When it's time to move your fleet's trucks and replace them with new units or you're looking to purchase some used iron, what's your M.O.? Use your company website or check others', buy or sell locally, go to an auction somewhere?
There's another way to do things that ensures buyers get what they pay for, one company claims, and helps sellers get more money for their used machines. IronPlanet, best known for running big auctions of "yellow iron" — off-highway trucks and equipment — has also refined its TruckPlanet online marketplace to something of a science.
Those familiar with online auction giant eBay and similar sites will find some of the concepts involved in TruckPlanet familiar. For instance, there's the possibility of selling with a reserve, which is a price set by a seller where the item won't sell unless bidding reaches that level or higher. Or sellers can choose a weekly online auction where trucks have no reserve and an attractive starting price, so more bidders get involved and the item will sell once that initial bid is placed.
But as with a great many things these days, the real differences are in the details. Here's a walk-through of some TruckPlanet features and advantages from a discussion with Paul Blalock, vice president of sales at IronPlanet and also responsible for the TruckPlanet marketplace, and Susan Stillings, chief marketing officer at IronPlanet.
1. Different options for how to sell.
While the approximately 20 IronPlanet physical auctions held around the United States each year do include on-highway trucks — fleets and trucking companies are welcome to sell their trucks at those if they'd like — there may be some specific reasons to sell online via TruckPlanet.
TruckPlanet is focused on its auction held every Thursday, according to Blalock, which is "no reserve" where a starting price is set for each truck that he says "will get everybody engaged." A range of bidders from dealers and wholesalers to owner-operator businesspeople will make the opening bid and take the price up from there; the next one of those auctions is April 7.
Alternatively, TruckPlanet has a Daily Marketplace that's running continuously where sellers can place a reserve price or "Win It Now" outright purchase price. And if a seller puts a reserve on a truck that isn't met by the end of the auction, there still could be more options.
"If someone put in a truck with a $20,000 reserve price and it hit $18,000 on the final day, for example, it won't sell. But we can contact the seller and the high bidder and try and negotiate a deal," explains Blalock. "Maybe we can get the seller to come down $1,000 and the buyer to come up $1,000 and sell it at $19,000."
Depending on sellers' particular needs and the trucks they're looking to move, TruckPlanet/ IronPlanet can help them choose which venue is most advantageous for them, he adds.
2. No need to transport your truck(s) to an auction site.
One of the big benefits of the TruckPlanet online marketplace that can put more money in the seller's pocket is that trucks don't have to be transported to an onsite physical location.
"Relocating your truck can be an expensive proposition," says Blalock. "To sell online with us, you don't have to transport the truck; we can sell it from your yard." And once a truck sells, the buyer has eight business days to come get it.
Again, sellers are also welcome to have their trucks and equipment auctioned at one of the company's physical locations if that's to their advantage, he notes.
3. The "IronClad Assurance" inspection report and financial backing.
This is the key differentiator with selling and buying on TruckPlanet, according to Blalock and Stillings: the patented IronClad Assurance inspection and financial backing of the trucks that are sold.
"When a seller consigns their truck to sell on TruckPlanet, the first thing we do is go out to the truck with our inspector," Blalock tells Fleet Owner. The inspector plugs in to check miles via the truck's electronic control module and goes through the vehicle taking a series of photos.
"Then we'll take that inspection report and post it online for our buyers to see," he says. And the point is to get each truck or piece of equipment represented accurately — TruckPlanet backs the inspection report financially, so if something's not right in the report, the company is on the hook to make good on it.
"Our buyers are purchasing with confidence based on that report," says Blalock. "When I say we financially stand behind it, if our report doesn't represent that truck accurately, the buyer can file a claim with us and we will remedy the problem."
Stillings notes that the IronClad Assurance inspection and report process was put in place years ago. IronPlanet found it was necessary and designed it to ensure bidders could commit to the kinds of big-dollar amounts trucks and other equipment can bring without having to face a "buyer beware" situation.
"When what you bought shows up on your lot, it's like, 'Yes, that's what I bought,'" she says. And the inspections/reports are available for all IronPlanet's selling methods, including the physical location auctions. Thus where other online auction venues or physical auctions put the onus on the buyer — caveat emptor — IronPlanet and TruckPlanet aim to take the uncertainty out of the mix.
