Truck Spec’ing Tips
I had the opportunity
recently to visit with Adriano Melluzzo, vice president of industry sales
for Ryder Systems Fleet Management Solutions, Miami, to gain some
understanding of the company’s strategies for getting the best
reliability, dependability, performance and lowest cost of operation out of
its vehicles used in beverage transportation.
Melluzzo echoed what has been discussed in previous
columns: that good truck spec’ing begins with deciding upon
expectations and requirements for your vehicles; and that total cost of
ownership is more important than initial acquisition cost.
Melluzzo recommended that fleets make an evaluation to
determine how their current vehicles have performed, both operationally and
cost- wise. “This is all the more reason for owners to have a formal
maintenance program in place so as to be able to identify reoccurring
problems and measure life-cycle cost,” he explained.
Fleets also need to consider how their business may
change in the years ahead, and make sure that new equipment has additional
capacity for growth. He further advised looking for new technology that
will lower overall running cost and fuel efficiency.
“The trend in the beverage business has been to
go with a tractor trailer combination (bulk delivery) in lieu of
traditional side-loader trucks or trailers,” Melluzzo said.
“This enables distributors to consolidate the delivery to pallets and
carry more products without the expense of additional drivers and vehicles.
“In addition, if the trailer unit is down for
maintenance, it is much easier to replace it with another van trailer
instead of replacing the entire truck or carrying the expense of a
specialized unit (side loader) as a spare.”
As for cab configuration, Melluzzo said the choice of
a conventional cab design or a cab-over-engine model is typically decided
by a fleet’s radius of operation. “If deliveries are in metro
cities like New York City, Boston, Los Angeles or Chicago, a cabover design
is preferred due to the maneuverability and visibility,” he said.
“Conventional style cabs are favored for deliveries in suburbs or
rural areas for their comfort, as turning radius is not an important
Vehicles in the beverage industry are almost exclusively spec’d with automatic transmissions, Melluzzo said,
because they require less training to operate, are easier to use, allow
improved productivity and safety, and are often preferred by drivers.
Asked if on-board electronics and diagnostics can help
fleets develop better fuel economy and preventive maintenance practices,
Melluzzo answered “Yes.” He cited Ryder’s Web-based fleet
management tool, FleetCare, as an example of some of the benefits and
advantages of these technologies. It offers immediate Internet access to a
variety of performance metrics, such as vehicle maintenance schedules,
service calls, vehicle specifications and fuel purchases.
“Reports can be customized and sorted in a
variety of ways to analyze information by location or vehicle,”
Melluzzo explained. “Our customers have told us that they find the
tool to be extremely valuable in helping manage and track their fleet
performance by location. Scorecard reports are automatically delivered to
sales and operations people monthly, giving them the ability to analyze
fleet performance and make better business decisions.
While all fleets want to spend as little money as
possible when acquiring a new truck, Melluzzo said it makes sense to look
at the life-to-date (LTD) ownership cost, rather than initial acquisition
Vehicle maintenance also needs to be considered when
acquiring new vehicles, and Melluzzo suggested contract maintenance as an
option. Some maintenance agreements have a guaranteed maintenance cost,
which “enables companies to better budget their fleet operating cost
with no surprises,” he said.
Considering outsourcing your
vehicle maintenance? Ryder Systems recommends asking these key questions of
a contract maintenance provider:
• Is the network of locations that will service your needs within your radius of operation?
• Do their service
personnel carry truck technician certifications?
• What is the tenure of their service technicians?
• What percentage of the maintenance work is done in house?
• Does the maintenance provider measure customer satisfaction, vehicle downtime, reoccurring
repairs and overdue PMs?
• Can the maintenance provider give you access to their maintenance management tool to help you
better manage your fleet?
David Kolman is a veteran truck communicator,
keynote speaker and long-haul trucker. Commissioned
as an Honorary Colonel on the Kentucky governor's
staff for his work promoting traffic safety, he actively
participates in trade associations and reports news
and information about the trucking industry for
broadcasting and print media.