The COVID-19 pandemic exacerbated problems that had already existed in the commercial trucking industry for years as demand for delivered goods skyrocketed in 2020 and 2021. Those problems included issues surrounding compensation, hazard pay, COVID-19 vaccine mandates as well as a general shortage of licensed truck drivers.
While it may at first seem counterintuitive, these problems make 2022 and beyond a great time for trucking businesses to finance the expansion of their fleets and hire more drivers. Consider the fact that the demand for delivered goods, especially imported goods, will remain strong.
Also, supply chain disruptions have created an urgent need for stronger transportation systems for consumer products, and late last year, the Biden Administration announced a program aimed at increasing the number of licensed truck drivers in the country as part of the $1.2 trillion Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act.
These are, in fact, just some of the reasons Kapitus recently expanded its criteria for lending to trucking companies by offering equipment financing to purchase new or used commercial trucks via long-duration loans with competitive pricing.
“When we get filings in, I would say that nearly 70% of the filings are trucking-related, whether it’s just box trucks for local deliveries, trailers and long-haul trucks,” said Kevin Morello, manager, asset-based finance for Kapitus. “These are comfortable deals [for lenders] to make because long-haul trucks are such strong cash flowing assets.”
What are Your Loan Options?
There are several financing options for trucking business owners seeking to expand their fleet or buy their first truck. One of the advantages for trucking companies is that lenders generally have a positive view of commercial trucking companies – especially the big semi-trucks – because the truck itself is a cash-generating asset, and if you do take out a loan for a truck, the vehicle itself becomes the collateral. The supply chain disruptions still being felt have also made trucking services in high demand, and therefore trucks are considered “business essential.”
Like with any other lending, the type of financing you get to purchase either a used or new truck depends on your credit score and how long you’ve been in business; but there are a large number of traditional and alternative lenders.
That said, your financing options when purchasing a truck vary:
#1 Finance Directly Through a Vendor
Much like the way you would purchase a car for your personal use, you can purchase a truck through a dealer, who would then search for financing options with several different lenders for you. Traditional banks such as US Bank, Wells Fargo and Bank of America offer lending programs specifically tailored to trucking companies.
These loans typically offer low-interest rates and long durations, but don’t be surprised if you’re turned down. Traditional banks typically demand down payments which can be quite large, as an average-priced new semi-truck can cost between $100,000 and $200,000. They also have stringent requirements such as credit scores at least in the high 600s, minimum annual revenues and multiple years in business. While lenders still have an overall positive view of trucking companies, they are starting to see them as being a bit more risky in the waning days of the pandemic, as over 3,100 trucking companies went belly up at the height of COVID-19.
This loan is backed by the US Small Business Administration and is tailored for the purchase of fixed assets. It provides financing of up to $5 million and a term of between 10- to 20 years, and usually offers rates typically pegged to the current market rate of five- and 10-year US Treasury notes.
These loans are offered through Certified Development Companies (CDCs) and the assets must be used to promote business development within a particular area and increase employment. Like traditional banks, this type of loan carries stringent requirements such as a high credit score and multiple years in business. If you qualify , these loans can be an excellent source of financing for a new or used commercial long-haul truck.
If you’ve been turned down for a loan by a dealer or traditional bank, you’re probably going to have better luck with alternative lenders – financing companies that fall outside the traditional banking sphere. Many of these lenders operate online and offer the same range of financing options as traditional banks, often with fewer requirements but at a higher cost of capital. Alternative lenders are just as legitimate and traditional banks, and typically can turn around a loan for you in less time than a traditional bank.
If you choose to go with an alternative lender, be careful, as there are many of them out there. Do your research on which ones are most popular, legitimate and offer the most competitive rates. Some may make many appealing guarantees, but with any product or service that you purchase, it’s always best to keep that old adage in mind – if it’s too good to be true, it probably is.
Since commercial vehicles are equipment, why not investigate equipment financing? If you don’t meet the strict requirements of traditional banks, alternative lenders may require a slightly lesser credit score, usually require less paperwork and can probably turn the loan around for you more quickly than a traditional bank.
Additionally, alternative lenders often don’t require a down payment when it comes to equipment financing. For example, according to Morello, Kapitus sees roughly half of our equipment financing customers for commercial trucks require a down payment depending on credit score and time in business.
The downside of equipment financing for commercial trucks is that alternative lenders – much like traditional banks – often require a certain amount of time in business. Put simply, it will be easier to get financing to add to your existing fleet of trucks than to obtain financing for your first truck, since lending to an established company will always be deemed less risky than lending to a first time buyer.
“With trucking it’s challenging to finance your first truck,” said Morello. “So whenever customers come to us and it’s an owner-operator, or it’s a sole proprietor, that’s way more challenging than when you start building out your fleet. It’s also super rewarding when people come to us when they have a fleet of two or three or four, and then we can finance more than one vehicle for them.”
Business Lines of Credit
While commercial trucks typically have long shelf lives – like any piece of machinery – they need regular maintenance and repairs. This is where a business line of credit from either a traditional bank or an alternative lender will come in handy, because when a truck breaks down due to wear and tear, your company will lose money fast.
A business line of credit can provide immediate cash when you need it to make emergency repairs and maintain a strong resale value for your truck. Like with any financing, it’s important to shop around to see which lenders offer the best terms and easiest access to capital.
Know Your Options
The trucking industry is in high demand right now and that probably isn’t going to change in the foreseeable future. If you’re seeking to expand your existing fleet or purchase your first truck, it’s important to closely examine your financing options and research various lenders available to you. Getting the best rates and terms on your loans may be just as important as gaining new clients.