Spec’ing Vocational Trucks For Minimal Maintenance

An eight step design to spec’ing vocational trucks for minimal maintenance

Vocational vehicles (work trucks) continue to grow in complexity and sophistication. At the same time, all companies are under increasing pressure to maximize their vehicle investments.Consequently, all fleets need to re-think all aspects of how they design, maintain and manage their vehicles. This process needs to begin start well before a new work truck is ordered.No longer is it prudent for a fleet to just buy what it always bought. It has to figure out how to keep its vehicle maintenance and operation costs down prior to starting the truck acquisition process.

The best practice is to take a systematic approach to specifying a new vocational truck to ensure that the completed vehicle will be optimized for its intended application and will be able to handle the different types of wear and stresses vocational trucks are subjected to, advises Bob Johnson, director of fleet relations for NTEA, the Association for the Work Truck Industry. NTEA represents companies that manufacture, distribute, install, sell and repair commercial trucks, truck bodies, truck equipment, trailers and accessories (www.ntea.com)


The first step is to accurately define the truck’s functions and identify its requirements, Johnson says. These may include:

  • Type of truck body and mounted equipment, such as crane, generator, welder, liftgate, etc., required.
  • Capacity and performance of the mounted equipment.
  • Truck performance requirements (starting, gradeability, road speed, etc.).
  • Trailer towing requirements, including trailer loading (gross combination weight rating).
  • What payload weight and volume will the vehicle have to carry?

He adds that it also important to identify any conditions or limitations that may apply to the completed unit, such as:

Operating environment

Think about such things as:

  • Does the vehicle need to haul equipment?
  • What kind of material will be hauled and how much?
  • Will the truck have different uses at various times of the year? For example, will it be used to plow snow in the winter?
  • How can available features improve or hinder operator productivity?
  • Maintenance environment.
  • Projected life cycle of the application.
  • How many workers will the truck carry regularly?
  • Regulatory requirements.


Once the truck’s functions and requirements have been determined, the next step is to select the appropriate components and equipment to achieve the design goals.

When choosing individual components, Johnson says keep track of their weight and center of gravity. Having this information up-front will make it easier to perform the second unit weight distribution analysis.

Further, he suggests making sure the various components are compatible with each other and that they match the previously identified criteria. Incorrect components and options can result in upfitter delays, unplanned modifications costs and high long-term maintenance costs.

Additional considerations:

  • The size of special equipment to be upfitted to the chassis, the weight of these components, cargo storage needs, component installation requirements and operational requirements, such as power sources for equipment, equipment access, etc.
  • What are the dimensional requirements, based on the size and shape of materials to be transported?

For many vocational vehicles, accessory items like generators, hose reels and compressors must also be taken into account, he notes, and says local vehicle equipment distributors can be a useful resource in this process.


After choosing the necessary components and equipment, Johnson recommends drawing a basic layout to be sure that all of the components fit together and that no safety, productivity or maintenance issues have been created. Don’t depend on a visualization of the components, he warns. You may think that everything will fit together, but a simple sketch may reveal that there are problems.

This content continues onto the next page...

We Recommend