If you're like most fleet managers, you are constantly looking for ways to improve the quality and productivity of your work trucks, while at the same time reducing your maintenance and operating costs. One of the best strategies to accomplish these goals is to improve the equipment specification process. The specifications you provide to the chassis dealer and upfitter(s) that will supply your truck-mounted equipment will ultimately determine how productive and cost-efficient your new work truck will be.
Writing a good specification isn't easy. You need to understand issues such as regulatory compliance; vehicle payload and weight distribution calculations; matching truck bodies and equipment (second unit) to the chassis; and truck powertrain design.
Fortunately, there are a number of resources available to educate fleet managers about these topics. Qualified truck chassis dealers, equipment distributors, and body and equipment companies are willing to help you understand what is needed to get the job done. Another great resource is the National Truck Equipment Association (NTEA). In addition to offering training about developing specifications, the NTEA provides fleet members with basic engineering assistance and guidance through the specification-writing process.
The first step in developing any specification is to research the requirements for the job that the truck and equipment will perform. Your equipment operators can help provide this information based on their daily experience with existing vehicles.
Another important source of information is the maintenance shop. The people who maintain and repair your equipment can give you valuable insights into what typically goes wrong with existing units. This information can help you design your new equipment to avoid those problems. This, in turn, will reduce your maintenance costs and prevent unnecessary downtime.
Once you have done your basic research, it is time to determine if you are going to write the specifications yourself or involve a third party. When making this decision, remember that the hardest part of the entire process is the initial assessment and research. When properly referenced in a purchase order for a new piece of equipment, the specification becomes the controlling document for the entire process. That means that by controlling the development of the specification, you are also controlling the ultimate end product.
More and more fleets rely on third parties, including chassis dealers, equipment distributors, body and equipment companies, and leasing companies, to provide work truck specifications. There are a number of reasons behind this trend, including many fleet managers' increased workloads; lack of knowledge about the functional requirements of the vehicle, limited awareness of the products available to meet those requirements and a simple lack of training in how to develop a quality specification.
Chassis dealers, body and equipment companies, and equipment distributors can be valuable resources in the work truck specification process. Many are factory-trained and can provide recommendations about the best products for your applications based on OEM specifications and their own experience working with organizations similar to your own.
Types of Specifications
There are a number of different types and formats of specifications. The most common types include:
Engineered -- High level of detail to include specific material and dimensional requirements, manufacturing processes, etc.
Functional -- Addresses specific job requirements with minimal other detail.
Performance -- Provides specific performance requirements (cycle times, capacities, etc.), but typically does not address issues such as equipment layout.
Hybrid -- Combines aspects of the other three types as appropriate to fully define a unit without becoming over-involved in detailed engineering requirements.