Merchants Fleet Management launched a new light-duty, all-wheel-drive truck rental program in October. Designed to serve fleets that need to scale up (or down) intermittently or seasonally, the program is now available nationwide. It allows for unlimited mileage, off-road use, and custom upfitting with no minimum lease term. Tax, title, and maintenance are included.
Work Truck met with John Cail, a 30-year fleet and rental industry veteran who serves as vice president of mobility for Merchants, to learn more.
Work Truck: What was the genesis of the truck rental program?
Cail: It’s really very similar to our first mobility offerings, but filling more short-term, project-based needs — typically six, 10, or 12 months at a time. We have been leasing trucks to customers for many years but never pulled it together in an all-inclusive national program. The genesis was the need to be a single source for truck leasing, services, and now rentals as well.
WT: Is there any reluctance on the part of fleets to pay what must be a higher average monthly rate?
Cail: Certainly, the cost per month is more expensive than a long-term lease. But the use is the key. What we’re hearing in the energy space, for example, is as oil prices drop, demand for gas exploration also drops. Our customers who manage projects that start up and then stop, typically in the six- to 12-month range, they like to have the ability to scale their fleet within a few days. Our truck rental program now allows them to do that without being exposed to overvalued vehicles.
It works for expansion as well. The traditional order-to-delivery time for a new truck is somewhere in the 12- to 16-week range. Some fleets have a need in the next 30 days. We can make vehicles available at your site in a week or two.
WT: Aside from the Chevrolet Silverado 1500 and 2500HD, are other models available through the program?
Cail: We do have Ford and Ram trucks available as well. We wanted to start by filling the ¾-ton needs first, including the five- or six-person capacity you get in the 1500, 2500HD, and 3500HD. We are finding quite a few of our customers are looking to rent heavy-duty vehicles, including bucket trucks. We will work to continue to expand on our offerings based on the needs of our customers and the demands of the market.
WT: What’s the appeal for vocational fleets?
Cail: Here’s a real-life example: One of our customers is an agriculture company in the Midwest. They have ownership of their fleet and Merchants supports it with our maintenance and fuel programs. Each summer, they need pickups for the 20 interns they hire for six months. The unlimited mileage factor is big for them. Another client of ours was hired to run pipeline on a third shift. They love the fact they can get a full crew-cab configuration, an 8-foot bed, diesel engine, and maxed-out towing capacity. And they can be upfitted with toolboxes and caps.
WT: How will you know whether the program is a success?
Cail: Our goal for the program is to fulfill all the fleet needs for our current clients while providing new offerings that will attract new clients to Merchants. We’ll know a year from now if we’ve done a good job.