October 25, 2019 1:30 PM, EDT

Decisions, Decisions

Trucks on a highwayTo buy or to lease? That is the difficult question facing fleet executives in a softening freight economy. (John Sommers II for Transport Topics)

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As I write this column during the second week of October, much discussion has occurred in the media and from economists and other various experts on whether a recession is looming.

Of course, there are many metrics one can review to try to forecast where the U.S. economy is headed. However, regardless of who eventually winds up right or wrong in the current debate, one thing is clear: Commercial trucking is an excellent barometer for the state of the economy and where it might be going.

Fran Matso Lysiak

Matso Lysiak

As the familiar saying goes, “As trucking goes, so goes the economy.”

Given these developments and the uncertainty about what’s ahead, one of the page 1 stories in this fourth-quarter edition of Equipment & Maintenance Update provides a timely look at how trucking companies go about making key decisions on how and when to acquire, maintain and sell their equipment.

Even though this is an evergreen issue for executives at motor carriers and fleets of nearly all sizes, these decisions gain additional weight during times of change.

One major decision for fleets is whether to buy or lease their trucks. Not a task to be taken lightly, considering the cost of a Class 8 truck can easily surpass $125,000, as this cover story notes.

But fleets have many other decisions to ponder, such as how best to maintain and repair that equipment. Outsource it, or do it in-house?

Ultimately, fleets must balance multiple variables to get the most out of their equipment, including maintenance costs and residual values when the equipment is ready for resale.

Taki Darakos of Pitt Ohio, for one, emphasizes managing fleet composition for current and projected business plans and life cycle maintenance costs to achieve maximum return on investment, and asset use.

Read this story to find out what goes into the many important equipment decision-making processes at some fleets.

And here’s hoping for a strong economy — and strong freight demand — in 2020.

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