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View Full Version : What to look for in a tandem?


sqrl$$
06-21-2009, 05:15 PM
Thinking about picking up a used tandem. Looking for something under $20k. I currently own a swimming pool company and have hiring out my digging and hauling and am toying with buying my own stuff to do it myself. I am not sure what to look for as far as what brand truck, motor, rear suspension and tranny. Any help would be greatly appreciated. I will be using the truck for about 60% hauling equipment and %40 hauling dirt/rock if that helps.

chaikwa
06-21-2009, 05:30 PM
My personal opinion is that dirt work and air ride suspensions don't play well together. Blow out a bag while you're dumping and the truck will be on it's side.

I'd be looking for something with a Hendrickson walking beam suspension because that's all I've ever had. I know Volvo has some kind of spring/walking beam arrangement that people speak highly of, but I have no first hand knowledge about it.

Mack has always had the Camel back suspensions that seem to hold up pretty good. They're like a walking beam, but the spring pack acts as the beam.

No matter what truck I was buying, I've always insisted on at least 44,000 pound rears and a 14,000 pound front. I don't like 'light'. Get it too light and you'll be forever replacing king pins, springs, bushings, drive shafts... you name it and it will break. My motto; "what will do a lot, will do a little"!

I've always had double frames as well. I've seen people have good luck with what I call 'fish-plated' frames, where the outer frame rail doesn't encompass the lower flange of the inner rail. I guess this is ok, but I prefer a full double frame. Single frames twist too much and eventually crack, then break. I've re-framed trucks for people that insisted they could do dirt work with a single framed truck.

I'd also look for something with a small motor in it, 300 HP or less. That way, you can throw almost anyone in the truck and not worry too much about them twisting drive shafts off or snapping axle shafts!

Tranny's... I don't know. If I was driving it myself, I prefer an 8 speed with a double low hole, but that may befuddle a newer or occasional driver. Again, Mack has pretty bullet proof 5 and 6 speed tranny's.

I guess if I was putting drivers in this thing, I'd be looking for an R or DM model Mack, probably in the mid to late 80's, early 90's. 237 or 300 Mack motor with 20k front and 44k rears or better. 6 speed low hole. No A/C... keep it simple!

It's a buyers market right now I would think, so you should be able to find something pretty reasonable with decent spec's.

I'm sure some other guys will speak up here with other ideas too. There's a lot of experience around these parts!

chaikwa.

sqrl$$
06-21-2009, 06:00 PM
Been thinking about the R model Macks, everyone says they are about as tough as they come. I will be to only one operating it and I am easy on my equipment. Any insight into the Ford L9000's? I see them regularly for $10-15k I am sure the lower price means less truck, just wanting to be a little more educated. I will realistically be using this truck only about once a week so I don't need a high dollar rig.

rich
06-21-2009, 09:45 PM
the older the truck the harder it is to find parts. get something mid 90's. the air bag with spring suspension is ok but anything with just airbags tends to walk around. we run 9 speeds and they get us anywhere. i will never own any truck with a hp less then 350 better to have the extra power then not and need it. good luck on finding one in descent shape under 20k. look in truckpaper.com best place to look for one. raise the bed and shut the truck off and check the hydraluic system for any leaks or bleed off also check the cylinder for leaks mite even load it and dump with it to make sure everything is working right

Totallyrad
06-21-2009, 10:05 PM
Good info above. I don't like the air bag setups, they're not as stable while dumping and they have more wheel hop in poor traction situations. Find a purpose built truck, stay away from over-the-road trucks that have been converted to dumps. They're usually geared to high.

Field_boss_cb
06-21-2009, 10:31 PM
I recommend a 14 liter or larger engine. Horsepower is good at 300HP or more.
The torque of the bigger engines is more important than horsepower for getting started with a heavy load. The Mack transmissions are very strong, and also the 8LL transmissions. Taking off with a heavy load is where the Cat 3406 shines, being it is close to 15 liter.

pind
06-22-2009, 12:53 AM
For those anti-airbag gurus.

Most somewhat modern units have auto dump for the bags. As soon as you trip the gate, the bags drop, leaving you with "solid" suspension. The truck upfitters were somewhat forced to go that way, because those of us too dumb to drop the suspension, inevitably ended up on our heads.

