How to Select & Specify Service Bodes

July 2008, Work Truck - Feature

by Joe Bohn - Also by this author

 Acquisition cost is often a primary driver in the selection of work truck chassis, their associated service bodies, and equipment.

At the same time, many fleets also desire to avoid DOT regulations by operating under 10,001-lb. GVW trucks. This has led to overloading vehicles or buying smaller sizes, such as a Ford F-350 Super Duty, rather than the F-450 the fleet really needs to do the job.

And now, with the rapid rise in fuel prices, fleets are also looking to downsize with smaller trucks and smaller bodies.

These factors can result in developing a body that doesn’t meet the specific requirements of the driver using the truck.

As Bob Johnson, director of fleet relations for the Farmington Hills, Mich.-based National Truck Equipment Association (NTEA), points out, "If the unit isn’t optimized for its intended application, its lifecycle cost will usually be higher than a properly designed, or spec’d unit."

Dave Decker, manager of truck engineering for fleet management company Wheels Inc. adds, "Usually, if you cut corners and take something generic, when you need custom work, it ends up costing you more in the long run."

For the safety and convenience of drivers and to make the job more productive, the majority of Wheels’ customers, for example, use customized service bodies, according to Decker.

Overall, service bodies typically require some degree of upfitting to adapt them for their intended application.

And, ultimately, coming up with the optimum selection and specification requires considerable forethought.

 Select the Body First

Spec’ing experts, including Dave Duford, specifications engineer with Mt. Laurel, N.J.-based fleet management company Automotive Resources International (ARI), typically recommend selecting the service body before choosing the chassis.

"The body is the tool portion of the truck," said Duford. "How that’s going to be used, along with considerations such as compartment and shelving placement, will tell you what type of chassis to pick."

Conversely, if the chassis is selected first, there’s a risk that it, or some part of it, may not fit the body.

Differences in the fuel tank placement of some Ford, Chevrolet, and Dodge chassis, for example, could interfere with a fleet’s desired placement of the body shelving and ultimately prevent use of a preferred chassis supplier, for example.

Again, putting an underbody compressor on a medium service vehicle, for example, may also pose problems with certain exhaust systems.

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