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Delivery trucks

In over 35 years in the woodworking business, I don't think I have ever done a project, large or small, that I did not have to deliver.

One of the dilemmas I faced was weather or not to invest in a vehicle for this purpose. With smaller projects, I have always used my pickup truck, which I have always considered to be a company vehicle. I have actually delivered some pretty substantial pieces in my poor old truck. I say "poor old truck" because it is a 1987 with 395,000 miles on it. Of course, it has had the engine replaced as well as the brakes, universals, exhaust system, transmission and clutch, hydraulics, and a few other little things, including almost the entire body since it has had a few encounters with other vehicles over the years. But it's still no spring chicken so I figure it qualifies for the "poor old truck" designation. Especially when I stack it six feet above the cab with woodwork.

But as much as a stalwart it is, there have been many times when I simply had to have a larger truck. If your woodworking business is closer to what might be defined as a factory rather than a shop, investing in a large delivery vehicle (or several) might make good economic sense. But for my shop, it was hard to justify. For one thing, I could never figure out what the best configuration would be.

Flatbed? Box van? Size? There were many times when we needed at least a 24' van to transport a project to the job site. But there were also many times when a 12' van would be just fine and many situations where maneuvering a larger truck would have been problematic. Should we get a new truck (big bucks ... large payments) or an older used one with its potential repair bills? The biggest problem was that we only need a delivery truck now and then, sometimes maybe twice a month, sometimes only once every few months depending on the job flow and scope. So this (one way or the other) costly delivery truck is going to be spending most of its life sitting in the parking lot while my payments, maintenance costs and insurance expenses would be ticking away.

For a while I was renting trucks from a local rental yard but they were mostly old beaters, hand-me-downs from outfits like U-Haul that were as likely to catch fire on the freeway as to actually get me and my work to the job site. But then I discovered commercial truck rentals. It seems that most of the major auto rental companies have commercial divisions and they run fleets of nice new air-conditioned trucks with diesel engines, automatic transmissions and comfortable seats. Once I made this discovery, my delivery problems were solved.

The company I ended up doing most of my business with (name withheld) would even bring the truck to my shop and pick it up when I was done with it. The rates were not cheap but, in general, the price of a two-day rental, including fuel and the extra insurance (always get the extra insurance!) was not much more than a single monthly payment would be had I been buying a truck. Plus, I could get whatever size truck I needed for that particular job. I have no worries about someone breaking into the truck some night when no one's around.

And the best part is that should something happen to the truck on the road, the rental company will send out another truck, help me transfer my load, get me back on my way and deal with the other truck without any further expense to me. Gotta love it!


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