Western Star and Mack are hard to beat for vocational trucks in your application. Both are built strong for off-highway use, and although neither are overly comfortable, or pretty, they get the job done right.

In the more modern dump trucks, I have seen a lot of kenworths with 20k lb fronts, 50k rears, air ride, 18 speeds, and 565 ISX cummins. I have never figured out exactly what kind of gravel they are hauling with those, but they never want for power or gears.

Take the time to figure out purchase price, and also after purchase shock, such as basic maintenance costs, fuel costs, etc. Then buy accordingly.

03 ant a hemi
06-22-2009, 01:11 AM
I ran a 96 MAC, 98 Mac and a 07 M2 Freightliner. All had 18 speed trannys and all had air suspension. Both the Macs were fuel efficient, had enough power for hauling their load.
All three trucks sucked hauling a pup down the highway when loaded. but they would get their.
They were all 350 or so HP,
Dump your airbags before you dump your load. Things will be fine.

When you go to look at these trucks, check the hydraulics as already mentioned. Check the rear pivots for cracks and wear. Also check the frame and other structural components for cracks. Check the PTO for any leaks.

chaikwa
06-22-2009, 08:14 PM
Any insight into the Ford L9000's?Yes, their windshield wipers are backwards! [laugh] Seriously tho, it should do you fine for what you're going to be using it for. I had a single axle L9000 with the Brazilian Cummins thing in it. It was a good little truck that couldn't get out of its' own way but ran forever.

I recommend a 14 liter or larger engine. Horsepower is good at 300HP or more.
The torque of the bigger engines is more important than horsepower for getting started with a heavy load. The Mack transmissions are very strong, and also the 8LL transmissions. Taking off with a heavy load is where the Cat 3406 shines, being it is close to 15 liter.Yes, I agree. He's going to be driving this himself, so big HP is fine. He'll twist off a driveshaft or explode an axle, pay for it himself and learn from it. A hired driver doesn't always care about such things except for the fact that they can hear really cool noises when it happens. BT,DT!

For those anti-airbag gurus. Most somewhat modern units have auto dump for the bags.How much 'modern' do you think he'll get for 20 grand? I've operated dump trucks with air ride and it's like driving a boat. [yuk]

Western Star and Mack are hard to beat for vocational trucks in your application. Both are built strong for off-highway use, and although neither are overly comfortable, or pretty, they get the job done right.I would have loved to have a Western Star when I was running trucks. I had Autocars, 20 fronts, 56 rears with 20k pushers, 8 speed double low holes and 400 Cummins, no A/C. On average, we were hauling 130,000 pounds of bank run gravel about 5 miles. Those trucks would handle it fine, but a nice Western Star sure would have made the days more comfortable!

chaikwa.

DmaxEter
06-22-2009, 09:55 PM
Like stated before, DUMP THE AIR BAGS BEFORE DUMPING THE TRAILER! If the tractor is not plumbed to dump when the tail gate is released, there is a switch in the dash to do it! Use it and the bag setup is not too bad.

Personaly, Mack is the only way to go for your application in my opinion. R model parts are not hard to find and anything you want for one is still in production for the most part. Either that or there is enough old stock to keep you supplied for at least your life time!

Cant beat a CL mack for a heavy truck with a little more modern feel and comfort than an R model. This one has a wet kit and one of the last of the best Mack engines! Its also 100% Mack, Engine, trans, and rears.

http://www.commercialtrucktrader.com/big-trucks/find/listing/1998-MACK-CL713-94492599

rich
06-23-2009, 08:42 PM
be ready to spend money on front tires with the mack unless they have changed it they seem to eat only one tire really bad or at least every tandem mack i have been around

Russ Roth
06-23-2009, 10:15 PM
be ready to spend money on front tires with the Mack unless they have changed it they seem to eat only one tire really bad or at least every tandem Mack i have been around

My brother has driven tandem drive Macks since 1972 and has never had an issue with front tire wear. He's put over 850,000 on his current one and I'm sure he would have mentioned it. I have driven part time for the same company off and on since '73. I don't think it would be an exaggeration to say I have driven in excess of a hundred different Macks, all tandems or 4 axle tags and never seen that problem either. The company probably is running over 250 tractors and very few are not Macks. I'm sure I would have heard something if there was some type of issue with that.

pind
06-24-2009, 01:56 AM
How much 'modern' do you think he'll get for 20 grand? I've operated dump trucks with air ride and it's like driving a boat. [yuk] chaikwa.

