Selecting the right truck specs for the right application may seem obvious. But as the world of commercial truck offerings continues to change, expand, and be refined, there are many considerations in spec details. From exact model, cab type and bed length to GVWR requirements and optional features, this can all make the spec’ing process increasingly complex.
Here’s an overview of how to approach the truck spec’ing process:
1. Understand the Application
You might understand the intended use of the fleet’s trucks, but do you really know the real-world operating conditions, individual driver use, day-to-day load weight, towing needs, etc.? With the various technologies available today, such as telematics and GPS tracking, it’s getting much easier for fleets to get a clearer picture of how their vehicles are really being used.
But old-fashioned communication can also be a powerful tool to get the pulse of the fleet. Talk to your drivers and your in-house technicians or third-party maintenance provider to map out your current trucks. For example, what are common maintenance problems? Do your trucks have sufficient tool storage? Are drivers having a hard time getting in and out of the truck or accessing the bed?
Knowing more about the trucks in your current fleet will give you a better perspective when replacing them with the best match for the application.
2. Don't Over- or Under-Spec
While talking to drivers is key to building the right truck, keep in mind that some features are subjective. For example, your driver might say he needs “more power.” Do the math in terms of gross vehicle weight and payload, type of drive cycle and road conditions, and what powertrain is really going to be best suited for the job.
Over-spec’ing a truck can dramatically increase the up-front capital cost with features you don’t really need. On the opposite end, under-spec’ing could increase maintenance costs, and accelerate wear and tear. Sitting down with your dealer or fleet management company will help you decipher which exact powertrain combination will be best for the fleet. For example, with Ford Commercial Vehicles, you might have some jobs suitable for the Super Duty models, while others may need more cargo or towing capacity, moving your spec needs up into the F-650/F-750 models.
3. The Added Features
A range of new technologies are hitting the commercial vehicle market. Backup cameras, crash avoidance systems, and more driver comfort features are making their way from the luxury market to the commercial side. While many fleets try to keep these added features to a minimum to reduce the purchase cost, there are some features fleets may want to consider that can help with safe driving habits, such as backup cameras. Or, these could be features that help increase efficiencies on the job, such as specialized storage boxes. Other options give fleets future flexibility. Adding a CNG/Propane or PTO prep package may be options to be considered.
4. Total Cost of Ownership
Total cost of ownership covers a range of aspects of vehicle purchasing no matter the make or model. Depreciation, fees and taxes, financing, insurance, fuel, maintenance, repairs, and resale (e.g., equipping the truck with a diesel vs. gasoline engine) are all factors that need to be thoroughly considered when spec’ing a truck model.