Specialty upfits and upfits outside the ship-thru envelope are usually ship-to orders.

Specialty upfits and upfits outside the ship-thru envelope are usually ship-to orders.

Photo: Work Truck

Factory-ordered trucks often require a body or other type of upfitting installed after the truck is produced. Fleets can upfit their trucks in two ways. The first sends the truck through the manufacturer’s ship-thru program. The second method is to ship vehicles directly to a body company for upfitting.

The Ship-Thru Process

Based on a review of an upfitter’s operations and product quality, manufacturers authorize ship-thru truck upfitting at body companies located near the truck production plant. Once approved, the body company is assigned a ship-thru code.

Ship-thru vehicles are produced at the factory and the ship-thru code requires the transportation company to move the chassis from the plant to the body company. The distance between the body company and the plant influences the ship-thru charge.

When a ship-thru body company is selected to provide the particular upfitting required on a factory-ordered vehicle, a ship-thru code is entered with the chassis order as part of the spec. Vehicles upfitted for ship-thru must comply with height and width restrictions so the completed vehicle can be shipped by rail or carrier. This factor determines if the upfit order is shipped thru or shipped directly to a body company.

After receiving and checking in a chassis, the installer schedules a production date. Generally, production time for van interior, simple service bodies or a platform body takes about two weeks. A volume order or delay in receiving upfit material or products can lengthen the timeframe.

Install time and the ship-thru charge are factors in determining whether ship-thru is the best option for an upfitting installation. Vehicle transport to the body company averages five days. Pickup and delivery of the completed truck to the manufacturer’s production plant also averages about five days. The vehicle then enters the factory transportation system and is delivered to the dealer usually within two weeks.

For decentralized fleets, the ship-thru process is the best way to handle upfit installations. Body companies are uniquely fit to provide the service — it is their specialized business. Additional advantages of ship-thru include:

  • Consistent installation quality and process.
  • Consistent labor rates as opposed to regional labor rates (e.g., California’s $100 per hour versus Alabama’s $30 per hour).
  • One point of contact for inquiries.
  • Most ship-thru vendors provide electronic status reports to fleet management companies.
  • Easy, one-shop invoicing.
  • Ship-thru upfits generally cost 40-percent less than ship-to upfits.

Disadvantages of the ship-thru process are:

  • Order-to-delivery time may be longer.
  • Expense and delivery time may outweigh the benefits for simple upfits, such as a tool box installation.
  • Large orders or increases in installer business can delay production and cause quality problems.

Ship-To Made Simple

Specialty upfits and upfits outside the ship-thru envelope are usually ship-to orders. Bucket trucks, crane trucks, service bodies with canopies, etc., are usually ship-to upfits. Similar to the ship-thru process, major body installers use ship-thru codes, primarily for medium-duty or walk-in trucks. Factory and dealer vehicle prepping is a consideration in ship-to orders.

A factory freight charge covers shipping the vehicle from the plant to the body company. Customer delivery cost is added to the factory freight. Ideally, a reliable driveaway service can handle title and registration processing while delivering the truck. The truck can go to work as soon as it arrives.

Tool boxes, bed liners, and ladder racks can all be installed by delivering dealers. Low cost and quick turnaround time makes more sense for such simple generic installs.