When writing your specifications, do you just dust off the last design?

Published in the July 2016 issue of Fleet Affiliation

When vehicles are ready to be replaced, do you tend to pull out specs for the last truck? Most seasoned fleet managers are guilty of this practice. With the many demands of running a fleet, finding a few extra minutes often becomes a matter of necessity. To accomplish this, fleet managers often reuse specifications they have previously written in the past. Beyond manufacturer changes from model year to model year, a truck is a truck – right? This can become a slippery slope and ultimately result in the unintended consequence of an outdated fleet.

How to stay on track
Previously, this column has shared many strategies to implement efficient truck design. While it is not necessary to reinvent the wheel, take a few moments to rethink your truck design. Referencing previously written specifications can save time, but it should be used as one of many tools. For example: did you consider low rolling resistance tires for a truck you designed 10 years ago? Most likely you did not – low rolling resistance tires were not commonly available back then. This is one of many changes that have occurred within the vocational truck industry in the last decade. It would be prudent to take a step back and explore what technological changes have occurred since you wrote your last specification.

Analyze your operations
Another step is to fully understand your organization’s operations. Most organizations that continue to expand and grow are often faced with changing needs. When it comes time to replace specialized trucks and equipment, it is important to have a good understanding of how the units were used, and will be used. This presents an opportunity to really look at your drive and duty cycle. Your fleet data is also a valuable tool; properly collected data can provide insight on truck design parameters.

After you have taken a step back, go to the drawing board. Start piecing together your drive and duty cycles, your operational requirements, and design constraints. Normally the term “rightsizing” has the connation of reduce or downsize. Before you begin to consider downsizing, make sure you’re not overloading individual components. Although you may have designed a vehicle to have overall weight and capacity within the limits, don’t forget about individual components. Often smaller vehicles have more load on front axles. Can upsizing actually downsize your fleet? If you’re making multiple loads with the same truck, you may be able to reduce some of your non-productive windshield time. In the end it’s all about rightsizing.

Don’t be afraid of change
Change can be scary, but it can also offer opportunities to become more efficient. When speaking with fleet managers, there often seems to be a mindset to replace a van with a van, a service truck with a service truck, and so on. Avoid this pitfall, educate stakeholders on alternatives, and pick the unit that best meets the operational needs of your organization. Finding the proper vehicle that is the right size is critical to the success of your fleet.  
If you would like to discuss this, or any other fleet issue with the NTEA, contact Chris Lyon, NTEA Director of Fleet Relations, at Chris@ntea.com.