Specing your vehicles: Where to begin?

For many of us, the end of February means winter is coming to a close; spring is around the corner. Snow removal equipment goes into storage and fleet managers usually start planning their purchasing needs for the coming year. Before you put your pencil to paper and design your next acquisition, ask the question, “Who spec’s my vehicles?”

Unless you are in charge of a large fleet with internal support staff for designing vehicles, there’s a good chance you are involved with vehicle design. If you are not involved, you need to become involved. If your institution has dedicated resources for vehicle design, your input will be valuable to them. As a fleet manager, you are in a position to be on the front line and to understand what works and what doesn’t on the vehicles you maintain. 

Although there are always exceptions, vocational fleet design and purchase processes can be approached several ways. The most basic approach would be to head over to your local truck dealer and purchase what is available on the lot. I would reserve this method for very small fleets that don’t buy complex vehicles. Another option requiring limited involvement would be to communicate with a local sales representative to order a vehicle that fits your needs. Many dealers have access to order from standard upfitted chassis pools or secondary upfitting dealers. These two approaches require little involvement; however, they may also result in a unit that does not perform at its peak potential.

Getting involved.
Once you realize there can be financial savings with being involved in the design process of your vehicle, you may choose to work directly with a local upfitters to design your vehicle based on your operational requirements.

“My fleet management company handles vehicle design. Why should I be involved?“
Most fleet management companies that focus on vocational fleets have highly qualified engineering staff. Your involvement will be to provide them the right information about your operational needs. With this information, they will be equipped to do well in designing your vehicle. Your involvement with the fleet management company will directly correlate with the success of a well-designed vehicle. 

Designing your own vehicles.
This procurement strategy gives you the most control over the end result, assuming someone in your fleet has the necessary skills. Vehicles can still be purchased through a dealer or fleet management company; however, you have the primary input on the design and what is ultimately built.

Why don’t more fleets write their own specs?
Common responses from fleet managers for not writing their own specifications:

  • Lack of knowledge of what is needed or available
  • Not enough time
  • Do not know how to write an effective specification

As noted above, fleet managers are in a position to know what their fleets need. They have access to end user input, historical maintenance information, and hands-on opportunities to work around the equipment. They are in a position to collaborate with industry experts. With all the knowledge at your disposal, you are the expert and can be in a position to write a clear concise specification.

Writing your first specification.
Writing your first specification can be an intimidating process. A number of resources are available at your disposal. Virtually every industry and vocation have trade shows and training specific to products. One event that incorporates specific topics to emerging and seasoned fleet managers on regulatory compliance, specification writing and OEM chassis updates is The Work Truck Show® 2017 and Green Truck Summit.

Another option is to hire a consultant. This is a sure way to ensure your vehicles are properly designed and spec’d. At first glance, this might sound like an expensive proposition. As a fleet, you can join NTEA for as little as $300 a year depending on your fleet size. As a member, your entire organization will have unlimited access to our staff engineers who are experts in truck design. Learn more about how NTEA would benefit your company.

To discuss this or any other fleet issue with the NTEA, contact 800-441-6832