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Tractor-trailer sign goes the extra mile for Pa. business

February 07, 2003|by RICHARD BELISLE

waynesboro@herald-mail.com

SHIPPENSBURG, Pa. - "How did you get it up there?"

With a 72-ton crane, of course.

The "it" is a tractor-trailer truck that sits 40 feet above the southbound lane of Interstate 81 in Franklin County, just north of Exit 24.

It was put up there by Dirk Baumgardner to advertise his business - Truck Discount Mart Inc.

Baumgardner said putting the rig in the sky turned out to be cheaper than buying a sign big enough to carry the same message.

Baumgardner, 41, of Chambersburg, Pa., sells and leases used tractor-trailer trucks at his lot off Exit 24.

He selected a 1995 Freightliner and trailer, pulled the engine and transmission out to make it lighter and painted it with his advertising message. He constructed a platform using two 12-inch pipes which he imbedded 10-feet deep in 33 yards of concrete.

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He built the platform and painted the truck in his truck repair shop on Black Gap Road in Fayetteville. When the platform was ready in early January, a crane lifted the truck and trailer up to the platform and he welded them in place.

The idea for the truck sign came from his father, Elmer Baumgardner, who is also in the business, he said.

"We checked around with some sign companies and decided we could put up the truck for less than buying a sign," he said.

He still has to paint the stand and install lights to illuminate the truck at night, he said.

The truck brings lots of comments, Baumgardner said. People ask if it's really a truck. Some say they thought it was a sign at first and some people think it's a truck on the side of the road when they first see it from a distance, he said.

"A lot of people ask how we got it up there," he said.

Baumgardner said he opened the used truck lot in 1999.

He sells and leases trucks, about 200 a year, he said.

He buys them at auctions, from other dealers and from truck manufacturing companies that have repossessed them, he said.

Nearly all of his customers are people who drive for trucking companies who want to strike out on their own as independent drivers. All have commercial driver's licenses, a requirement to drive a big rig on the road.

He said many have had bad luck in their lives caused by divorce, financial problems or bad credit. Often leasing or buying a truck on time gives them a chance to re-establish credit, become independent and get a new start on life, Baumgardner said.

Framed letters from satisfied customers adorn the walls of Baumgardner's office and sales room saying how much a truck has changed their lives and gotten them back on their feet.

"Ninety-eight percent of my customers have never owned their own trucks before. They drove for trucking companies," he said.

The sign on his truck in the sky says "No Cash Needed." "Low Payments." "E-Z Credit."

It's like a buy-here-pay-here lot," he said. Some buy trucks outright, others lease them at first, then buy them, he said.

About 10 percent of Baumgardner's customers are women, he said.

Baumgardner said his customers are infatuated with trucks. "All they want to do is get on the road," he said. "They're the last American cowboys."

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