Right-sizing vehicles

More model choices are leading fleets to smarter vehicle size decisions

Optimum PM intervals can be influenced by the individual vehicle make/model, application and vehicle age.

I emphasize the concept of optimizing PM schedules. Every time you touch a vehicle you will incur a minimum of one hour of labor changes.

You need to look at all of the factors that require you to touch a truck (chassis PM, equipment PM, emissions inspections, DOT inspections, license renewal sticker placement, etc.) and establish a schedule that lets you do as many things as possible during one touch, even if it means cutting some schedules short.

Another thing to consider is to establish a good predictive maintenance program. If the mean time between failures (MTBF) for a given component is say 72,000 miles, that component should be flagged for replacement during the latest possible scheduled PM prior to the component reaching its MTBF point.

FM: Over the past several years, OEMS have been introducing environmentally friendly alternative-fueled and hybrid vehicles. At present, these types of vehicles seem best suited for certain applications, such as work trucks that use PTO-equipment and accessories and trucks used in stop-and-go applications, such as refuse. Do you see applications for this expanding?
RJ: At this point in time there is no one "green" technology that works for all drive/duty cycles. As the various green technologies improve and the infrastructure for alternative fuels develops, I thing you will definitely see increased use of these technologies.

Right now very few of the green technologies have a true payback, so most applications are linked to environmental mandate, the desire to appear green or the availability of buy-down funds. Again, as the technologies become mature, the costs will come down and the paybacks will be better.

The other thing I am seeing is the greening of "conventional" trucks. The use of idle control/reduction technologies, improved vehicle and component designs, better spec'ing and improved vehicle productivity can generate fuel savings equal to the most efficient hybrids currently available at a significantly lower cost.

FM: Might these types of vehicles make sense for a maintenance shop's vehicle fleet?
RJ: It depends entirely on the drive/duty cycles of the vehicles in question. If the shop truck has a low mileage duty cycle you will never see a payback for a hybrid no matter how efficient the truck is due to the first cost premium.

If it is used as a pusher truck or for plowing snow, you will probably find that the hybrid you are considering is not rated for this type of duty cycle. On the other hand, if your shop truck generates a lot of mileage and is utilized in an area where there is adequate infrastructure the use of an alternative fuel may make a lot of sense.

FM: Any finals thoughts?
RJ: Fleets are under a tremendous pressure to reduce both operating and acquisition costs. Many fleets are taking a close look at current vehicle utilization practices and policies to identify ways to downsize portions of their fleets without overloading them.

This may mean designing trucks for restricted applications, which in turn means it is critical that the proper truck be assigned to a specific job.

My concern is that down the road utilization pressures may lead to another cycle of truck overloading as people lose sight of the importance of matching the trucks to the job.

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