Penske Truck

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We have ended up using Penske trucks for the bulk of our move.  For some reason, their prices are consistently far below U-Haul and Budget.  We have been very pleased with the trucks, but being the odd person I am, I also find them somewhat amusing.  There is something kind of pleasing about driving a large(ish) truck such as the 26′ straight trucks we have been using.  I enjoy how they carry the large theme throughout the truck – large steering wheel, large guages, and best of all, a freakishly large bright headlight indicator light.  This is the same indicator we have come to know and love, just blown up 2.5x.  I found every opportunity to use brights so I could be amused by this.  I was also amused by how the driver’s seat belt in some trucks can accommodate a driver about 6′ wide.  The seat belt socket is placed about halfway across the bench seat.  It made me think that the expected driver is very large and quite myopic.  I can almost visualize this huge guy with coke-bottle glasses lumbering to his truck, climbing the large steps and heaving himself onto the large seat under the large steering wheel.

The other thing I appreciated about some of these trucks was the constant shaking.  Of course, one expects these trucks to ride much rougher than a car, but it is amazing just how shaky some of them they are.  Things were always shaking off the seat, particularly at speeds under 50.  It is clearly much better when fully loaded, but still shaky enough to be exhausting.  I can certainly see why truck drivers have such fancy air ride seats in their cabs.  If only Penske would spring for these.  I suspect a large part of this problem is tires because some ride a bit better, but still plenty rough.

The noise level was also fairly notable.  It didn’t really dawn on me until I tried to listen to a book on CD and found that the radio couldn’t go loud enough to be heard above the din.  My son was rather dismayed to find that he couldn’t hear his DVD player, even with a blanket over his head.  Of course, the next truck was much better, so I guess it depends on the truck.  The older trucks actually seem to be quieter and more pleasant to drive.

Perhaps the most annoying thing of all is that the seat belts lock at around 45 mph in the newer trucks.  This is rather frustrating when mixed with the rough ride, because the seat belt slowly ratchets one into a locked position.  It is a good thing those gauges are in large print, because one certainly can’t lean forward while in motion!  And if one is so foolish as to unbuckle, well it is only just that they are not allowed to unbuckle until below 45 mph, of course!  It is certainly advisable not to drink too much, because a ratcheting seat belt is not a good combination with a full bladder!  Of course, given 17 hours to experiment, we did find that the seat belts could be outsmarted.  With some careful pushing and releasing, one could easily steal back 6″ and move enough to check if the freakishly large fuel gauge might be indicating a need for diesel.  Or to pick up the 6 things that shook off the seat onto the floor.

Speaking of fuel, I found the gauge most frustrating.  I think it is built specially to punish those who like to fill up only when very low.  The gauge moves very slowly between full and 1/2.  It moves slightly more quickly from 1/2 to 1/4.  It picks up the pace from 1/4 to 1/8.  Once you reach 1/8, it absolutely plummets!  I ended up at 1/4 about 20 miles from home, with a sleeping son.  I decided not to fill until the next station since he was asleep and I didn’t want to disturb him until the last minute.  Well, I neglected to remember that it was 2AM and many stations are closed.  So, when I reached the station 10 miles later, I found myself at 1/8 tank with a closed gas station and 10 more miles to go.  “Well, never mind, it is only 10 miles”, I told myself.  I quickly regretted that decision as I watched the gauge quickly dip down to E within a few miles.  At this point, there wasn’t much choice, so I very gingerly continued on home, coasting whenever possible.  I did make it, but topped off from a can before filling up.  I found that I must have had just a few ounces left by that point.  I’ll bet the truck was gloating — “yeah, that’ll learn him”!

If nothing else, the memories from the Penske trucks will be a good reminder of how painful moving can be!  However, sometimes it is just worth it!


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