Buying a Truck APU: Advice From Truckers and Reviews of Popular Brands

Over the past week, forum members have been discussing the best options for APUs in order to cut fuel use and engine idling expenses.  Despite high initial prices of around $8,000, the ThermoKing TriPac  and Carrier ComfortPro are earning recommendations for low maintenance costs and long-term durability, as well as an extensive service network.  Rigmaster and derivative models such as the CCS Lightning might sell for $6,000-$7,000, but were panned for frequent and costly maintenance requirements, and excessively loud running noise.

Forum member Rollover the Original gives his advice to anyone looking at APU options:

STOP! Can you get it worked on any where in America? Or only at a FEW Flying J’s? Very few J’s have a shop! The RigMaster is a POS! Maintenance intensive! and that’s what [the CCS Lightning] unit is, a redesigned RigMaster! Research that unit fully before you jump on the “cost”!

Carrier runs all the time but is about as good as the TriPak by ThermoKing and BOTH of those units can be worked on all over the country by their respective dealers and you’ll find that they both have more shops than Flying J!

That’s part of the thing about APU’s. Where to have service done, NOT the price! Sure you’ll save it looks like $1000+ but will you “save” that money down the road when the unit quits and you have to go to a truck stop or a few places for repairs. Will the Flying J have the parts on hand or have to get them shipped in? ThermoKing and Carrier have the parts on hand!

Your new business plan will show that you want a reliable unit and a unit that you can get service for in more than a “few” locations. If the APU isn’t working, you’re hauling around a heavy boat anchor!

There are several more APU units out there but I had a mechanic that works on all of them tell me the most reliable ones he’s worked on is the TriPak by ThermoKing. I loved my TriPak after using the first 3 generations of that POS RigMaster! With the RigMaster you can look forward to oil changes every 100 hours with that Kubota engine! That’s every 10 days of use if it runs for 10 hours while on line 1! The air filter gets clogged up pretty fast too. AND it’s the nosiest APU I’ve heard out there!

The TriPak and Carrier units go for 1000 hours for the FIRST oil change then 1500 after that! Looks like that $1000 savings just went out the door in oil changes!

Do NOT let the cost of the unit guide your decision but look into them better than a “deal”

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{ 73 comments… read them below or add one }

gabe April 4, 2010 at 1:14 pm

hey looking to get a apu thinking of tripak any reason i should not get it

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Brad schultz May 28, 2010 at 1:39 pm

I have had my tri pak well for little over two years I have about ten thousands hours on it and besides getting it serviced every other time I get my truck serviced have had no problems out of it

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Doug August 27, 2013 at 8:24 am

It is impossible to to put 10, 000 hours on your tripac in 2 years. I use my all the time and after 15 months I have only put 1, 079 hours on it.

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Truck APUs June 27, 2010 at 7:16 pm

Gabe, I’ve read and heard the Tripac is one of the better units out there (though no personal experience). Sure some systems have (claim) more power, more cooling, and more heating, but truth be told, from an HVAC engineering standpoint, they are horribly, horribly designed. The lack the airflow over the condenser to cool it sufficiently, or the evaporator coil is way too small to adequately use the compressor’s capacity. In fact, if you ask an APU manufacturer how they determined the capacity, none I have encounted will say “By testing it at the following conditions” which is the right way to determine capacity. I personally think that’s false advertising
But anyway, Tripac is a relatively good design and service is readily available across the US for it.

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delbert July 10, 2010 at 6:20 pm

the box thats goes with apu under the bunk, has two plug outlets,can u hook up small refrigerator,or micro to them?

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RoadWarrior657 August 28, 2010 at 1:17 pm

I just posted on the thread comparing Carrier to the ThermoKing TriPak. These 2 are the apu’s to look at. RigMaster failed and is no longer on the market. Lesser companies putting out apu’s don’t promise to be around long to back you up down the road. All types of apu need service. Get one that you can get service for. Currently Carrier and ThermoKing are the only 2 units that offer the buyer sercurity. Pricing is roughly the same for either unit. TriPak used to be higher and the Carrier used to be lower. Dollar for dollar the TriPak is way better. The TriPak is quiet – Carrier is loud. The electrically powered A/C and heat from the Carrier unit is very disappointing compared to the mechanical a/c compressor and esbar heater of the Tripak. When you have the facts and have your homework done, the TriPak wins.

