What comes first when designing your next work truck?

Published in December 2020 Fleet Affiliation

Which comes first when designing work trucks: the chassis or the body and auxiliary equipment? This decision involves much discussion and debate. One thought is to decide on a truck platform and build from there; while another idea is to take a deeper dive. Remember the chicken or the egg debate? It goes back to ancient Grecian times, and many philosophers continue to debate which came first. While there may be some validity to designing a chassis first (budgetary, standardization, or other valid reasons), it may be beneficial to take another approach.

Back to the basics
Before heading to the truck lot or an online catalog, your first-step is to accurately define the job before a decision tree can be drawn. After the job is defined, determine the functional requirements, including body types and auxiliary equipment such as lift gates, cranes, aerial devices, etc. Next, take note of the environmental factors in which this vehicle will operate. Then, look at things that are not controllable. This could be organizational requirements or factors specifically from upper management. Examples include alternative fuel requirements or licensing requirements for operators. Knowing these details provides information to branch together the decision tree used to design the work truck.

Chassis or body?
Once the research is finished and a decision tree of criteria has been drawn (taking into account limitations and other factors), it is time to begin the design process. Avoid re-using an old spec or thinking Class 3 trucks have always been used for this purpose when beginning this process. Which can steer organizations toward a slippery slope of designing a vehicle that will be grossly overloaded or not suitable to task. Purchasing a chassis first ignores the logic that the truck will be too small or too large for the application. By identifying the operating and functional requirements of the body (commonly referred to the second unit) the spec writer is in a position to know exactly what size chassis will be required. With this information in hand, they are on the path to design the most efficient work truck possible for the task. This is why it is important to begin with the basics and to identify root requirements, functions, and limitations put upon the work truck.

The bottom line
Whether for profit, or not for profit, an organization has a finite amount of financial resources, both in capital expenditures and operating expenses. Details to productivity directly affect the bottom line. Understanding tasks, operators, and functional requirements all should be factored into the design process. This column has leveraged the importance of clear communication throughout all stakeholders and continues to hold its integrity of significance. Matching the correct body to the appropriate chassis in order to meet a vehicle’s functional requirements will result in a positive impact on the bottom line.

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