In the latest Work Truck Editorial Advisory Board meeting held on September 9, 2022, the group discussed how electric isn’t the only option for fleets and why all but one fleet is letting go of small vans.
As the publication continues to explore the conversation around electrification in the work truck industry, Work Truck emphasizes its stance on telling the story from all sides.
“Electric has its challenges. It’s got its benefits, but it’s not the only solution out there. We want to make sure from our point of view that we’re not making it seem like electric is the end-all-be-all like it’s the foregone conclusion that that’s what’s going to be happening in a few years,” Lauren Fletcher, executive editor of Work Truck, stated.
The meeting continued as members voiced their thoughts on the future of electrification.
Amy McAdams, fleet manager at Farmer Brothers, believes there will be challenges for customers using electric vehicles.
“It’s not like there are gas stations on every corner where you can have an electric charging station. My trucks aren’t necessarily able to charge at a grocery store, movie theater, or in front of Walmart,” she said. “I think it’s going to be quite a while before the infrastructure can support the customers.”
Matt Betz, expert fleet optimization for DTE Energy, shared how the company is taking a different approach since incorporating EVs into its fleet.
DTE looked at how many miles different drivers drove and what their territories were and found out that many of its drivers drove under the range limit each day.
Betz noted that his fleet is in a different situation as an electric utility. But, when the topic of finding a station and routing for electric came up, he shared an app called PlugShare, which has mapping software. The app can plan a driver’s trip and show the closest mapping station.
Dealing with Truck Parts Ordering Issues
Bob Adamsky, fleet manager at AWP, relayed another issue he had noticed recently: ordering parts.
“Some areas have gotten better for us,” he said. “It seems like it’s quieted down, but now many more challenges as of late are what I call hard parts, especially major hard parts.”
Betz mentioned how the parts issue impacts DTE.
“The business unit that uses the vehicles also, you know, has their offices there. So when you’ve got a service vehicle, it’s very visible because it’s sitting outside the garage,” Betz said. “Every day the manager or director drives into the service center saying, ‘That van is still sitting there?’ So, we’re doing everything we can.”
Handling the Death of the Small Van
Work Truck recently dove into the death of the small van among fleets, a trend that has been occurring over the last four years.
As Ford, Mercedes-Benz, and Stellantis announced they would stop production of small van models, members of the meeting shared their status regarding this trend.
Betz said DTE has gotten rid of its small vans in favor of full-size transits of various configurations.
It appears AWP is going in the same direction as DTE, according to Adamsky.
“We’re staying full size and limiting the number of different options, getting rid of the smaller stuff,” Adamsky said. “So, we have more room for flexibility, moving stuff around different aspects of a business. We never used a whole lot of vans to begin with. I’ve ordered none in the last two years. I was looking to move away from the smaller vehicles.”
Glenn Yamada, fleet supervisor, Hawaii Gas, was one person who wasn’t on board with the change.
“I just delivered three and have six more for us because of the service areas technicians go through,” he said. “There’s not much parking, and they have to go into low clearance buildings.”
Ensuring the meeting didn’t end on a down note, McAdams of Farmer Brothers shared a recent success.
Purchasing new vehicles is a challenge many work truck fleets are facing today. McAdams’ story follows the delivery of one of 27 used vans and how it was only the beginning of the string of good news for her as a fleet manager.
Upon delivery of the first of 27 used vans, McAdams released three of the used vans “into the wild.” The first one was delivered the morning of the meeting.
McAdams stressed the importance of networking. Working through connections and with the help of relationships, Farmer Brothers converted Mercedes Sprinters into delivery trucks, deployed four in Dallas, and two in New Jersey, and now has 33 new Mercedes vehicles coming in.
“It’s going to truly make a financial impact on our organization. I’m super excited,” McAdams concluded.