At a recent Board meeting of the Used Truck Assn., 27-year industry veteran and Truck Blue Book Advisory Council member Steve “Bear” Nadolson brought to life the issue of having complete and accessible specs available for used trucks.

Nadolson said he saw a Discovery Channel documentary on the discovery of two Civil War-era locomotives resting side by side in an upright position on the ocean floor. Historians searched in vain for a year to determine make and model information to assist them in classifying these wonderful artifacts.

It occurred to Nadolson that parallels between providing build specs for locomotives built over 100 years ago and trucks manufactured today are not that far apart.

Currently, Freightliner provides the most complete information of all the manufacturers. It places a label in its trucks with the serial number; engine make, model and horsepower; engine serial number; rear axle ratio; transmission make and model; wheelbase; as well as other data specific to the truck. This information is accessible and protected from wear and discoloration.

On older trucks, the information is in the glove box; on newer trucks it is located on a panel in front of the passenger seat, but you have to carefully remove a panel to see it.

Volvo runs a close second in providing this kind of information. However, because it's displayed on the doorpost, the information is subject to wear and tear and can become illegible over time. International trucks have some information posted on their doorposts, but it is far from being as comprehensive as needed.

Kenworth provides quite a bit of detail, but once again it is placed on the doorpost of the driver's door — not the best place to avoid wear and tear.

Older Peterbilt trucks have very little information available on stickers or placards, leaving the appraiser crawling under trucks to check various vendor tags for pertinent information. Recent labeling in the glove box by this OEM is a step in the right direction.

Sterling information is similar to Freightliner's, but is not easily accessible; you have to remove five Torx head screws to gain access to the label.

Like Freightliner, Western Star has recently started to provide complete information in the glove box.

Mack information is sketchy, to say the least, and has a way to go to catch up in the labeling area.

Engine manufacturers do a good job of posting information on their engines. However, truck manufacturers obscure the information with wiring and support brackets!

It's not fair to be critical without offering some recommendations. So based on years of experience, “Bear” Nadolson suggests that OEMs provide at least the following information:

  • Complete VIN
  • Engine serial number
  • Engine make and model
  • Engine horsepower
  • Transmission make and model
  • Rear axle ratio
  • Front and rear axle capacity
  • Wheelbase
  • Empty weight
  • Build date
  • Truck model
  • Interior type
  • Sleeper size

Nadolson recommends that the information be posted inside the cab of a truck and be easily accessible. In addition, he suggests using a durable label, resistant to any damage.

A manufacturer at the 2005 Mid-America Trucking Show suggested to “Bear” that the information be encoded on the ECM so that it could be accessed by a reader. Good idea, but the fact remains that in the field you don't often have a reader handy.

Should anyone doubt this is an important issue, let them accompany a used truck manager while he tries to get specs and data off a truck in the rain, with the wind howling at 25 mph. Moving to an industry standard is very much a necessity.

There may never be two Class 8 tractors parked side by side on the ocean floor waiting to be discovered. And we don't expect the information to last 100 years-50 should suffice.