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Independent Contractor

What to Expect from the ATS Lease Program

January 19th, 2023

Brent Schaffler

Brent Schaffler

Brent received his bachelor’s degree in accounting from St. Cloud State University. He spent nine years in the retail industry before joining the ATS Team in 2012. Brent worked in the driver recruiting department for 2.5 years before transitioning to the Competitive Equipment Sales (CES) Team. He manages the leases of independent contractors from ATS and its affiliates.

Considering whether to lease a truck? It’s a big decision.

If you’re searching for the best company to drive for, you’re probably being flooded with plenty of advertisements for different companies. You may have a few suggestions from fellow drivers, too. It might be hard for you to discern which company is the best for you — especially if companies aren't transparent about their program.

Here at Anderson Trucking Service (ATS), we want to give it to you straight. 

The lease program ATS offers is through our affiliated company, Competitive Equipment Sales (CES). As the manager of CES, I’m here to give you an honest, unbiased look at what our lease program is like so you can decide if it’s the right move for you. 

I’ll help you understand more about our long-term and short-term leases, our equipment offerings, truck amenities and more.

Red ATS semi-truck getting loaded at a shipper. A crane is placing a large tank on the specialized trailer.

How Long are the Lease Terms?

CES offers long-term and short-term leases. You can choose a 1-, 2-, 3- or 4-year lease. Short-term leases are subject to a completion bonus. 

The length of the lease allowed may depend on truck availability and what’s available when you attend orientation. For instance, only specific trucks may be available for long-term leases. 

Related: Learn more about ATS truck selection

There is no credit check on any of the leases. For the 1- and 2-year leases, there’s no money down. If you take out a longer-term lease, however, it often requires money down. The down payment can be anywhere from $2,000 to $10,000 depending on how new the tractor is and which amenities are in the tractor. 

A buyout option is built into every lease contract, meaning any truck you lease with CES can be purchased. You’ll need to pay a balloon payment correlating to how much is left to pay on the truck. To purchase, you must be current on your payments and let CES know at least 30 days before purchase.

At this time, tractor payments range from $535 to $675 per week. Payments are usually higher if your tractor has additional amenities. For instance, if you have an auxiliary power unit (APU) in your truck, you’ll pay an additional $50 per week. 

The first two weeks of your lease will be free; you won’t be charged payments.

What Tractor Makes and Models are Available?

CES has various Peterbilt, Freightliner and Volvo models available for leasing. However, there's no guarantee which trucks will be available to choose from at orientation each week. The trucks in the fleet right now are 2018 through 2023 model years. The brand-new trucks have minimal miles on them, but the older trucks in the fleet may have upwards of 500,000 miles on them. 

There is a range of models to choose from, including mid- and raised roofs and double and single bunks. Some trucks have more built-in storage than others.

Equipment is leased as-is and drivers are required to pay for maintenance costs for the duration of the lease. Equipment is well-maintained. Before a truck is allowed to be leased to another driver, it must go through a 125-point inspection. As the lessee (driver), you have the right to view previous maintenance records.

Again, unfortunately, CES cannot guarantee which tractor/model will be available when you come to orientation — nor can they promise a tractor to a driver. It’s best to come with a couple of options in mind for what you’d like to drive off the lot. 

Tractors have a manufacturer's warranty of one year or 100,000 miles and five years or 500,000 miles on major engine components. We also include a 30-day bumper-to-bumper warranty on all short-term leases.

Tractor Amenities

All tractors come with a 1500-watt or higher inverter and Espar bunk heater. Fridges, plug-and-play lights, televisions, microwaves, CB radios and the like are allowed in the tractor. APUs are only put in select trucks — most often brand-new trucks and long-term lease tractors. 

It’s important to note that there is a restriction on engine hours. The lessee can run the tractor for up to 525 engine hours per month. Any engine hours above that is subject to a small fee of $3 per hour.

All tractors have a separator curtain to separate the bunk and the cabin.  There are window curtains for the bunks as well. 

Black ATS semi-truck parked in a lot without a trailer attached.

What Safety Equipment is in the Trucks?

All trucks have specific safety features in accordance with our safety-driven culture. 

