The Reach from Isuzu and Utilimaster was named Work Truck magazine’s 2012 Medium-Duty Truck of the Year at the 2012 NTEA The Work Truck Show, held in Indianapolis March 5-8.

Twenty vehicles were included in an online ballot and voted on by professional fleet managers, who were asked to consider which medium-duty truck model best fit their fleet requirements, including application effectiveness, durability, quality, servicing, maintenance, and lifecycle costs.

“Isuzu and Utilimaster are honored to have been selected as Work Truck magazine’s Medium-Duty Truck of the Year. We are confident that those who voted in this competition recognized the Reach is the ideal commercial van for today’s market,” said Shaun Skinner, executive vice president and general manager of Isuzu Commercial Truck of America, Inc. (ICTA). As witnessed by this year’s award-winning reaction, the Reach has been well-received. 

The Isuzu Reach is powered by a 4JJ1-TC 3.0L turbocharged diesel engine, delivers 150 hp, and is mated to an Aisin medium-duty 6-speed transmission.

The Isuzu Reach is powered by a 4JJ1-TC 3.0L turbocharged diesel engine, delivers 150 hp, and is mated to an Aisin medium-duty 6-speed transmission.

“Around early spring 2011, we heard the Reach was being shown at the Mid-America Trucking Show in Louisville,” said Jim Coleman, founder of Power Washers, Inc. The company sells portable cleaning equipment and traditionally utilized Ford E-350 cube vans, installing rail gates onto the back for equipment access. Coleman happened to be so interested in the Reach, he flew down to Louisville just to see it. In December of that same year, he traveled to Wakarusa, Ind., and picked up three trucks directly off the assembly line.

Coleman’s been purchasing trucks for 55 years. He researched several models before making his decision, but the Reach fit exactly what he needed for his annual 20,000-30,000-mile routes.

“I wanted my sales staff to ride comfortably,” Coleman said. “Our business is image. We sell cleaning equipment so we have to be clean. These vehicles are truly rolling representatives of our company.”

Building a Relationship

Around 2006, Utilimaster contacted Isuzu to present the idea and concept for the Reach commercial walk-in van. Moving into late 2007, the plan for the Reach first started coming together. 

“The knowledge and expertise that Isuzu and Utilimaster brought to the development of the Reach van complimented each other very well,” said John Knudston, VP of product development for Utilimaster. “Isuzu is a recognized world leader in producing state-of-the-art diesel engines, drivetrains, and truck platforms. Utilimaster has very close, longstanding relationships with many of the major fleets using commercial vans. This partnership as resulted in the development of a new class of commercial delivery vans.”

WT magazine presented the 2012 Medium-Duty Truck of the Year award to Hidekazu (Kaz) Noto, president of Isuzu Commercial Truck of America at the 2012 Work Truck Show.

WT magazine presented the 2012 Medium-Duty Truck of the Year award to Hidekazu (Kaz) Noto, president of Isuzu Commercial Truck of America at the 2012 Work Truck Show.

In 2008, the two companies began meeting to discuss relative responsibilities and create an early definition of the vehicle. In the latter half of 2008, the companies built a scale model and started to bring key customers to look over the product. Key to the process from the very beginning was customer input. 

In early 2009, due to economic conditions, the project was put on hold for a few months, with the design and engineering process starting up later that year. The companies enlisted the help of Roush Industries on the body’s design, and the first prototype was built in early 2010. July of 2010 saw the start of the testing and validation process, with a unit sent to Fujisawa, Japan, and testing done in Hokkaido.

Moving into first-quarter 2011, the production pilots were built and the vehicle debuted in March 2011 at the Work Truck Show in Indianapolis. The following month, two large package delivery companies received pilot units for evaluation, which are still in operation. 

Reach chassis production began summer of 2011 and production of the completed unit began in Oct. 2011. Vehicles hit show floors early 2012.

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Commercial Durability

Powering the Reach is Isuzu’s biodiesel-compatible 4JJ1-TC 3.0L turbocharged engine delivering 150 hp, mated to an Aisin medium-duty 6-speed transmission. Both the engine and transmission have B10 durability ratings of 310,000 miles (meaning 90 percent will reach that mileage before requiring an overhaul), according to ICTA.

“Our Isuzu powertrain offers incredible fuel efficiency and proven durability. Its frame, suspension, steering, and braking systems are truly commercial grade. The Reach offers an unbeatable combination,” Skinner said. 

The Reach features a body designed by Utilimaster that sits atop an Isuzu NPR chassis. The vehicle’s diesel engine achieves 35-percent better fuel economy than a traditional commercial van, according to the company. The engine is also biodiesel-fuel compatible. 

Offered with a 151-inch wheelbase with either a 12- or 14-foot body, the cargo area can offer 540 or 630 cubic feet of storage, depending on the body selected. The Reach also offers either rear swing doors or an integrated, composite roll-up door. Another important benefit includes the integrated “logistics tracks” inside the Reach. These quick-attach tracks make it easy to install popular vocational packages.

“I am certain fleet buyers are looking to reduce overall cost of ownership. The van reaches a new standard in low TCO that no other commercial van can match. We are excited about the Reach — and it appears many others are, too,” Skinner said. 

The 4J Powerplant

Under the Reach’s hood is the 3.0L 4JJ1-TC dual overhead camshaft (DOHC), turbocharged diesel engine. Its high-pressure common-rail fuel injection system wrings the most energy out of every drop of fuel, and its intercooled, variable-geometry turbocharger provides excellent boost response over the engine’s entire RPM range. Together, these features help the 4J produce 150 hp and 282 lb.-ft. of torque.      

The 3.0L 4JJ1-TC diesel engine powers the Isuzu Reach.

The 3.0L 4JJ1-TC diesel engine powers the Isuzu Reach.

Like every Isuzu powerplant, the 4J is a true commercial vehicle engine —not a passenger-car motor adapted for use in a truck — and has been designed, built, and tested for reliability and long life. As a result, the 4J can be driven up to 10,000 miles between oil changes and has a class-leading B10 durability rating of 310,000 miles — meaning that 90 percent of 4J engines will reach that mileage before requiring an overhaul.

The Reach, like every 2012 Isuzu truck, is as clean as it is efficient, meeting demanding EPA 2010 and CARB HD-OBD emissions standards and is clean-idle certified in all 50 states, according to the manufacturer.

According to Shaun Skinner, executive vice president and general manager of Isuzu Commercial Truck of America, Inc., “The Reach offers incredible economy along with practicality, performance, and durability. It truly is a game-changer.”

Utilimaster Guides Development

Utilimaster is a subsidiary of Spartan Motors, Inc., and manufactures walk-in vans and commercial truck bodies for the delivery and service industry. The company designs, develops, and manufactures products to customer specifications for use in the package delivery, one-way truck rental, bakery/snack delivery, and linen/uniform rental businesses. 

Utilimaster guided the development of the Reach’s aerodynamic shape, along with its use of composite materials, which together improve fuel efficiency and reduce interior noise. The Reach van also employs impact-resistant composite panels that are designed to reduce overall maintenance costs. 

“Isuzu being the No. 1 selling low-cab forward truck in the U.S. since 1986 and Utilimaster being the No. 1 manufacturer of step-in vans coming together has produced a great commercial van — the Reach. Some people may think that two companies coming together may have some issues, but this partnership has been and continues to be a perfect marriage,” said Shaun Skinner, executive vice president and general manager of Isuzu Commercial Truck of America, Inc.

For more articles on the Isuzu Reach, click here.

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