Taking advantage of process improvements can drive positive and profitable change in many organizations. Fleet managers benefit by designing a healthier and more efficient fleet. Several strategies are available to achieve this goal, leading to significant cost savings. Start by taking a global look at fleet operations, beginning with specifications, vehicle design and maintenance.

There is a good chance you are in a position to understand which fleet operations work and those that don’t work. Having the right people involved in vehicle design is critical. Without the correct team in place, fleet managers often fall into the category of not knowing what equipment is needed, as well as not having enough time or resources to design a proper vehicle. Exclusively relying on OEMs, upfitters and distributors to design fleet vehicles specific to your operation can be hazardous.

When third parties write specifications, they may deliver a specification favorable to brands they sell, and it may not be the most cost effective to your operation. Aligning with equipment end users and partnering with industry representatives including distributors, upfitters, and manufacturer representatives should provide you with the opportunity to truly understand what is available, thereby becoming the real expert to specify what is needed at the best value. They can be valuable resources and should be utilized.

Choosing the Right Vehicle

Is bigger always better? As operations become more complex, trucks often get bigger and heavier. The old school of thought: if the unit fails, buy a bigger unit next time, which could lead to fleets having grossly oversized vehicles capable of tackling any job. While some may view having heavy duty vehicles at the ready as an advantage, increased costs must be considered. Right off the top, in theory, downsizing can save initial costs. Additionally, when there is less weight to move, less fuel is required. Further, savings may come from lower maintenance, licensing and insurance costs.

Downsizing on paper always sounds like a good idea, but it is important to make a productivity plan to fully understand the real and valid operating requirements. If changing a vehicle’s physical size is not an option, start looking for ways to reduce curb weight. There can be opportunities to include light-weight chassis and body requirements. Furthermore, understanding the drive cycle can be critical. Right-sizing components such as fuel tanks and batteries can be an easy way to reduce weight.

Engage with operators and users. Usually the rule of thumb is that operators will load and often overload vehicles until there is no more physical room. Work with operators to design specifically what they need to get the job done. Do not fall into the scenario of what ifs and unknowns. If there is room, it will get used. Just by defining and properly designing, you have successfully eliminated the extra space that always accumulates unnecessary stuff.

This was originally published in the Association for the Work Truck Industry's April 2017 issue of Fleet Affiliation and is used with the association's permission. Visit here for more information.

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