Well, considering that a guy I work for just picked up two trucks, a 96 freightliner, and a 94 kenworth, for 16k CDN each... you might get reasonably modern.

Seriously enough, in this neck of the planet, most of the airbag trucks had auto-dump valves as far back as 88-89 model years. Before, that, you had to flip the switch yourself.

chaikwa
06-24-2009, 06:32 AM
Well, considering that a guy I work for just picked up two trucks, a 96 freightliner, and a 94 kenworth, for 16k CDN each... you might get reasonably modern.Ok, that's a little different than what I was thinking. When I hear 'modern', I'm thinking in terms of 2002 and newer.

Seriously enough, in this neck of the planet, most of the airbag trucks had auto-dump valves as far back as 88-89 model years. Before, that, you had to flip the switch yourself.Where I'm from, (New England), I don't think anyone ever considered using air ride on a straight truck dump application until the late 90's. I could be wrong, but I never saw it around there until about that time frame.

chaikwa.

hyperrcng
06-24-2009, 05:26 PM
First thing to do is look around and see what other hauling companies are using, tandems, tri's, quad's. Main reason falls to your state weight laws.

Most tandems will have a 52,000 lb gross unless it is spec'd heavier.

Chalmers, Hendrickson, or Camel back(Mack) is all good rear suspension for what you are doing.

I would stay away from the spoke style hub and wedge fit wheels (dayton). Cost of maintance with those is higher as opposed to budd or uni-mount wheels.

Look at the truck dealers and truck parts houses in your area. Mack is a very good truck for what you plan but parts in your area may be difficult to get.

9 or 10 speed trans will do everything your wanting to do

Look for the common engines, C-15/3406E Cat, 60 series Detroit, N-14 Cummins, E-7 427/460 Mack

What kind of trailer do you plan on pulling your equipment on??? You will need some type of trailer connection. Pindel hitch is most common and most trailers like that have air brakes also. The truck will need to either be set up or already set up.

If you haven't already got it, class A cdl w/air brakes will be required for the combo.

I'd stay away from the old stuff. I know you want to stay in a 20k budget but you do get what you pay for. Stay with something thats newer than 15 years old. The way most of those trucks are worked, in 5 years they so wore out you will break the bank in repairs.

Mack is the preferred for what you are doing but like a Volvo, can be hard to get parts in your area.(remember to check around)

rich
06-24-2009, 08:52 PM
My brother has driven tandem drive Macks since 1972 and has never had an issue with front tire wear. He's put over 850,000 on his current one and I'm sure he would have mentioned it. I have driven part time for the same company off and on since '73. I don't think it would be an exaggeration to say I have driven in excess of a hundred different Macks, all tandems or 4 axle tags and never seen that problem either. The company probably is running over 250 tractors and very few are not Macks. I'm sure I would have heard something if there was some type of issue with that.

well then i'll tell those guys here running the mack dump trucks that they are wrong

BHD
06-25-2009, 05:37 PM
I am not an air suspension fan either, I have done lots of off highway work with tandem trucks and the air suspensions can't hold a candle to spring suspension trucks. Yes they ride harsh on the road empty, but springs are a lot less work to maintain and repair. Also beware of really cheap dumps, because some are no more than a tractor with a bed, not a good combo. Also unless you have a Ford Heavy Truck dealer close by forget the blue ovals and Sterlings, parts are a miserable thing to get for the L9000s and it has to be a heavy truck dealer unless you have your truck's build sheet. Ford must have made a gazillion changes to those trucks over the years and at times are a nightmare to repair for lack of parts support. Mack and Freightliner have a good line on replacement parts, but Mack will get them to you in half the time. I had three R model trucks in the fleet and they were tough as nails and good on fuel, the older trucks had 5 speeds and the newer ones had 10 and 18. I agree with the guy that said its a buyers market so shop around before you put one in the shed, good luck.