4. Wide variety of trucks and vehicles.
You'll find all kinds of trucks for sale on TruckPlanet from Classes 1 through 8 and in a variety of conditions/mileage, and accompanying equipment like trailers as well. "You tell us what you have to sell," Blalock contends. "There's buyers that are seeking different trucks for different needs."
So that's everything from Ford F-150s to fleets of day cab and sleeper trucks, some of those latter being late models with perhaps 300,000 or 600,000 mi. or high mileage to the tune of 1.5 million. "People always ask me, 'Do you sell a million-mi. truck?' We sell those every week," Blalock says. "They always find a home."
Sellers can even move salvage or wrecked trucks via TruckPlanet, unless the company's inspectors deem it's better off sold for scrap metal, he adds. "People buy salvage trucks or parts trucks all the time," he notes.
And meanwhile, you can sell "from one truck to 100 or as many as you'd like," according to Blalock, although TruckPlanet has a number of fleet accounts where a seller might consign "30, 40, 50 trucks or more at a time."
5. Much broader audience of bidders.
Another significant advantage of IronPlanet and TruckPlanet is the ability to reach a much larger audience of bidders, Blalock notes. While the on-location auctions can be huge, bringing in nearly $100 million in sales in one event recently, hundreds of trucks are being sold every week in the online marketplace.
The TruckPlanet online auction every Thursday currently averages about 300 trucks, "but we may sell 1,000 units on a given Thursday, and that equipment is all over — it's in Canada, it's in all 50 [U.S.] states, even in Hawaii. It's our North America sale," Blalock says.
As widespread as the trucks' locations may be, the bidders might be even more so. The company has about 1.4 million registered users, "and in our online auctions, we are truly a global marketplace," he adds. "I'm always astounded how far these trucks will travel once they're sold."
"Week in and week out," TruckPlanet sells trucks from the U.S. West Coast to the East Coast and vice versa, Blalock claims, or into Canada, Europe, Central or South America, and other locations. TruckPlanet is seeing a trend of about 30% international sales for North American trucks.
Notably, "that 30% number is pretty much true across the board" at this point, adds Stillings. For example, with an onsite auction earlier this year in Florida, "we had attendees — which means people that came and looked online — from 175 countries, and we had bidders from 49 countries including the U.S.," she tells Fleet Owner. "So that's very much an international audience as well."
Compare that with a typical physical auction, Blalock points out, where "their audience comes from within about a 250-mi. radius to buy from that location."
6. Bidders are checked out, too.
TruckPlanet has also helped address another well-known demon that can plague common online auction sites: the deadbeat buyer.
Stillings explains that there's an additional step required to go from registered user to have bidding privileges. "You come in, you become a registered user, you give us some information and you get an email back with a password and username," she says. "But then you need to actually request bidding privileges."
"It's an extra step. When people request bidding privileges, we do run a check before we give those out," she continues. "It's not a long process — if you decide you want to bid and participate in auctions and you request bidding privileges today, you could be bidding away next week or even shorter than that."
Though the process is designed to not be cumbersome or prohibitive for buyers, it helps ensure those who bid on auctions are reliable.
Those are some advantages TruckPlanet and IronPlanet can offer your fleet as a seller or buyer, Stillings and Blalock say. But Blalock adds that there are others that might even be specific to fleets, like buyers learning what certain sellers offer and looking for those trucks particularly.
An example of that is TruckPlanet's partnership with Walmart, which began in December 2015, through which the discount retailer and grocery store sells "predominantly their sleeper fleet and what we call their yard trucks or spotter trucks." Fleet accounts like that one have been growing significantly for TruckPlanet, Blalock contends.
"Our buyers realize that we sell for these accounts, and these trucks bring a lot of interest," he says. "For example, Walmart is unique in that they place a driver in a [sleeper] truck, and that driver tends to stay in the truck for the entire life of it until they're ready to sell it. They're not doing a lot of transferring drivers in and out.
"And if one driver is going to spend a lot of time and earn his livelihood in that truck, he's going to keep it clean. Those trucks are also very well maintained," he continues. "So those Walmart trucks are very highly sought after."