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Tony September 29, 2010 at 11:19 am

Hi, I just know APU is not the solutions for anti-idling.
Right now, only diesel fired heater is accepted by trucker. tri pack is toooooo expensive.
i heared there is a clear incentive program will cover almost half of the cost for heaters.

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ROB WILLIAMS November 3, 2010 at 5:07 pm

Can you tell me if there is a dot or any other law, that requires the apu unit to have a covering or motor hood installed or can it be hoodless?

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DL November 4, 2010 at 9:04 pm

Can anyone tell me if they have tried the hp2000 heat exchanger I’m wondering if that unit is any good?

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Amos August 13, 2013 at 4:25 pm

They are a POS There warranty is a nightmare to get anything fixed and nobody will touch them for service

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Conagher November 28, 2010 at 10:11 am

I am looking for someone who can overhaul the Yanmar engine that is used in the Tripak APU unit, or a respectable price on a good used engine.

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Trinity Hamilton March 27, 2011 at 3:54 pm

I have a Thermo King Tri Pak, The heater in the truck wont get warm at all, Everything is set right but still no heat, Anybody have any info that could help.

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Steve June 30, 2011 at 12:15 pm

Though they’re rarely mentioned online, from what I’ve heard and read, PowerCube seems solid. It’s kinda heavy (500 pounds) but personally, from everything else I’ve gathered, PowerCube just seems like the best choice. They claim to meet SAE J1503 testing criteria, which meant nothing to me before I googled it… but from that I get some piece of mind knowing what they’ve gone through to test those off-the-chart specifications that they flaunt everywhere. I’ve not owned a Tripak myself, but searching has revealed nothing about the APU’s testing or even the specs!! To me this seems odd since they’re supposedly the one of the “biggest” APU companies on the market. Now I’m thinking everyone is just paying for a name in Tripak. I’m not saying Tripak is a bad company, but for what PowerCube seems to be doing, I think they’re extremely under-rated.

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ron nelson July 1, 2011 at 1:52 pm

I currently have a Blackrock APU mounted on a 379 Pete and 2 Freightliners with Tripak units.
They all have operated of the last 4 years almost trouble free. The Blackrock is larger but also a self contained unit (now has a different name) The Tripak units are serviced by Penske on a regular basis so I could not tell you cost of Maintenance. All cool and heat well but the Blackrock runs the motor for both the Heat and A/C and is a little louder than the Tripak. Also takes up more room on the frame. There is a new unit out that is completely motor and diesel free if anyone knows that units name I would like to know more about it. Battery operated and recharges on truck running time.
Thank you RN

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slate August 26, 2013 at 5:55 pm

climacap sleeper is the unit you are refuring to

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Mike July 10, 2011 at 10:25 am

Trinity…if you’re not getting any heat then the tip inside the heater needs to be cleaned. I love my tripac…when it’s working that is. Lots of little troubles but it’s still better then the wear and tear on truck much less fuel $$$ from idling

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pawco July 12, 2011 at 9:08 am

I am currently using a Carrier APU. Its over 5 years old and still working good. I am wondering however what is the life span of this unit, should I be looking to upgrade.

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Jimboy July 19, 2011 at 12:39 pm

I don’t know that I would ask for advice on APUs here… The only time people reply to your comments are when you talk about Tripak. I think it’s safe to say Thermoking reps are hanging out here waiting to snatch you up… wouldn’t doubt if they wrote the post too. In my experience, You’d be better off just comparing the units and their specs yourself because most all truck APU review websites and posts seem like a load of bologna. So unless you actually just want someone to say “This is pretty good, but compare them to Tripak!” I suggest you look elsewhere =/

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TriPac Dude January 23, 2014 at 9:18 pm

You are obviously a big time TriPac hater. I’ve only ever had experience with it and Carrier, and the Carrier is pretty good too. Just kind of loud. Would not want one of those annoyingly loud RigMasters. You can hear them from across a parking lot. But TriPac is number one all the way! (No I’m not a Thermo King rep, just have one on the truck and love it)

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BJ August 5, 2011 at 2:17 pm

@Ron that new system is called a nite cool system. It sucks!!! It runs off 4extra batteries and it one MAINTAIN your bunk temp! Not sure where you stay but I leave in Vegas, and that system wasn’t cutting it for me.

