Cost-saving vehicles without sacrificing performance

Published in the July 2017 issue of Fleet Affiliation

As fleet managers, we often come up with creative approaches to achieve the demands for work truck designs. Often, we need outside-the-box solutions to meet the challenge of designing a vehicle to accomplish more at a lower price. As this industry grows increasingly more cost conscious, reducing expenses becomes tougher. The simplest and most immediate cost-saving measures have usually already been implemented. Anti-idling policies and driver training can be the next steps.

An understanding of life-cycle cost and total cost of ownership has the potential to reveal saving opportunities. The purchase price is often the most visible, upfront cost for deploying new equipment. The total cost of ownership, however, takes into account the purchase price, costs for deploying, maintaining, and operating an asset in addition to its salvage value. It is important for fleet managers to fully understand the true cost of ownership and have the ability to effectively communicate the information to all stakeholders. Upper management often has difficulty getting past the initial purchase price, rather than understanding the total cost of ownership.

Education and communication

Fleet managers are usually in the best position to understand how to create the most efficient vehicle design. They see the day-to-day operations and have knowledge about how equipment is actually used. Intended use and actual use frequently vary when equipment goes into service. Figuring these things out during the specification process can often reduce the total cost of ownership. Communication with the financial decision makers can often reduce fleets’ overall operating expenses. This is key when making a case for using total cost of ownership — then educating those who sign off on the bills. As the fleet manager, your duty is to buy and design for your fleet without prejudice. You are in the place to understand operating cycles, conditions and environments.

Doing the math
As with any job, saving the organization money is often a requirement. Written specifications play a crucial role in determining the financial livelihood of an asset. Extensive research is usually necessary. Go beyond what is on the dealer’s lot. Before designing chassis, think about and design auxiliary units such as truck bodies and other permanently mounted auxiliary equipment. Be sure to take into consideration cargo and towing requirements. Additionally, look into physical operating conditions, such as road grades, maximum speed and on-road vs. off-road use. Once these have been established, design your chassis. It may be beneficial to take time to do some performance calculations and match required engine horsepower, transmission and rear axle ratios. Most equipment manufacturers and dealers can assist. Keep in mind; it is imperative to right size equipment. Larger equipment often comes with higher acquisition costs. Equipment that is too small or underpowered often increases maintenance costs, has shorter life cycles and higher down times.

Additional resources
Whether you are a seasoned fleet manager or just beginning in the industry, NTEA offers several resources to assist with truck design. Anyone from an NTEA member company can call the Technical Services Department with technical questions. Members also receive discounts on NTEA products. The Truck Equipment Handbook includes performance calculations for starting ability and truck speed and is an excellent resource for fleet managers.

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