Given the current economic climate and the ready supply of available trucks, you may see some contractors press vehicles into unintended applications, such as mating tractors with sleeper cabs to dump truck bodies or using them to pull dump trailers. But the basic fact remains - there is no substitute for using the right truck for the job.
Consider the case of a tractor pulling a bottom-dump trailer. In states that conform to the bridge formula, you are limited to 80,000 lbs. GVW. "You can fully reach the bridge formula with a bottom dump and a properly spec'd tractor," notes Jim Ladner, Landoll Corp. "A lot of these guys will go out and try to buy a road tractor to do bottom-dump work. You are hurting yourself by using the wrong truck. A day cab with the right wheelbase may actually weigh 3,000 to 5,000 lbs. less than that over-the-road truck."
That is 3,000 to 5,000 lbs. less legal payload that you can transport per trip. Multiply this times the number of trips per day, week and year and you can quickly pay for the right truck for the task.
Spec to reduce costs
The intended application is only one of many factors that can influence the overall operating costs of an individual truck.
As one of the largest general contractors in the state of Wisconsin, Miron Construction runs a fairly extensive fleet of heavy- and medium-duty trucks to support its varied construction operations. For semi tractors, the company exclusively runs Peterbilt Models 278 and 379. For medium-duty trucks, it uses Peterbilt, International and GMC trucks.
"The big issue in our industry is that trucking is a necessary evil," says Pete Klosterman. "Most of our semi tractors are standard over-the-road trucks pulling flatbeds and trailers. We don't do any heavy hauling. It is mostly hauling construction equipment - forklifts, generators, concrete forms, lumber and other typical construction freight. We do on the order of 100,000 miles a year per truck. They run on the road daily, sometimes six days a week in the summer."
The company buys all of its trucks new. "It is lower cost of operation," says Klosterman. "You have a warranty and the latest and greatest equipment for the drivers."
There are several criteria Miron Construction uses for selection. "The weight of the truck is always an issue, especially with fuel prices," says Klosterman. "Fuel mileage is definitely another large issue." For jobsites, turning radius is also a factor. "A lot of work is happening in urban areas these days, so turning radius and wheelbase are probably the ones that stand out the most."
The company also deliberately avoids carrying several different brands and models. "The commonality is certainly a big issue," says Klosterman. "The Peterbilt 278 and 379 are a very similar truck. The parts commonality is very good."
Limiting the variety of trucks helps make the company's internal maintenance shop more efficient. "We pretty much know the trucks inside and out and know the spare parts we need here," says Klosterman.
Match to your niche
In some cases, a truck's specs can actually create a point of difference from the competition. For example, Phoenix, AZ, abounds with Super 16 dump trucks due to local weight regulations. These 16-wheel standard dump trucks are equipped with pusher lift axles and a liftable tag axle that extends 11 to 13 ft. They allow the maximum effective payload for the Phoenix market.
Yet, Southwest Trucking & Grading has carved out a niche with standard 10-wheel Mack dump trucks. According to Brandon Rasmussen, general manager, there are certain jobsites where the maneuverability and lighter weight are an advantage. "It has been nice having 10-wheelers because a lot of people don't want Super 16s."
Such was the case on a job the company recently completed at the Phoenix Convention Center. "There were weight issues. They had ramps you had to get out on and they didn't allow as much weight," he explains.