Spec’ing for success while respecting the bottom line

Published in July 2021 Fleet Affiliation

After enduring more than a year of unprecedented challenges, industries are finally edging back to normalcy. While things will not return to the ways of old, opportunities and positive changes are on the horizon. It’s no surprise that most of us were required to change the way in which business is conducted, and this seems inflated when looking at the procurement of vocational trucks.

While the industry continues to evolve, it is still important to understand who spec’s your vehicles. What level of knowledge and do these spec writers have? What resources do they have available? Over the last several years, fleet and finance departments have become more united. Procurement teams are becoming more involved, and there’s no guarantee of dedicated fleet knowledge. This is a main reason to have a hand in the procurement process: to provide expertise and resources. Purchasing strategies range in complexity and the need for fleet knowledge, but all affect the bottom line.

Changing the bottom line
A purchaser lacking the necessary knowledge to design a work truck may go to their local truck dealer and work with their sales division to order a truck that fits their needs. If these trucks require some level of upfit, the dealer will most likely send the chassis to an upfitter they already know. While the end product may meet your expectations, the design may favor specific equipment manufacturers and may not be the most competitively priced.

Once a fleet manager recognizes they need to be more involved in the design of their vehicles, they will often connect with an upfitter and tell them what they are looking for. The upfitter will then design a vehicle for the customer and order a chassis from an OEM dealer.

While there is more involvement, the same principles can apply when it comes to competitive pricing. Even if you (or someone else in your organization) do not actually spec your equipment, your input is critical.  You may be one of those fleets that has an upfitter or leasing company develop your final specs. Even if you use a competitive bidding process to acquire new equipment, if you allow an upfitter or dealer to write your specs, you can rest assured that the spec will favor the brand of equipment they sell. This is where you can adjust the bottom line. Take the time to understand product offerings or provide the resources to those who need them.

Educate yourself and others
Knowledge can be the single most important tool to drive change. While NTEA is known for opportunities like Work Truck Week and Green Truck Summit, there are other tremendous opportunities available for fleet purchasers. One resource highly utilized by your suppliers is the annual Truck Product Conference.  This event offers commercial vehicle technical professionals the opportunity to learn about the latest new model year work trucks and hear critical upfitter modifications from leading chassis OEM representatives. Understanding the potential upfitting challenges and solutions first positions your organization to design cost effective regulatory compliant work trucks. You will be able to learn about upcoming model year changes that may affect your operation, engage with OEM chassis representatives on topics for their specific platforms, and see the newest vehicles first hand. This event is being hosted at the Kalahari Resorts & Conventions in Sandusky, Ohio, September 21-22 2021.