Experienced upfitters can streamline employees’ workload. - Photo: Moroney Body Works

Experienced upfitters can streamline employees’ workload.

Photo: Moroney Body Works

In today's fast-paced environment, fleet managers face numerous challenges in maximizing productivity.

Customization and tailored solutions have become essential for upfitting work trucks to meet specific industry needs.

We sat down with Tafco Equipment Co., manufacturer of Scott Truck Bodies and Hoists and two of Tafco’s upfitting dealers to shed light on this topic. We explore the ins and outs of upfitting and the future of work truck upfitting.

Fleets That Benefit Most from Upfitting

Tafco manufactures products suitable for fleets, including municipalities, utility, construction, and lumber companies. These industries significantly benefit from specialized upfitting solutions to enhance their operations.  

For example, Tafco provides expertise in addressing the specific needs of lumber company clients with hoisting capacity, weight requirements, and ensuring robust transportation capabilities.

While Tafco’s primary business focus is manufacturing and less upfitting, its dealer network serves as Tafco’s extension to assist customers in selecting and implementing the right solutions.

“We’ve been really focusing on innovating and keeping up with the industry. The trucks are changing all the time. It seems like every year there's a new change we’re aware of. So, we've been keeping up with trends by traveling, going to trade shows, and customer feedback,” Lucas Lunz, sales engineer, Tafco, said.

Other examples of industries benefiting from work truck upfitting are:

  • Utilities: Utility companies, including electric, gas, water, and telecommunications, rely on work trucks with specialized upfits such as bucket lifts, aerial platforms, utility service bodies, and custom storage compartments. These modifications enable technicians to perform maintenance, repair, and installation tasks efficiently, especially for overhead infrastructure.
  • Municipalities: Municipal fleets, including public works departments, waste management services, and parks and recreation departments, benefit from upfitting solutions tailored to their specific needs. These may include dump bodies, snowplows, salt spreaders, street sweepers, and specialized equipment for maintenance and repair tasks.
  • Delivery and Logistics: Delivery and logistics companies often require upfitted work trucks with cargo bodies, refrigeration units, shelving systems, and secure compartments to ensure efficient transportation and organization of goods. Customization can include features like liftgates, ramps, and access solutions for easy loading and unloading.
  • Landscaping and Tree Care: The landscaping and tree care industries often rely on upfitted trucks with features like open or enclosed landscape bodies, custom racks for equipment and tools, and integrated watering systems. These modifications enable efficient transportation of landscaping materials, equipment, and tools and provide convenience for daily operations.

Top Advice: Spec Your Truck Correctly

Specifying a work truck correctly the first time is one of the most important things you can do when upfitting.

What is upfitting?

Upfitting refers to modifying and customizing a base vehicle, typically a work truck or commercial vehicle, to suit specific industry requirements and enhance its functionality and productivity.

It involves adding specialized equipment, components, and systems to transform the vehicle into a specialized tool for a particular job or industry.

Norman Quinton III, owner/manager at Moroney Body Works, explained that most fleets learn lessons from upfitting the first and second trucks. But that can add to downtime and expenses.

“Do it right the first time versus the third time. People learn lessons from their first truck or second truck. They learn what works and what doesn't work, then start building them the correct way.”

The best way to do it right the first time is by carefully considering the unique needs of the job. Spec'ing a work truck correctly lays the foundation for seamless integration of specialized equipment, tools, and systems.

Upfitters such as Tafco and its dealers can customize the vehicle's cargo area, bed, or interior to accommodate specialized equipment, storage solutions, or workstations tailored to the specific industry.

Properly positioned racks, shelving, or compartments can streamline the organization, promote accessibility, and minimize the risk of damage to tools or materials during transportation.

Some Tafco dealers even go out in the field with the drivers to ensure the best upfitting equipment to benefit the workers.

“I learned quickly that product knowledge is crucial when selling truck equipment or outfitting a truck. I need to see how they use the truck in the field to offer all the options to build a cost-efficient work truck that will hold up to the job. I like to see how people use it and make suggestions,” Jeff Foss, truck equipment sales/trainer for Vander Haag's Inc., explained.

With 10 locations, truck parts & equipment supplier Vander Haag’s helps to serve their customer’s upfitting needs. - Photo: Vander Haag's

With 10 locations, truck parts & equipment supplier Vander Haag’s helps to serve their customer’s upfitting needs.

Photo: Vander Haag's

Upfitting to Enhance Safety

Safety is another crucial aspect that stems from a correct spec'd work truck.

The vehicle can provide stability, control, and responsive handling by selecting the appropriate chassis, suspension, and braking systems, reducing the risk of accidents.

Additional safety features like backup cameras, blind-spot monitoring, or collision avoidance systems can be integrated into the upfitting process to enhance driver awareness and mitigate potential hazards.

Careful consideration of maintenance requirements and durability ensures that the vehicle can withstand the rigors of daily use, minimizing downtime, and repair costs.

The Future of Work Truck Productivity

Quinton III mentioned he’s noticed two new trends not around 15 years ago for upfitting work trucks: efficiency and safety.

“People are less worried about the initial cost because they’re looking at it from a perspective of ‘I want my worker to get this work done as efficiently as possible.’ And they also want them to be as safe as possible. Those are two big things that I didn’t hear 15 years ago. Companies like landscape and others want to cater to their employees for productivity and safety,” Quinton III said.

As Quinton III stated, upfitting trends have shifted in the last decade. But what will they look like in the next 10 years?

Tafco predicts a rise in lighter upfitting equipment to save costs and accommodate the electrification movement. With electric trucks gaining momentum, weight-saving advantages are necessary.

“At the 2022 NTEA Work Truck Week event, many companies and customers talked to us about electric vehicles. Electric vehicles are the new hot item in fleet. Tafco’s aluminum line will cut down the weight on a chassis, benefiting the aluminum electric truck market,” Lunz said.

Tafco dealer Moroney Body Works advises to to spec a work truck correctly the first time to save time and money. - Photo: Moroney Body Works

Tafco dealer Moroney Body Works advises to to spec a work truck correctly the first time to save time and money.

Photo: Moroney Body Works

Customization and Tailored Solutions

Tafco’s history dates to 1963. Originally founded by three friends and their last name makes up Tafco Clarence Tellefsen (T), V. Scott Ankeny (A), Richard J. Franke (F).

Scott Ankeny Sr., who eventually acquired the company, is credited with establishing the Scott brand.

After Ankeny Sr. passed, his sons operated the business until 2018. Though now under new ownership, the "Scott Truck Bodies and Hoists” branding lives on.

“When people ask what's the difference between Scott and Tafco, I compare it to McDonald's and the Big Mac,” Lunz explained.

Regarding customization and tailored solutions, Tafco emphasizes innovation and staying ahead of industry trends.

With trucks evolving constantly, the company places great importance on acquiring knowledge through trade shows, customer feedback, and industry engagement.

By leveraging these insights, Tafco ensures that its work truck solutions meet the ever-changing demands of various industries.

About the author
Hillary Weiss

Hillary Weiss

Senior Editor

Hillary Weiss is a former senior editor at Bobit. She has a decade of digital publishing experience and a passion for all things related to fleets.

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