Published in the August 2020 issue of Fleet Affiliation
Vocational fleet professionals have an additional layer of challenges when managing a fleet. Beyond mass-produced vehicles that come down an assembly line, they are responsible for the work truck. It is important to understand the unique intricacies of multi-stage manufacturing processes. Fleets are made up of diverse applications with unlimited body combinations and equipment pairings. With the multi-stage manufacturing process, several stakeholders are involved, including chassis manufacturers, equipment suppliers and upfitters. Each plays a key role in building and delivering final product. The properly designed work truck should be productive, cost effective (through acquisition, operation and maintenance), safe, user-friendly and regulatory compliant, but most importantly matched to the application. Failure to achieve these expectations will result in higher operating and life cycle costs. An increase in failed objectives exponentially increases costs and lowers productivity.
To ensure success, employ and develop well written specifications for the chassis, equipment and upfitting requirements. These should be created by someone with knowledge of internal operational requirements, external vehicle design and recommended practices. Success also starts with the design process. If there is a lack of internal knowledge, do not be concerned or afraid to ask for help. Remember, vocational work trucks often carry longer service lives as compared to mass produced units. They are designed to perform specialized tasks and require planning and forethought. This is why it is critical to have a fully encompassed knowledge base on how and what these work trucks need in order to perform. To keep productivity and costs at optimal levels, begin by identifying valid functional requirements and tasks that are mandatory. Unfortunately, there is no single correct answer when designing vocational trucks; this is why it is essential to take the time to research the application. Be sure to review requirements on a regular basis and avoid what has been done in the past.
Adding unforeseen considerations
As with any complex project, there will most likely be unforeseen events. Planning for these contingencies is an important step within the vocational space. Beyond vehicle design, there are several aspects that should be looked at. These include work practices, operating environments and changing payload requirements. These play into productivity considerations. There can be several cases for body selection, mounted equipment and component placement. Review labor cost vs. component cost as compared to frequency of use. This can dictate the need and placement of often expensive auxiliary apparatuses. It is important to understand real world vs. theoretical productivity gains when considering the addition of expensive auxiliary equipment.
The second life
Another important consideration is the second life. Depending on operating environments, planning ahead for the components’ second life can be part of long-term fiscal planning. For example, several fleets change construction material components, such as stainless-steel vs. conventional bodies. They realize there is a significant increase in acquisition cost; however, many of them have projected they will either have a second life, decreased expensive re-life, and possibly increased resale and residual value. Some organizations simply re-use this auxiliary equipment. However, continual review of functionality, compatibility, and suitability with regard to task must be done. A second life can be a useful strategy if implemented correctly.
If you would like to discuss this, or other fleet issues with NTEA, contact Chris Lyon, NTEA director of fleet relations.