We rented a truck yesterday. It was a 14 foot truck which is a fairly large truck and is listed as a commercial vehicle. I don’t have a commercial driver’s license and was not informed by the clerk that I needed to stay off Parkways and other non-commercial roads. Fortunately it was not my first time renting a truck. In fact, when I thought about the entire experience, which lasted less than five hours, I could not distinguish it being any different than it was back in the 1970’s. And that was just fine.
It had snowed several inches the day before and due to the impending storm that was about to descend upon Manhattan, (that being Santa-con not snow), we moved our rental date from Saturday to Sunday. It was a good call. By Sunday morning the precipitation in the Tri-State area had abated and the roads were relatively empty. The clerk at the BP gas station was pleasant enough as well as deliberate, which is to say slow-moving. The final ‘contract’ had to be printed out multiple times on a printer that might just have been made in the 1970’s. Finally he gave us the go-ahead to head out noting that he could not answer many questions since that unit did not often rent trucks.
I have no loyalty to any particular company when it comes to renting a truck since the decision is based first upon availability and then upon cost. Have you ever been to a truck rental unit that rents truck and only trucks? I don’t recall that ever happening. Whenever I have rented a truck there’s always some other business going on simultaneously such that the truck rental is treated mostly as an afterthought. The trucks are always old-ish, dirty, the controls are difficult to read and the seats uncomfortable at best. You want loud? Just rent a truck. How an engine that feels like it has about as much power as 4 ducks running around on a treadmill can be so loud is a mystery to me. If you turn on the heater or air-conditioner AND the completely up-to-date AM-FM radio, you may, just may be able to fight back the white noise of the duck engine drone.
I actually think it’s a bit odd (and totally great) that truck rental units allow just anyone with a valid driver’s license to walk up and drive away with a large vehicle which they probably have never driven before. If ever you have driven a 14 foot truck you know what I mean. It’s not an overgrown Suburban) if you know what I mean. Another thing I’ve noticed is that I believe that I have never rented a truck that had a license plate from a state within 500 miles of where I am. Where are all the Connecticut rental trucks?
Do you think there might be a for-additional charge EZ-PASS in the rental truck, (did you say missed revenue opportunity?) No chance. And you really have no idea what the charge might be when you go through a toll – sort of toll-roulette game of ‘hope I have enough cash’. Will the toll cost ten or twenty dollars?
Returning the truck was easy if not, you guessed it, slow. We traveled 100 miles, rented the truck for a total of five hours and the cost was I guess reasonable at $135. Plus $40 in gas. And some unknown amount in tolls but I had less cash than when I left my house.
All in all it was a fine, decidedly low-tech experience, one that I expect will not last much longer as some smart company should be able to figure out how to create and brand a higher level experience for the same overall cost (or less). When it comes to renting a truck, it would not take much to raise the level of the customer experience. Any takers?