Peter Nuñez has learned what a lot of veteran fleet managers already know: A new truck runs longer between repairs than an older one, enhancing reliability and customer service. And his first new truck, a Freightliner 122SD, is such a treat to drive that he wishes he had the time to do it. As it is, his dad gets all the fun.
The 31-year-old former construction worker is the founder and president of Nuñez Trucking, composed of 17 dump trucks operating in the Austin, Texas, area. He also brokers loads to about 30 owner-operators, and revenues in December were his best ever. His trucks haul sand, gravel, and stone to residential and commercial building sites.
“We delivered 63,755 loads last year, an average of 1,200 loads per week,” Nuñez says. The long-wheelbase, multi-axle straight trucks often encounter rough terrain and need to be rugged, and he ran traditional premium brands up until a year ago. That’s when he bought a custom-spec’d 122SD, Freightliner’s upscale severe-duty model. He says it’s built better, but cost $20,000 less than a premium brand with comparable specifications.
Components include Meritor steer and drive axles, four Watson & Chalin lift axles, and a 505-hp Detroit DD15. The diesel and its exhaust aftertreatment equipment have been very reliable, and fault codes seldom appear. “Mechanics talk about how much of a pleasure it is to work on,” Nuñez says.
The 122SD’s aluminum cab is roomy and quiet, and an Allison automatic transmission is a work-saver. “Not having to shift creates a much more pleasant ride for the driver,” in this case Nuñez’s father, Pedro. “It allows my dad to focus on what’s going on around him and keep both hands on the steering wheel, looking forward, instead of fiddling around with a stick shift. He says it’s one of the most comfortable trucks he’s ever driven.”
Nuñez started out buying used trucks and running them to about 1 million miles, but average mileage in the fleet is now 250,000. “I don’t want over 650,000 [miles] for a 15-liter engine and 500,000 for a 13-liter. Based on my experience, that’s when you have a downhill slope for reliability,” he says. “You have to get used to the idea of spending $180,000 for a new truck instead of $80,000 for a used one, but that extra $100,000 is equity that you get back when you trade,” at least on his schedule.
The 122SD is “a luxury that I always wanted but couldn’t afford. Now I can afford it but can’t drive it,” he says. “As soon as you think you’ll have a chance to drive, the phone starts ringing.”
Which isn’t a bad problem to have.