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ADA August 5, 2011 at 10:05 pm

Rigmaster APU’s work just fine.

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Rick August 6, 2011 at 10:22 pm

What are you people talking about? Rigmaster is back on the market with a new owner. Look, I know the trucking business pretty well and it may be true that the old rigmaster was not good, but the new owner quickly improved the previous mistakes the old rigmaster made. The quality and everything has gotten much better. I have one and my fellow truckers have them too.
It’s worth the buy. Also affordable!

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elmodog August 7, 2011 at 8:15 am

thermo king or carrier? have 150 trucks running both systems , TK tripac wins hands down with the drivers. better cooling (a/c) and performance overall.

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Jackson August 13, 2011 at 11:27 am

4000W inverter Generator ~ $800
Good Electrical AC ~ $200
Good Electrical Heater – $80
Professional setup cost – $300
Total cost: ~ $1400
Results
Great satisfaction: works great, amazing cooling and heating, way cheaper and lighter. This will also power all your other electrical stuff including keeping your rig engine warm in the winter.

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David May 19, 2013 at 5:34 pm

Im looking for this kind of setup! Would you be interested in the work of setting one up for our truck?

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david August 25, 2011 at 5:57 pm

For all of you Rigmaster lovers out there…I’ve had one for 5 years..HATE IT. 3 air conditioners,2 generators,2 radiators,2 ENGINES!!,can’t remember how many starters,alternaters,belts,hoses…EVERYTHING! And guess what?…its broke down again. If you want it,email me and u can have it.

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Doug August 31, 2011 at 9:11 pm

Looking at a used powertech brand apu. Price is right but are they any good? Is this going to start after i have been driving for 12 hours in -35 weather? Looks like it has its own rad so will it keep my engine warm? I don’t think so but does anyone know anything about them?

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DL September 27, 2011 at 11:52 am

Anyone over heard of GoGreen? I understand that it is the new name of BlackRock

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Michael Polfer November 6, 2011 at 1:33 pm

As a Tripak owner the only shortcoming that I can mention is the absence of shore power. The carrier unit with it’s electric heat and air can simply plug in while parked and experience comfort without the hum of a running engine.. That said, shore power is only a benefit when you have shore power. My Tripak is a real workhorse. I have a lot of down time in the Moving business and I really rely on the comfort that my Tripak provides.Close to 9000 hours and just one tensioner pulley/belt plus oil changes. Almost forgot that I had to replace the burn chamber in the add-on bunk heater. Also not sure if other APU’s have an Artic package equivalent for cold weather. In freezing conditions my Tripak circulates warm water through my block for easy starts on subzero mornings.

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bctconley November 13, 2011 at 12:03 pm

the rig masters stinks is as loud as a full bore refer going and if you want it to work good luck, Mine look great cause it hardley worked was glad to get rid of it also put a sour taste in my mouth for these apu. But our government is giving us the shaft as usual look around for a better one, thars what I’m still doing

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Harold December 13, 2011 at 4:29 pm

Rig Master APU.. Sucks very badly… I’ve not seen any new ones, BUT the older units… you can hear them across most flying J , Petro , T/A Parking Lots…and have mercy on you if one fired up within a few trucks from where you are parked… I doubt that you’re going to get much sleep.. they were louder than the old reefers without their doors…

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vic ardolino December 14, 2011 at 12:06 am

I have a ccs and I like the 6k generator and locking cover also the electric heat and ac system.these small engines are all a lot more maintenance than the trucks engine.I have 2k hrs on mine and over 3 years of otr use.they have discotinued manufacturing them but if I was looking I would check out a centramatic apu because they are very similar.I looked at the Tripac but with no. Generator and everything belt driven (no shorepower) it wasn’t for me.good luck and happy hunting!

