Most vocational truck fleets utilize upfits in one form or another, from service bodies to truck bed covers and other cargo storage options. Fleet managers have been working hand-in-hand with upfitters to bring new products to the market that fit their needs in innovative and unique ways.
Some of the top factors moving forward the development of new upfits are driver efficiency and ergonomic solutions.
“Efficiency and ergonomics are key factors in a decision on an upfit. Utilizing drawer systems, reel holders, and drop-down ladder racks in concert with the requirements of the fleet allow for an upfit that best fits their needs,” according to Ray Hewines, fleet sales manager for Ranger Design.
Ergonomic concerns are one reason that Adrian Steel has focused on its ladder rack systems.
“One innovative way truck fleets are utilizing our upfits is ladder storage. Short and specialty ladders are being stored inside the van for safe and efficient access from the side or rear doors. Fleets that need to transport larger ladders use drop-down ladder racks to safely and efficiently access them on top of the van,” said Todd Goldmeyer, marketing manager for Adrian Steel.
Truck caps and tonneau covers are also advancing with new innovations in the vocational truck industry. Allowing for weatherproof and secure locations for tools and products, these products are often must-haves for truck fleets.
“Reading is getting into some very unique industries outside of the typical construction and utility markets. We currently produce a customized product for PODS, which allows for delivery of portable storage containers to commercial and residential locations across the country,” said Eric McNally, vice president, Sales and Business Development for Reading Equipment & Distribution, LLC. “Another area currently offers a completely custom-engineered solution for Scotts Lawn Care. This product contains stainless steel components and multiple fluid tanks with application hose reels for vegetation and pest control.”
A.R.E. is also noting benefits for pest control with its truck caps and truck bed covers.
“We do very well in the pest control industry. Our truck caps and fiberglass truck bed covers provide safe, secure, and dry storage for pest control equipment as well as hazardous materials. In the truck bed, hazardous materials are safely stored away from the vehicle occupants who are in the cab of the truck. A favorite product for the pest control market is our 3DL Series, which is a fiberglass truck bed cover that opens on both sides as well as at the rear of the truck bed for easy access to needed equipment,” said Bryan Baker, director of Sales and Marketing for A.R.E. Accessories.
Fleet managers are also asking for added technology and specialized equipment to be added to upfits.
“One of the ways vocational truck fleets are utilizing our upfits is by having Stellar Industries, Inc., design and build to their needs rather than being forced into a cookie-cutter-style body. Fleets are constantly discovering that, by using different configurations in existing body styles and utilizing specialized equipment, GPS integration, and backup camera installation, it helps their fleet operators be better, more efficient and productive, at their jobs. Stellar is also open to exploring customer ideas, such as the addition of auxiliary outlets in truck cabs and custom manufactured clothing compartments,” said Al Kuhlman, assistant product manager for Stellar Industries, Inc.
Finally, brand image can also benefit from advancements in vocational truck upfits.
“Charter Communications has utilized BrandFX advanced composite bodies to improve the overall corporate image of its fleet. The rounded lines and polished gel coat finish of BrandFX composite bodies provide a high-quality appearance. In addition, the tough composite construction of these bodies deflects minor dents and dings and does not rust, as will metal bodies. BrandFX uses a high-quality gel coat with UV protectors, and the color is impregnated into the gel coat’s 22-milimeter thickness. Given these characteristics, Charter determined that the company’s corporate image would be better supported by the quality appearance of composite bodies. This benefit is in addition to the longer lifecycle expected of the composite construction of Charter’s aerial trucks. Since these composite bodies weigh approximately 50% less than equivalent steel bodies, fleet operating costs were also reduced” said Carla Anglin, VP of National Accounts for BrandFX.
Constantly Adapting to Needs
Upfitters are listening to what fleet managers have to say and offer some innovative solutions fleet managers may not be aware of.
“An innovative item some fleets may not be aware of yet is the Stellar CTDplus radio remote control system, which is used to control our line of heavy-duty mechanic cranes. This radio system was introduced around two years ago and can tell an operator how much they are lifting, what angle the boom is at, how far away from the center line of the crane base the load is, how much more they can lift, as well as what the percentage of rated load is being lifted, all in real time, on a screen in the handheld remote. These features allow the operator to remain aware of what the crane is doing, what it is still capable of doing, and, most importantly, helps ensure safe operations at all times. This system comes with a Boost Mode and a Safe Mode,” said Kuhlman of Stellar Industries.
The ability to adapt to changing vehicle needs at a moment’s notice is usually a challenge.
“Fleets in certain segments have an opportunity to get the flexibility and versatility they require through the use of our Fold Away shelving. Our Fold Away shelving enables drivers in these segments to adapt ‘on the fly’ to changing scenarios ensuring fleets can meet their customer service goals safely and on time,” said Hewines of Ranger Design.
Many truck fleets have units that require some off-road travel, which can be rough on traditional truck caps.
“Some of our new models, including our HD Series and Diamond Edition DCU, are built rugged enough for work trucks that need to go off-road or on more rugged terrain. The HD Series is a fiberglass truck cap with an interior metal frame, which supports any weight that would go in the side toolboxes or on the roof racks. The Diamond Edition DCU is a diamond-plated aluminum truck cap that is nearly twice the thickness of our standard aluminum work truck caps. These products serve as a solution to any fleets that need extra strength and durability, including the oil field industry, as well as state and national park and forestry services,” said Baker of A.R.E.
Other fleets have more cargo-carrying needs than a typical truck can handle, and are looking for the functionality of a van.
“Our WORKPoD insert offers an excellent solution for fleets that need van-like functionality. Used in lieu of 4x4 vans, A WORKPoD insert, mounted in the bed of a 4x4 pickup, can be easily removed from one truck and installed on another in the field. Based on their long service life, WORKPoDs are often transferred from a truck being retired to a new vehicle, allowing the fleet to turn a used truck that will bring more money at auction than will a van,” said Anglin of BrandFX.
To keep up with the constantly evolving needs of the vocational truck fleet manager, upfitters are constantly updating and innovating their products. To help keep fleet managers up-to-date, here are several new products that have been recently launched:
➔ Adrian Steel has launched a new composite partition. Sound deadening provides a quieter cab, thus fewer distractions. The molded fit keeps air in the cab, reduces idle time and in the end saves the cargo van owner money. In addition, a new ladder rack with the industry’s very first twist-to-adjust feature allows the user to properly adjust the rack to their ladder in seconds. It also features an ergonomic load height for anyone 5-foot 4-inches or taller.
➔ A.R.E. added a rear-view camera option for its truck caps. The camera can be used as a backup camera only, or it can be on constantly and serve as a rear-view mirror if desired. These cameras can include a monitor, but they can also wire into an existing monitor if the vehicle is already equipped with one.
➔ Brand FX has developed the WORKPod, which can be transferred from a truck being retired to a new vehicle, allowing the fleet to turn a used truck that will bring more money at auction than will a van. A WORKPod also offers the advantage of providing outside access to tools and supplies, eliminating the need to crawl into the back of a van for tools or product.
➔ The new MaxView partition from Ranger Design is an industry first that combines a composite lower panel with a polycarbonate upper panel to give the driver maximum visibility.
➔ Redi-Gate, Reading’s tailgate storage solution, is a patent-pending technology that adds 1.1 cubic feet of added storage space without cannibalizing the use of any other storage space.
➔ Stellar Industries recently introduced aluminum doors on its complete line of TMAX mechanic truck bodies. By using aluminum doors, the weight of the truck body itself was reduced, which correlates directly into more payload that a fleet operator can take to a job site.