Cyclng Truck Bodies: Is It a Good or Bad Idea?

July 2008, Work Truck - Feature

by Joe Bohn - Also by this author

Rising material costs have made it more tempting for fleets to consider cycling truck bodies and equipment. However, even though it may become more attractive in the future, such cycling typically isn’t cost-effective in most applications, according to fleet management officials.

Cycling Benefits Fleet

"We see with some degree of regularity certain customers contemplating refurbishing bodies for use on new chassis," says Ken Gillies, manager of truck purchasing and engineering for GE Capital Solutions Fleet Services, based in Eden Prairie, Minn.

Customers believe that repainting and reinstalling the body would be cost-effective.

"As the cost of bodies increase, refurbishment can become more attractive, if a fleet can somehow fit it into their operation without a loss of downtime," Gillies says.

"But from a general standpoint, we generally discourage our customers from doing refurbishing work for many of reasons."

The cost of vehicle downtime to allow for remounting requires major consideration.

GE Capital Solutions Fleet Services does have a customer that cost-effectively cycles its bodies, specially designed to transport expensive, oversized panels standing on edge.

"But that’s a rarity," adds Gillies, noting the company has the advantage of operating extra trucks, so it isn’t impacted by the downtime costs of having out-of-service vehicles during repair or maintenance.

Most fleets aren’t that fortunate — especially in today’s environment, when the trend is to cut back on the number of vehicles operated.

Cycling Costs Pile Up

Palm Beach County, Fla., incurs costs, for example, of about $100 per day for a work or dump truck to be out of commission, according to Doug Weichman, CAFM, director, fleet management division.

Allowing two months to refit a body and equipment onto a new chassis, downtime costs alone would total about $4,000, he adds.

"Beyond that you’d need the capability to do it, such as overhead cranes to pick the body off," said Weichman.

There’s also the cost of changing out and upgrading older bodies to update company requirements, such as LED lighting.

If the fleet has switched from a different, low-bid chassis supplier, matching the older body to a different chassis can pose additional problems and expense. Such expenses include hydraulics, location of power take-off (PTO), or the chassis’ exhaust system, which has a different configuration.

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