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Dennis April 7, 2012 at 1:45 pm

Here is an interesting study showing the actual benefits of APU equiped trucks. They are not comparing brands of APUs but simply fuel savings, environmental benefits and engine wear.

http://www.tc.gc.ca/eng/programs/environment-ecofreight-road-truck-auxiliary-power-unit-field-trial-557.htm

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laura May 19, 2012 at 8:39 pm

bought a comfort master,have problems with the computer looking to put a on and off switch on it,other than computerized. the company has shut done. other truckers have purchased this apu plz help me with ideas.

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Angie June 2, 2012 at 1:25 pm

Looking for a good APU that will provide AC as well as ongoing power for mini-fridge, coffee maker, electric skillet, etc. Any suggestions?

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tom hall June 21, 2012 at 11:12 am

I have read most of the comments on apu’s and it looks that not many have heard of the HP2000 our company has tried Tripak and Carrier with not so good of luck. Then they brought two of the HP2000 to try drivers were pleased with them they would cool the truck in south Texas and Arziona where we run.The company has installed 20 more and are very pleased.

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ron woolever July 1, 2012 at 3:51 pm

i have a powertech apu all i do is work on it wouldnt recomand to anyone

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Milt August 5, 2012 at 2:01 pm

how much amperage/wattage/volts can you expect out of an apu? I try to run a microwave-700 watt and my overhead lights go out. the toaster oven, same thing. cannot even attempt to run both at one time. sometimes with just my rear a/c on the lights go out. is this normal? –new to trucking.

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Milt August 5, 2012 at 2:04 pm

why are not generators used? they seem the best system. not charging batteries but actually giving some wattage and voltage to help ‘live’ in the tractor for a week to 3 weeks at a time with not so much trouble. I can’t even get answers from anyone on how these apu’s are supposed to handle and load up.

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Fender August 27, 2012 at 8:22 pm

I was thinking about rigmasters Mts v10 catwalk model. Has anybody tried it or know someone who has?

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julio September 20, 2012 at 10:30 am

apu’s are tooooo expensive and there is no quality built in them,if the EPA and the fuel price weren’t factors no one would be looking for them,tried twice the rigmaster and hate it,I heard they have a new one will not give them another chance; the termokng dealers all sell tripaks but everyone of them sets their own price and they are outrageous.Electrical seems the way to go,you just need to make sure your truck reloads batteries before running out,if u run in extreme weather ur needs may be totally different;All of them cost too much to maintain.Get creative,u might come up with some thing way cheaper

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Tom B. October 15, 2012 at 5:22 pm

Run from Dynasis. Bought because I loved the design. I wanted peace of mind when parked. Liked backing of OOIDA, and financing program. Now I’m paying monthly for headaches and worries. Less than 300 hours, three trips to dealer, cost miles time and loads. Doesn’t start on its own always. Replaced control box once, no help. Left me with dead batteries three times already. (A problem I didn’t have before apu.) Dealer stopped answering text and phone calls. Won’t cool truck in northern AZ in Oct..

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Carl October 23, 2012 at 9:08 pm

Tried alot of APU’S so far the HP2000 has worked very well for all my trucks, drivers are happy, they will all have problems from time to time so will our trucks but look what they can save you not only in fuel but in wear and tear on your engine and oil changes add it up in a 12 month time $$ but the service dept. and parts dept. is what helps my company the most they have been very helpful and honest that means alot if you are trying to stay up with todays Trucking Industry

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James Armani November 3, 2012 at 1:52 am

I just bought a Volvo 06 wich came with apu system I have no idea what brand except on inside panel it says “Comfortguard”! My quastion is after how long should it start blowing heat when you set it up to heat and turn it on? Iv got mine runing for an hour now and still no heat coming out

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charles November 6, 2012 at 2:35 pm

It might be the heater needs to be serviced. They need to be cleaned once a year. It could also be that it has lost it’s prime. I would recommend stopping by a Thermo King dealer and have it looked at.

