Many service body suppliers have really stepped up quality over the past several years. "There is more of a level playing field than there ever was before," says Tim Worman, product manager, Iowa Mold Tooling Co., Inc. (IMT). "If I were to line up the top five competitors, it would be really tough for anybody to say which is better."
But there are still some significant differences between the various makes of service bodies if you know where to look. Determining which service body fits best really comes down to understanding your needs. "Understand your cost of operation," advises Worman. "Understand what your replacement cycle is going to be. Look at payload requirements. Understand what you are going to lift."
You have to look at the intended life-cycle of the product. Worman says he is puzzled why some contractors go out and purchase a premium truck, then put a low-cost body on it. "Why would you do it? If I had both premium components, look at my trade-in opportunity at the end of the life, or my resale capability."
Service bodies are available in a range of price points that offer varying levels of durability and weight. "It is a durability/weight/cost trade-off," explains Jason Ollerich, Feterl Mfg. "Pick two of those. You could make the body out of aluminum and really save the weight. You would still have good durability, but you are going to be paying for it. In our case, we try to keep cost competitive and have the durability, but our weight is a little higher. We have satisfied customers who think it is worth it."
Built for long life
Durability is critical to ensure longevity. These bodies, when equipped with cranes, experience a lot of racking and twisting that can lead to crack formation. This movement is natural. "If you do any preventive measures to keep a body from twisting too much, you can actually induce cracking because it needs to flex somewhat," says Worman.
But it's critical to prevent stress cracks from forming and propagating in the body. "Once the body is cracked, even if you re-weld it, there is now a path for moisture to get in and you can start with some corrosion problems," says Ollerich. "You are going to have some issues at some point. It might not be right away. It might be six months down the road."
Preventing cracks is the emphasis of many premium service body suppliers. "You really can't prevent the body from moving," says Ollerich. "The question is how you do it in such a way that it doesn't cause a problem."
One solution that Feterl uses is an isolated crane mount. "We have always had a separate pedestal on our heavy-duty crane bodies," says Ollerich. "It basically goes right down to the truck frame. It is separate from the cabinets."
The substructure of the body also determines how the body will resist cracks. "You want to have a good solid frame underneath, not just a bunch of cross rails," says Ollerich.
Feterl has taken this frame one step further by sleeving its 4-in. transverse channels into its 6-in. longitudinal rails that sit on the frame rails of the truck. This lowers the body by 4 in. "It helps keep the center of gravity as low as possible."
Service Trucks International actually suspends its larger bodies. "Bodies mounted on the larger chassis use spring mounts on the front to reduce the amount of frame twist passed from the truck frame to the body due to the stiffer suspensions," says Walter VanLaren, sales/general manager. "Structural integrity and spring or rubber mounting are the main factors to look for."
IMT has taken a different approach that also emphasizes the substructure and floor of the body. Computer-generated simulations identify stresses in the body design and allow the engineers to determine where metal can be taken out and where reinforcement is needed. This led to IMT's patented inverted A-frame, which provides support where it is needed and takes material out of areas where it isn't required.