truck might have ten different drivers operating it every week.
Some people are naturally better drivers than others. Some people drive work vehicles worse, some better, than their own personal vehicle. The more drivers the flatbed truck had, the more likely it wasn’t driven in the proper way. Some people race the engine and some slam on the breaks.
Be leery of purchasing a flatbed truck that had ton different operators driving it.
This is another thing for consideration. Vehicles run on local routes are operated differently than those used for long hauls. Find how it was used, often the type of business with give you all the clues you need.
Local most likely means it was in constant stop and go and in high traffic areas. But it probably didn’t run at too high of a speed for long stretches of time. Long haul means less stopping but was most likely running at a higher rate of speed for a more consistent amount of time.
There are pros and cons to both, that is why it is best to have your trusted mechanic go over it first.
Tires, tires, tires… I know I always find the time to speak about tires. Why? Well because they are one of most important part of the flatbed truck. Or any truck actually! But they can also tell you a lot about the truck and the operator’s driving habits.
Are they worn or showing signs of uneven wear? The rim does it show signs of hitting the curb a few too many times? Are the rims showing hidden signs that the rotor or the brakes are going bad?
Much like you can tell a lot about a person by their hands, the same is true with the tires.
The engine is the other most important factor. If you check the oil and it smells burned that is a bad sign. If it is too thick or too thin that too can be a bad sign and possible symptoms of a greater issue. Perhaps the rods are bad or the gaskets leak.
Also when you start it, does it turn over properly? How do the spark plugs look? Check the filters. Even remove the radiator cap check and smell it, if has a burned smell that is not good, possibly a sign of other hidden issues. So look closer and let the mechanic you have with you do what he is paid for!
Look carefully the condition for one of the most important truck parts!
The last thing you want to do is overhaul the engine of your new flatbed truck!
The transmission is equally important as the engine. I make it sound like every part is important. Well they are. So remember to check the fluid, see if it has the burn smell. When you start the flatbed truck up does it shift gears smoothly? How does ride as you run down the street?
Flatbed trucks can be either automatic or standard shift. In this classification the automatic is most likely going to be more common. But if it is a standard then you must check the clutch. Try running through the gears, does it shift smoothly?
This could be really expensive if there was an issue and you didn’t catch it.
I hope you were able to find these tips useful. Just remember, buying a flatbed truck is like anything else. You must research the available trucks and see which model type and size is best for your operation. Take it for a test drive and by all means have your mechanic give it a full once over.
Having a flatbed truck allows your customer options that they might not be able to get if your fleet was consisted with only larger trucks. Depending on state requirements and the actual classification your drivers might not even need a CDL to operate a flatbed truck. But like everything check into that first.
Which is your favorite model of flatbed truck? How many does your fleet have? Do you think it is better to have assigned vehicles or just hot-seat them as they are available? Share your thoughts and recommendations with us.