Beginning the specification process

Published in the March 2020 issue of Fleet Affiliation

Fleet purchasing is a continual process. No matter what current conditions are, trucks need to be purchased in order provide critical job functions. When writing specifications, ask, “Who Spec’s your vehicles?” Typically, in a fleet organization, there’s a good chance you are involved in vehicle design. If you are not involved or do not feel your involvement is at a level it should be, it is important to make a change. If your institution has dedicated vehicle design resources, your input will be extremely valuable to them. As a fleet manager, you are in a position to be on the front line and using knowledge of what works and what doesn’t on vehicles you are maintaining. 

Although there are exceptions, several approaches to vocational fleet design and purchase processes exist. The most basic activity is to visit a local truck dealer and purchase a vehicle on the lot. This method is appropriate for small fleets that are not buying complex vehicles. Another option is to simply communicate with a local sales representative to order a vehicle that meets your needs. Many dealers have access to standard upfitted chassis pools or secondary upfitting dealers. These two approaches require little involvement; however, this may result in a unit that does not perform at peak potential.

Getting involved and staying involved
Once you realize the financial savings of being involved with the vehicle design process, you have the option to work directly with local upftters to design your vehicle based on your operational requirements.

Utilizing a fleet management company’s expertise
Most vocational fleet management companies have highly qualified engineering staff who recommend and procure complex vehicles. A fleet manager’s involvement is to provide accurate and relevant operational needs. Service can only be provided when intended outcomes are understood. A fleet management company’s involvement will directly correlate to the success of a well-designed and utilized vehicle. 

Writing your specification – having a process and a plan
Writing specifications can be an intimidating process. Creating effective commercial vehicle specifications for today’s increasingly complex equipment requires a multifaceted approach involving input and participation from various stakeholders. Key parties include the vehicle user, fleet team and supply chain — comprised of chassis OEMs, truck dealers, body and truck-mounted equipment companies, vehicle upfitters, and fleet management companies.

The specification development process encompasses a systematic and defined set of interactions between stakeholder groups. Taking a systematic approach, and involving the appropriate stakeholders at the right stages can ensure your vehicles are properly designed and specified for both suitability of task and fiscal responsibility.

Finding resources
NTEA’s Vehicle Specification Process Guide supports development of effective specifications, which provide the foundation for vehicle optimization with widely recognized virtues for managing overall costs and improving reliability and user safety. In addition, it supports development of consistent specifications that provide for procurement efficiencies within the supply chain. 

If you would like to discuss this, or other fleet issues with NTEA, contact Chris Lyon, NTEA director of fleet relations.