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Ram Chassis Cab: Medium-Duty Truck of the Year

May 2015, Work Truck - Cover Story

by Chris Wolski - Also by this author

PHOTO: RAM TRUCKS
PHOTO: RAM TRUCKS

The readers of Work Truck magazine have named the Ram 4500/5500 Chassis Cab as the 2015 Medium-Duty Truck of the Year.

The award was announced on March 4 during the NTEA Work Truck show. It was presented to Becky Blanchard, director of Ram brand marketing.

WT’s Medium-Duty Truck of the Year award, which was established in 2008, is voted on by readers of Work Truck and its sister publication HDT. Voters are asked to consider which models best fit their fleet requirements, including application effectiveness, durability, quality, servicing, maintenance, and lifecycle costs. This year there were 11 medium-duty trucks on the ballot.

Meeting Vocational Needs

The Ram Chassis Cab is specifically designed to meet fleets’ vocational needs, and is among the reasons it resonates with fleets, according to Dave Sowers, head of Ram commercial vehicle marketing.

“It’s the total package, it’s our commitment to the commercial space,” he said. “As it relates to chassis cabs, we’ve focused on a couple of areas, and one is capability — these vehicles are a tool, and they have to be able to do the job. But, what’s really important to customers is reliability and cost of ownership, and we’ve added a little spice with innovation that you’re not seeing with others.”

Of these innovations, the addition of a left-hand power takeoff (PTO) capability delivers 50-percent more horsepower to the vehicle, allowing Class 4 and Class 5 trucks the ability to perform at the same level as Class 6 and Class 7 trucks, according to Sowers.

In addition, when the Ram Chassis Cab is equipped with a diesel engine, it has longer service intervals — 15,000 miles — which means fewer oil changes and less downtime for fleet operations. It also has a 74-gallon fuel capacity, which means drivers have to spend less time fueling and more time doing their jobs, according to Sowers.

At a Glance

The Ram 4500/5500 Chassis Cab has been named the Medium-Duty Truck of the Year by readers of Work Truck:
• This is the second time in five years the Ram Chassis Cab has been honored as Medium-Duty Truck of the Year.
• The Ram Chassis Cab was chosen out of a field of 11 vehicles.
• The award was announced at the annual NTEA Work Truck Show.

“We’re trying to make the vehicle more efficient, but we’re also making the fleet operation more efficient because of less downtime and more reliability,” Sowers said. “One of the key things in our chassis cab is the Cummins diesel engine. We’ve been partners with Cummins for over 25 years and that’s bringing a true industrial-grade engine into this medium-duty space, and we see a lot of people adapting our product because of the reliability of the engine and the reliability of our chassis.”

The Ram Chassis Cab has found a home in many types of fleets, but Sowers noted that there are five fleet functions that are the most prevalent in descending order:

• Flatbed or stake body — usually for general hauling or delivery.
• Service bodies, including aerial applications and service buckets in utility or other service operations.
• Dump bodies (three- to five-yard dump capacity) designed for landscaping and construction.
• Box trucks for delivery applications.
• Wreckers for vehicle recovery.

This multifaceted vehicle is symbolic of Ram’s comprehensive commitment to the commercial space.

“We committed to the commercial business in the 2009 time frame and that took on many forms,” Sowers explained. “We had a new heavy-duty truck we came out with, a new chassis cab in 2010. We brought out our tradesman pickup line in 2012, in 2013 we revised our chassis cab and heavy-duty trucks again, and then later that year we launched our full-size van, and now we’re launching our Class 1 van. So, some of that is company-wide momentum as it relates to commercial business; we’re doing all things right — we’re talking to more commercial customers, because we can meet all their needs now with the full product line we have now.”

Resonating with Fleets

According to Ram’s own figures, the Chassis Cab has enjoyed a sort of renaissance across the board with fleet and commercial customers for all the OEMs. Sowers noted that, from 2009 — the date of Ram’s recommitment to the commercial space — to 2015, the Class 4 and Class 5 Chassis Cab segment has grown 37 percent.

“You can chalk that up to mostly economic recovery and some to where the chassis capabilities have gotten better so more people can use them and some people may have moved down from a Class 6 or Class 7,” Sowers said. “And, that applies to the whole industry.”

During that same period, Ram’s Chassis Cab sales have increased about 150 percent, according to Sowers, which he credits to the truck’s capabilities and more fleet-specific options, including dual alternators, a gasoline engine option, and an available manual transmission.

“When we look at what motivates an end user to buy a specific chassis over another, total cost of operation is key, along with reliability — it’s a tool in their toolbox and it has to work on any given day,” Sowers said.

Upfitting for Efficiency

In addition to being designed for capability, the Ram Chassis Cab can be upfitted to meet any fleet need.

“We can do complete upfits of the vans, and it doesn’t change the footprint of the vehicle or the weight of the vehicle all that much, but we can ship through normal means. But, a lot of the chassis products and the type of bodies that are going on them are very specialized, so the number of upfitters is a large number, and it changes the size and the weight of the vehicle,” Sowers said. “We have pools across the country that we can work through on the retail side, and, on the fleet side, we have a lot of ship thru with pools that can do the upfit and handle the final delivery. So, we can ship directly to those, and we have 75 locations of pools across the country.”

Sowers noted that the Ram Chassis Cab models are designed to make upfitting easy and effective.

“We don’t allow any mechanicals to protrude above the frame rails, so there’s no concern about interference, so they don’t have to cut out the back of the service body or make the box smaller,” he said.

There are also upfit switches in the interior, so the upfitters don’t have to cut holes in the dashboard to add electrical accessories. The Chassis Cab models are also equipped with a VSI module, which is an interface location that allows the upfitter to tie into the electrical system.

“It is a big benefit in terms of reliability, because they’re not cutting and splicing into the wiring harness, so they’re making a more secure weather-tight type connection. And, we’re giving them access to everything they need — be it door ajar signals or engine start signals or tail light signals, battery feeds and ignition feeds can all be had through the VSI module,” Sowers said.

Being Fleet-Capable

The 2015 Ram Chassis Cab is available with a choice of a gasoline or diesel engine: a 6.4L HEMI V-8 gasoline engine, which produces 370 hp and 429 lb.-ft. of torque, or a 6.7L Cummins diesel engine, which produces 325 hp and 750 lb.-ft. of torque. The diesel powertrain is available with either a 6-speed automatic or manual transmission.

The gasoline engine is available with either a left- or right-side PTO capability with the Aisin AS66RC transmission.

  • The 4500 Chassis Cab has a maximum trailer weight of 24,650 pounds and a GCWR of up to 32,500 pounds.
  • The 5500 Chassis Cab has a maximum trailer weight of 29,600 pounds and a GCWR of up to 37,500 pounds.

Among the features designed exclusively for commercial buyers are Ram work-grade vinyl seats, maximum speed settings for the 6.4L HEMI V-8, ParkSense backup sensors available for upfitter installation, and extra keys options for multiple-driver fleets.

The Chassis Cabs are available in three trims: Tradesman, SLT, and Laramie.

The Ram Chassis Cab also comes equipped with a number of technological features, such as next-generation Uconnect Access, which includes Wi-Fi hot-spot capability, and a configurable vehicle information center with 7-inch multiview display available with the SLT trim and standard with the Laramie models.

The Chassis Cab has a five-year/100,000-mile powertrain limited warranty and a three-year/36,000-mile basic limited warranty that provides bumper-to-bumper coverage. 

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