All lease trucks are governed at 68 miles-per-hour (MPH) and have front-facing Lytx cameras. These cameras record continuous footage to provide reliable video evidence that protects the driver and trucking carrier. The camera records continuously, but the footage isn’t monitored unless an event is triggered or there’s an accident. 

Most, but not all, trucks are equipped with some form of accident mitigation equipment whether that’s adaptive cruise, automatic braking or lane departure warning.

Related: How does accident mitigation technology work?

Maintenance Account and Preventative Maintenance Expectations 

You’re required to keep the tractor in good working order. If CES notices that the truck isn’t being maintained, drivers will be required to complete repairs at their expense. 

DOT inspections are required once per year. You’ll receive a message when this needs to be completed and you can schedule with the maintenance team. 

If you’re broken down, lease payments will continue. However, the company will work with you to try to get you a rental option if available. Extended breakdowns may be subject to a pause on lease payments.

All tractors have a reserve or maintenance account with a cents-per-mile (CPM) deduction. This currently ranges from 11 to 20 CPM. This money is used to cover maintenance expenses. 

There are also programs for tires, brakes and emissions preventative maintenance that you can opt into, as well as an oil change program that’s built into every lease. These funds help pay for preventative maintenance so you don’t have to dig into your maintenance account or pay out of pocket.

If you have any issues on the road, ATS has a dedicated road service department and an extended coverage team to assist. ATS has a network of shops across the country that can be used in addition to our terminals in St. Cloud, Minnesota, Porter, Indiana and Houston, Texas. 

Oil changes should be completed at an ATS facility for every other service.

Important Contractual Obligations 

When it comes to contractual obligations with your lease through CES, you primarily need to understand the rules about alterations and insurance requirements. 

No alterations on the tractor are allowed without prior written consent. If the truck is altered in any way, the lessee is subject to additional charges. These charges can be taken out of the lessee’s maintenance account after lease termination. Additionally, no advertising or insignia is allowed on the tractor without prior written consent.

You’re allowed to have one passenger and one pet in the truck at a time, but a written request beforehand is required.  

You’ll need to have several types of insurance for the duration of the lease. This includes physical damage insurance, occupational accident insurance and bobtail insurance. These fees will be deducted weekly from your settlement. The heavy vehicle usage tax (or HVUT) is paid yearly by the company. $11 will be deducted from your weekly settlement for this. 

The lease will default if the lessee doesn’t make payments within 10 days of the payment due date, if the lessee doesn’t pay maintenance debts, if the lessee’s business terminates or is discontinued or if the lessee tries to lease or sell the equipment to another. 

If the contract ends within the first six months of the lease, there’s a two-lease payment penalty. 

Equipment must be returned to CES in St. Cloud, Minnesota. If equipment is not returned here, the lessee accepts all recovery expenses. Once the tractor is returned, it’ll be prepped for the next lessee. 

When/if you end your independent contractor operating contract, the final settlement money owed to you can be paid to CES for any money owed. Any money you are owed (including settlements, bonuses, etc.) will be refunded and owed to you within 90 days of your contract’s termination. 

Red ATS semi-truck hauling a step-deck trailer white a small white truck on it.

Sign Up for the Lease Program

There’s a lot of information to take in about the lease program offered through ATS' affiliated company, CES. Here are a few notable details to remember: 

  • Take out a 1-, 2-, 3- or 4-year lease with buy-out options
  • No credit checks and no money down on short-term leases
  • First two weeks of payments are free
  • Weekly payments as low as $535
  • 2018 and newer Peterbilt, Freightliner and Volvo models
  • Inverter and bunk heater on all tractors; APUs on some models
  • Safety equipment
  • Maintenance account and preventative maintenance programs
  • Physical damage, occupational accident and bobtail insurance required

In addition to this information, you might be wondering about pay expectations. Learn more about how ATS pays its drivers, as well as how much you can expect to take home each week.

If you’re ready to hop on board and get in the driver’s seat of a lease truck, ATS currently has openings on the fleet and CES has trucks available. 

Take a closer look at CES' lease equipment or fill out an application to speak to an ATS driver consultant.