With the wealth of choice out there, it’s not easy to figure out what kind of truck you need for your business. Understanding what you need is about more than just what’s on the wheels, but what your driver skills and needs are, where the truck will be driven, what kind of trailer you need, and more.
Most fleets have a single goal: make sure the truck matches the need. When it comes to hitting the road, fleet managers are counting on optimal performance and maximum efficiency. There’s no magic wand for finding the vehicle that’s right for your fleet, but there are concrete steps you can take to make sure you are getting the best out of what you choose.
A careful needs assessment is needed before selection begins. Start asking questions to determine what type of equipment is right for you.
A good first set of questions might be:
- What is the vehicle’s gross weight?
- What part of the country will the vehicle be driving in?
- What sort of cargo will you be expecting to carry?
After asking questions regarding the truck type, it’s also prudent to consider the trailer. Take, for example, food distribution fleets. Will the trailer need a refrigeration unit? If so, what type of unit will you need to maintain the temperature medium?
When a fleet is dealing with a perishable product, things like the amount of time between deliveries and the length of time at each location take on greater importance. Ensuring you have the proper equipment to account for any variations means the freight remains viable.
Another consideration surrounds the cargo being carried. Will you need truck drivers with special skills or a certain amount of experience delivering sensitive or hazardous cargo?
Once you’ve figured out the type of equipment you’ll need for the job, it’s time to decide whether you need better performance or increased fuel economy. This may not be as easy a task as one might think.
Many fleets have a difficult time figuring out whether top-notch performance or excellent fuel economy are more important. For some, it may seem like these questions are diametrically opposed.
It’s hard to reconcile the desire for the best fuel economy with the need for speed. The key lies in prioritizing your fleet’s need to find the right balance for the desired application. One example of this would be a truck that will be traveling through mountain passes. If it’s been spec’ed for fuel economy, it may not have the power necessary to pull through.
Fleet managers should be constantly testing and monitoring new features and miles data. If you sacrifice one spec for another, you need to be able to show the real-world scenarios that necessitate that specfying decision.
The reality is that most fleet owners don’t always know what they need. More often than not, they are making decisions with a blunt instrument, rather than a precision tool. The way to ensure that the right decisions are being made is to ask the questions and properly evaluate your need.
The final problem that most fleet managers face is the carrier’s desire to focus on the lowest acquisition cost. Although a particular add-on might carry a greater cost, if it improves efficiency over the long-term, you’ll come out ahead on your return on investment.
Fleets that focus only on price often end up with generic trucks that may save the bottom line, but not fit the actual need. While lower-end trucks are good for basic runs, can they handle the runs that your customers require?
Another aspect to look at is whether or not particular additions are increasing safety and compliance. Things like backup cameras, collision avoidance systems, and other warning systems benefit the fleet in ways that aren’t easily accounted for by the bean counters.
If all else fails, bring an outside expert in for consultation. It’s not always easy for a fleet manager to be able to properly articulate the need for a more expensive vehicle to someone sitting behind an office desk. Even so, long-term decisions regarding company equipment should not be taken lightly. The next time you are looking to make a purchase, make sure to ask yourself the right questions.