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Steve November 19, 2012 at 9:22 pm

Does anyone know anything about road mate generators for trucks and rvs

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Amos November 28, 2012 at 10:38 am

We have an HP 2000 and have had a few issues with it. It was installed improperly at first by a dealer in Omaha and I called there factory rep and made arrangements to stop by there factory in Ill. They took the unit compleatly off and reinstalled it the right way at no cost to us. We have had two small maintance issues with it as there are no dealers in the Dakotas and the northwest states as yet. The unit runs quiet and very fuel efficient. The HP2000 has no problem maintaining cabin temps hot or cold

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GLENN November 28, 2012 at 10:44 pm

I AM CONSIDERING BUYING THE DYNASYS APU. DO HAVE ANY INFORMATION ON THIS UNIT OR COMPARISONS WITH IT TO ANY OTHER UNITS ie. TRIPAK

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Brian E February 28, 2014 at 8:44 am

Dynasys APU’s are complete junk. I work in a shop for a trucking company that has bought hundreds of Dynasys units. They have a host of problems. Broken radiators, replacing generator after generator. Bad A/C condensors. The list goes on and on. Don’t buy one. They are a waste of time and money. Look at a Thermo King Tri Pak. All of ours work great.

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amora November 29, 2012 at 9:23 pm

That’s great!
I do think APUs are too expensive to buy and maintain so I was looking for other options.
Would you please let us know which brand of Inverter Generator, and the A/C unit you are using?
Thank you,

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mike December 17, 2012 at 5:20 pm

a good piece of advice..in the summer you need to fire up the heater at least once a week..the heater pulls diesel fuel from the tanks..if the heater isnt fired up routinely the fuel will sit for a long time..degrading the pumps and filters..plus its old nasty diesel fuel thats been sitting for 5 or 6 months..same in the winter..fire up the a/c every once in a while to keep its innards fresh lol. The solution to your problem trinity may be old diesel fuel clogging in the filter and pump..may need to replace those. Sometimes mine doesnt shoot out hot air..sometimes i have to restart it to get it working..may be a relay switch or something. hope that helps.

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Spencer January 3, 2013 at 2:08 pm

I have two carrier comfort pro 6000 Apu units and I have to say been very pleased with both of them. 1 of them needed a new alternator the other a water pump and I have 5000-6000 hours on these 2 units and have been very reliable. The carrier runs all the time and is louder than the tri pack but puts up more than twice the electrical power of the tri pack and is capable of being plugged into shore power. they burn under full load about 1 fifth gallon of diesel fuel per hour and do a fantastic job of keeping the cab in the engine warm even at minus 30 degrees in the winter time. I live and worked out of the truck in North Dakota in the oilfield and I would not be here without these units. The AC system is a stand alone system and is not tapped into the truck system. I like that as I dont want the truck system tied into apu and have a leak taking down both systems. the carrier can be operated while going down the highway if you disengage the alternator on the carrier that way you do not have 2 units putting out 12 volt power to the batteries which would damage the electrical system of 1 or both units. Carriers have a dealer network across the country for repair if you need tri-packs and carriers have the largest network in the country I would not consider any other units as they are either made in China or have a poor performance record or have an inferior dealer network.

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Spencer January 3, 2013 at 4:56 pm

Check fuses and possible tripped circuit breakers

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Mike January 4, 2013 at 11:07 pm

Tom, if you call Emily at Dynasys, she will take care of your problem. They stand behind their product.

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jron January 21, 2013 at 4:15 pm

Make sure that inlet on your heater is not blocked it needs to able to get air from the back side of the unit otherwise it will not work and heater does have a safety cut off in the event it gets over heated, I just found out myself had the same problem would for a very short time and then quit, took the truck in and had it looked at found out it was not getting air unit was being blocked got that corrected unit now heats was told by tech unit has a safety cutoff and will cutoff in case it gets overheated. Good luck

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Tom February 1, 2013 at 4:00 pm

We have a lot of problems with hp2000.2-6 moths old ,but nothing but problems.Their waranty department is a nightmare to deal with.Keep giving exuses not to pay.These 55 trucks are more in the shop than on the road becouse of constant breakdowns.And I mean all of them!! Very disapointed :(

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Mark Norris February 5, 2013 at 12:01 pm

Tom, Sorry for the inconvenience you’re having with our system. We would appreciate it if you would call us directly to help you resolve this matter. As with any product it may have issues, but to have issues with all 55 units is not something we would not take lightly, our direct number is 618-997-0608. Please call us our hours are 8-6 M-F.

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