sqrl$$
06-25-2009, 08:02 PM
Also been thinking about a single axle dump truck. Looked at several FL60's and FL70's, Internationals, etc. Some say under CDL, some are over. What is the difference in what they will actually handle load wise? I don't have my CDL's right now because dad or my buddy have always handled all the big equipment moving. It is not a problem for me to get them because I have always been around this stuff, just thinking if I had something under CDL's then my employees could drive it as well. Not sure what route to go just yet and looking for opinions. I regularly need 5-6 tons of gravel on the job. Will an under CDL truck handle this without problems?

chaikwa
06-25-2009, 08:19 PM
Will an under CDL truck handle this without problems?I don't think it will matter much, because when you pull the trailer with the excavator on it, it will be over the CDL lower limit anyway. You might be able to keep it below the CDL limit hauling 5 or 6 tons of material, but it will depend on the tare weight of the truck. My truck for example, will haul just under 7.5 tons before it gets to the weight of CDL class, but if I put a body on it that would actually hold up to 7.5 tons, the amount it would carry would be closer to 4 or 5 tons. (I just have a light duty flat bed on it now).

I don't know how advantageous it would be for you to concentrate on non-CDL trucks considering what you want to do with it.

chaikwa.

sqrl$$
06-25-2009, 08:34 PM
How are these guys getting by with f-450's grossing 30k or more? I would think that an FL or International would haul/handle a load better than a 450/550. I don't understand how they derive at the ratings the manufacturer's rate them at. Just thinking that the under CDL rating might keep my insurance cheaper than having to get them CDL's and insuring them.

chaikwa
06-25-2009, 08:46 PM
How are these guys getting by with f-450's grossing 30k or more?Illegally, I'd say.

I would think that an FL or International would haul/handle a load better than a 450/550. It will, but it's easy to overload them too, just because it DOES handle the weight better.

Just thinking that the under CDL rating might keep my insurance cheaper than having to get them CDL's and insuring them.I don't know. In my case it was cheaper to insure my International with fire, theft and collision than it was to insure my Dodge W350 with just the bare minimum. And the registration fees were exactly the same because Michigan doesn't have a weight class between 10,000 pounds and 24,000 pounds, so I had to register the Dodge at 24K even tho it couldn't haul that much. [duhhh]

chaikwa.

sqrl$$
06-25-2009, 09:00 PM
Thanks chaikwa for the info and help. I will have to do some research into the insurance side of things.

I talked with a guy today at the gas station with an F450 crew cab 4x4 with a service body on it pulling a 24' gooseneck with dual tandem axles and a 4x4 case backhoe on it. I was asking him how it did and he of course said it handled it great (yeah right). He said he was grossing close to 40k? Looked like entirely too much weight for the truck, but it was a truck from a big outfit around here (Morton buidlings) so I would think that they would have tried to keep things legal since they have their name plastered all over the side of the truck and trailer.

03 ant a hemi
06-25-2009, 10:56 PM
I run trucks in the Oil Field here in Alberta Canada and we run air bags on the rear and have very little failure of them except when tire chains rip them off and the occasional worn out. We run some less then desirable terrain with lots of tires burried to the top with mud using a Cat to pull us out. They hold up pretty good.

Russ Roth
06-27-2009, 12:54 AM
well then i'll tell those guys here running the mack dump trucks that they are wrong

I never said anybody was wrong. What I said was I have been around Macks for years and never seen that. Macks use the same style front end and axles as everyone else so there must be something wrong with the rig for that to happen or something specific to the application they are in to cause the problem, IMHO.

DmaxEter
06-27-2009, 05:56 PM
I have been around Macks for several years myself and have actually encounted and fixed the mysterious "one steer tire wear" issue that Macks as well as others have been known to get from time to time. It affects others just as much as Macks too.

1-5-3-6-2-4
06-27-2009, 07:42 PM
So whats the root cause and fix for the issue of single steer wear?

DmaxEter
06-29-2009, 10:04 PM
The last three I had on the alignment rack had rear suspension bushings worn out or the rears were just not aligned correctly. It struck me as odd that only the one steer tire was wearing but it was. If one axle is out of alignment usually every tire on every axle ahead of it will wear but that wasnt the case in these. Maybe it just hadnt had time to show up yet but they were wearing the drivers side steer tire quick! After rear suspension work and an alignment they never have worn like that since!