If you told me ten years ago that someday I would actually buy a gasoline powered tow truck for my fleet I would have laughed right in your face, loud.
With how wonderful diesels WERE at the time the thought of using some “gas truck” was just absurd.
But several things happened over the last few years that greatly started to sway how I thought of the modern day, EGR/DPF/DEF equipped “oil burners.”
High Maintenance Costs
First and foremost, the INSANE amount of money that they cost when they go down. I was always beside myself when I was handed a $3,000 bill without my mechanic breaking a sweat, and he was giving me a good deal at that.
What would it have cost me at the dealer: $6,000, $7,000?
In reality my old diesels would be in the 500,000 mile range before I started having any problems with them. That was fine because around that time I would have fixed the items and just sold the truck after years of hard work and solid reliability.
OEM Emissions Systems
The second—and probably most troubling item—was how the OEM emissions systems on the new diesel engines are what is really causing them to die a slow death.
Although the manufacturers of these trucks “think” the system has been tested... hell have no fury like a repossossor on a trucks reliability.
We have a solid team, but these trucks are running twenty hours straight six days a week. I started to see very expensive problems in the 150,000—200,000 mile range.
The 6.7 Powerstroke or Cummins adds roughly 10k to the price of the truck and they were becoming less reliable. I ran the numbers for my company and found that I might actually save money in the long run when we start seeing higher mileage on trucks.
Saving all the numbers run, and time spent to figure this out, I made a simple table to share the logic on this:
Gas vs Diesel
|Diesel Truck Pros:||Diesel Truck Cons:|
|Higher MPG||Higher Cost of Repair|
|More Power||Reduced Reliability|
|Makes You Feel More Manly||Higher Cost of Fuel|
|More Downtime for Repair|
|Gas Truck Pros:||Gas Truck Cons:|
|More Maneuverable||Lower Power|
|Less Money to Fix and Maintain||Lighter Front End (Corrected with Counterweight)|
|Less Downtime for Repairs|
First Gas Truck!
Then it happened, I bought my first gas truck. This didn’t come without great research and pulling about two years worth of numbers, but the deal was done.
First thing I noticed right out of the gate, was how much more maneuverability the truck had without the weight of the diesel being slung over the front axle.
It just didn’t drive like a wrecker until you started towing something.
Did it feel a little light when towing a ¾ ton? Short answer: Yes. But, this was easily solved by adding helper bags with a little air and a counter weight in the bumper.
I was really shocked by how little the truck’s performance was affected with the loss of the diesel engine.
Also, MPG was pretty similar... the gas truck is about 8.5 MPG mixed loaded and a Non-deleted DPF truck is 10-11 mixed, deleted trucks need not apply ;).
Look At Your Numbers
Am I saying to go out and swap your fleet over to gas? Of course not.
What I am saying is to take a hard look at your numbers and what you’re spending to keep the newer diesels on the road.
For my market, which is mostly flat—no need for power on grades—and urban, the gas trucks are just cheaper to run if they are staying loaded.
Even on the slower days for pick ups we still don’t suffer a loss with them because of the money spent per mile being cheaper.