With a strong economy comes a crucial opportunity for fleet managers: upgrading vehicles. A key consideration during this process is the materials being used for the bodies and cabs of those vehicles. In the work truck world, those materials primarily include aluminum and steel.
So, which is better for your trucks?
The weight of a truck can greatly affect its overall performance. At 2.5 times the density of aluminum, steel is strong and durable, making it efficient at protecting the driver. However, its additional weight means less maneuverability.
Aluminum reduces the weight of the truck and lowers the vehicle’s center of gravity, leading to increased maneuverability and a tighter turning radius. Less weight also means superior acceleration and braking. This not only leads to a comfortable driving experience but also better fuel mileage, as the truck is getting up to speed and stopping faster.
A lighter truck allows for greater hauling capacity. Because work trucks must abide by weight restrictions, a heavier truck means lighter loads, less efficiency, and lost dollars.
In addition to better gas mileage and load capacity, aluminum saves on maintenance and replacement costs. Tires and weight springs worn down by heavy steel need to be replaced at a faster rate than those on aluminum vehicles. More weight means more pressure on a truck’s structure, requiring more money to fix it.
Rust damage is another major pain point for fleet managers’ wallets. Whether facing the salty spray of coastal cities or the slushy snow of the Midwest, steel will succumb to these conditions faster than aluminum. Aluminum’s rust resistance improves the durability of a truck’s body and cab so it remains in a fleet longer, reducing the frequency of new truck purchases.
With its low center of gravity and better maneuverability, an aluminum truck makes for a safe driving experience for its operator. The ability to brake faster protects operators from accidents that could have been unavoidable in a heavier truck.
Despite these safety benefits, some may question the structural integrity of an aluminum truck. After all, isn’t steel the stronger, better choice when it comes to safety? While steel’s strength can’t be denied, aluminum is actually stronger pound-for-pound.
Additionally, aluminum offers manufacturers the ability to strengthen certain critical points on a truck’s cab through extrusion, which is not possible with steel. Connection points on a truck’s roof, doors, curves, and corners are reinforced with custom, heavy-duty extrusions that are designed to fit together seamlessly and improve the structural integrity of the cab. When combined with a better driving experience and a resistance to deterioration, an aluminum truck will perform well for its fleet.
It’s time to choose. Aluminum or steel?
The decision to use one material over the other for your fleet vehicles is ultimately dependent on your individual preferences and needs. However, aluminum is a viable option when it comes to fleet safety, dependability, and cost-effectiveness, making it an ideal metal for work trucks.
Assess your fleet, talk through the differences between these materials with your manufacturer, and get feedback from other fleet managers. You’ll have everything you need to make the choice that’s right for you.
About the Author: Cal Kanowitz is the marketing and dealer development manager at Marion Body Works.