A vocational truck is a work truck at its core. These trucks are typically dump trucks, garbage trucks, or mixers, and are used to haul equipment or materials, and, in general, get the job done. However, some fleets are finding unique and innovative ways to utilize their vocational vehicles to do more than just “get the job done.”
Work Truck magazine spoke with several fleet managers to see what’s new in their use of vocational truck applications.
Verizon Considers Form, Fit & Function
Operating 42,000 total vehicles, Verizon utilizes its fleet of vocational vehicles to provide telecommunications services (wire line or wireless) across the U.S., driving around 270 million miles annually. In 2013, the communications provider purchased 1,000-plus new Ram C/Vs, designed for the company’s FiOS installation technicians fitted with Sortimo modular units.
Working with its user group, the company designed and deployed 25 Verizon FiOS buses able to transport 14 technicians per bus to their jobsites in New York City and the surrounding boroughs to service its external customers. It also carries a technician’s daily supplies and tools, and has a charging station.
The buses run specific routes, allowing technicians to work a high-rise apartment or condo complex without worrying how far away they are parked.
Through the use of the new buses, the company was able to reduce its fleet by 300-plus vehicles, reducing maintenance costs and decreasing its carbon footprint as some of the buses were fueled with compressed natural gas (CNG).
According to Wayne Farley, fleet director for Verizon, the most difficult challenge when upfitting a vocational vehicle to fulfill unique requirements is changing the mindset of business partners (Farley’s term for internal work groups) to be able to use a different vehicle than traditionally purchased.
The Ram C/V is a smaller version of the traditional design, “yet it is a better overall setup for our business needs,” Farley said.
Navajo Tribal Utility Authority Keeps Lights On
With approximately 25,000 square miles of land, the Navajo Nation controls three times the amount of land as the next largest tribal group. And, with land spread out in parts of Arizona, New Mexico, and Utah, it’s up to the Nation’s own utility department, the Navajo Tribal Utility Authority (NTUA), to keep power, water, and gas flowing.
For Jimmy Bekis, NTUA’s transportation superintendent, that means a fleet of 80 Class 6-8 trucks domiciled at seven locations, with the main hub being Fort Defiance, Ariz. The fleet services more than 34,000 electric customers, traveling off-road about 70 percent of the time.
NTUA chose all-wheel drive as its standard spec. The Nation’s latest order of vehicles has been Kenworth T370s in both 4x4 and 6x6 configurations. Two of the 6x6s are being used as pressure diggers to drill holes for power line poles.
The T370s in the 4x4 configuration are equipped for various services, including work as aerial bucket trucks, digger derricks, and as dump trucks (5- to 6-yard capacity) with hitches to pull service trailers.
With mileage targeted at about 24,000 miles a year, the Kenworth T370s will be on the job for a number of years.
DISH Network Uses a Mix of Vocational Units
DISH Network utilizes its vocational vehicles to serve new and existing residential and commercial customers across the country. The vehicles are driven 20,000 miles per year on average, varying across rural and metro areas. The vast majority of the fleet is comprised of ¾-ton Chevrolet Express cargo vans.
The fleet also includes some ¾-ton 4x4 pickups with service bodies for off-road and/or heavy snow areas, and 200 ROUSH CleanTech propane-autogas-powered Ford E-250 vans as part of the company’s alternative-fuel strategy.
The new propane-autogas vans will help the company save money and greatly reduce emissions with clean, domestically produced fuel.
DISH worked with Leggett & Platt for its upfitting on the vans and trucks, and Omaha/PALFINGER provides the service bodies for the 4x4s. ROUSH CleanTech provides the propane-autogas system.
Mobi Munch Feeds the Masses
Mobi Munch develops, manages, and operates a portfolio of ready-to-license food concepts aboard vehicles. The company utilizes the GMC, Workhorse, and the Isuzu NRR and NQR as food trucks and mobile vending units. Mileage for these units vary, from 2,000 to 10,000 miles per year.
The company’s Isuzu-based food truck design is the Mobi Cube — a first in design, build, and engineering, according to Josh Tang, CEO for Mobi Munch. The Mobi Cube features a 5.2L turbo-diesel engine, with the torque to pull an 8,000-lb. payload. The vehicles are clean-idle certified, and air-conditioned cabs provide a cool place after long shifts or working in the kitchen area.
The cab-over chassis measures 7.5 feet high, 6.75 feet wide, and 22.25 feet long, with a detached air-conditioned cab.
Mobi Munch worked with AA Cater Truck, Inc., which designs and builds food trucks, to upfit the vehicles.
Clintar Landscape Operates Whether Sun or Snow
From November through April, each of Clintar Landscape Management’s 40 Kenworth T370s face not only brutal snow and ice, but the corrosive environment that comes from exposure to road salt. The company’s mainstay truck in its snow removal business, the Kenworth T370 in single- and tandem-axle configurations, spreads salt and a salt liquid mixture.
During the winter months, the trucks’ sole operation is spreading salt to keep parking lots free of ice.
Five years ago, Clintar ordered its first Kenworth — a T370 salt truck with an aluminum cab. About 50 percent of Clintar’s revenues come from its snow removal operations; the rest comes from grounds maintenance, litter control, landscape enhancements, parking lot maintenance, and line painting. Scheduling salting is weather-dependent and most salting operations occur during the dead of night.
During the spring and summer months, the salt boxes are removed and the Kenworth T370s are put to landscape tasks, such as hauling gravel and mulch. Some of the trucks are even outfitted with 1,000-gallon tanks so Clintar can use them for watering sod installations, or for power washing operations.
Deli Express/E.A. Sween Chooses Sustainability
Deli Express/E.A. Sween is a family-owned food service company. Fleet operations worked to explore a variety of alternative technologies to determine which fuel type could work for the organization.
The final roster for the new vehicle included Isuzu for the diesel chassis, Johnson Truck Bodies for the lightweight shell, and Thermo King for the refrigeration unit.
The company focused on a truck body that would carry a typical day’s product load without adding any unnecessary weight. The GuardianLT is larger than previous designs, yet offers weight savings. The body’s lightweight, durable design also allows it to be used several times on different chassis.
Finally, the decision was made to utilize Thermo King’s new V-520 RT Spectrum direct drive unit.
The fleet now consists of approximately 30 trucks.