Fleet Engineering and Productivity

A vehicle that is not properly matched to the intended application may have a lower original cost, but it will suffer from poor performance and in most cases have higher down time and maintenance costs throughout its life. In addition, this vehicle will increase your risk exposure if it is overloaded or if it does not comply with various state and federal safety standards.

On the other hand, an over-designed vehicle may have an excessively high original cost and often requires the use of more expensive maintenance and repair components. The increased weight of an over-designed vehicle may result in reduced payload, thereby impacting productivity or forcing you into buying a larger vehicle that may increase your acquisition and maintenance costs.

When designing a vehicle (or selecting a pre-built vehicle), the vocational fleet owner or operator’s objective should be to optimize the vehicle for its intended application. An optimized vehicle provides the lowest overall cost of ownership over the life of the vehicle when all factors are taken into consideration (i.e., life-cycle costing). Primary factors impacting life-cycle costs include:

  • Original cost
  • Long-term operating and maintenance costs
  • Vehicle productivity
  • Salvage value.

At a minimum, an optimized vehicle should incorporate all baseline functional requirements for the intended vocational application, comply with applicable regulatory requirements and be properly sized for the application. Beyond this point, additional design features intended to improve productivity, and premium components selected to reduce maintenance costs, may be added to the vehicle when justified. When determining the cost to benefit value for any given item, a “for-profit” business should consider the time value of money and the impact of taxes on cash flow. This can be accomplished by using a basic “after tax net present value analysis.”

The Vocational Vehicle Design Process

To optimize the operating costs and overall productivity of a vocational vehicle, the development of the vehicle’s design and specifications should follow a systematic process. The first step in this process is identifying functional requirements of the intended application. This is followed by an analysis of the operating environment, driver/operator productivity considerations and a performance review of existing equipment (when applicable). Your local truck equipment distributor is often an excellent resource for specification-related questions.

After completing the data collection process, the vehicle designer should proceed with the design of the second unit or interior upfitting package. Then, the designer should develop specifications for the chassis or complete vehicle that will support the second unit or upfitting package.

  1. Identifying Functional Requirements 
  2. Driver/Operator Productivity and Safety Considerations 
  3. Operating Environment 
  4. Identification of Upfitting/Second Unit Requirements 
  5. Vehicle Maintenance Review 
  6. Developing an Optimized Vehicle Specification 
  7. Safety/Productivity Review