A mechanics truck is among the most useful tools in your technician’s arsenal, but it needs to be set up correctly to enhance productivity rather than hinder it. A common mistake is cutting corners to save on acquisition cost.
“Many people under spec the engine horsepower. They may under spec the interior,” says Tim Davison, product manager, bodies and cranes, Stellar Industries. “They think, ‘As long as it gets down the road to the next job, I’m okay.’ But when you pull maximum torque out of your engine day in and day out, that truck engine is not going to last as long.”
And the mechanic probably won’t be happy with the truck. “If they don’t like the truck, they are not going to service it very well,” says Davison. “That is human nature.”
When spec’ing the vehicle, start with the work that must be performed. “Determine what loads need to be lifted/transported, and what tools need to be stored on the service truck,” says Nathan Schiermeyer, engineering manager, Maintainer. “After that, the size of crane and body need to be determined, along with what type of chassis (GVWR, CA, length, etc.).”
Starting with the truck chassis can be a costly mistake. “Sometimes, customers have already selected or purchased the favorite chassis,” says Tom Wibben, sales and service manager at Maintainer. “We do our best to give them a great product, but sometimes the equipment that can be installed is limited by the chassis selection.” In some cases, owners purchase a chassis with the goal of staying under the CDL limit (26,000 lbs.). This can make it difficult to install additional equipment.
Conversely, if you size the truck for the maximum lift you may ever do, it will likely be oversized. “The truck needs to be sized to handle all the required jobs, but oversizing results in wasted investment, additional fuel consumption and higher ongoing licensing fees,” says Schiermeyer.
Examine Specific Requirements
A thorough understanding of each technician’s tool requirements will help you select the right-sized mechanics trucks.
“Not every truck may require a welder or have the same air system requirements,” says Terry Cook, product manager of commercial products, Iowa Mold Tooling Co. (IMT). “Some technicians may need fewer hand tools but utilize heavier items such as a welder. The need for a lot of tools may drive a contractor to a larger body even though a smaller crane is required. Analysis of utilization and operation/maintenance costs should help in this decision.”
He adds, “One overarching point to remember is that mechanics truck specifications are highly interdependent. Lifting needs dictate crane size, which governs the size of the body. Crane size, body size and required payload combine to decide the size of the chassis. The required tools included on the truck, combined with other air needs, will determine whether a rotary screw or reciprocating air compressor is added.”
Also consider the weight of components and products you intend to carry in the bed. “Technicians usually will not hit that overload stage until they start hauling components,” says Davison. “This is especially true now that many trucks are starting to carry lube skids to perform preventive maintenance. The engine or lube skid may occasionally push the truck to or above its maximum GVWR.”
Load balance is also an important consideration. “Load distribution front-to-back and side-to-side is often overlooked and can impact drivability of the truck,” says Davison.
Cranes often dictate the sizing criteria. “If a crane is going to be utilized on the truck, then it all starts with the capacity and reach of the crane,” says Craig Bonham, vice president of sales, Reading Truck Body Mfg. “That drives the size of the body necessary, in addition to the minimum GVWR and GAWR requirements and strength capacities that need to be in the chassis frame.”