The Car and Truck Fleet and Leasing Management Magazine

Working the Bugs Out: The Mid-Box Solution

August 2004, by Paul Dexler - Also by this author

When General Motors replaced the Chevrolet S-10 compact truck line with the new Colorado earlier this year, Sam Alfano, fleet manager at Cook’s Pest Control in Decateur, Ala. faced a dilemma.

Alfano’s fleet of 1,100 vehicles consisted mainly of S-10 pickups, slightly modified for the special needs of the pest control industry and for Cook’s Pest Control in particular.

The Cook’s fleet trucks were long-bed single-cab models, fitted with full-length shells over the beds. The shells were necessary to protect the equipment from the strong southern sun, to keep it dry, and to safely store the often-toxic chemicals.

Model No Longer Available
The new Chevrolet Colorado and GMC Canyon trucks are not available with a long bed and therefore could not accommodate the tools and materials Cook’s technicians need to carry to their worksites. In addition, the full-length shells would not fit on the shorter bed. The company would have to purchase a new shell for each new truck, a considerable expense above the cost of the truck and other upfitting. Alfano noted that he began discussing the situation with his GM representative.

“We were driven by these two things,” Alfano said. “One, we did not feel we could do our job in the space of the short box, and two, we had these toppers out there that we wanted to re-use if we could. So that got the discussion going.”

A Parts-Bin Solution
“GM came to us with the solution of using a Colorado crew-cab chassis, then putting the regular cab on it along with a short box, which leaves a hole in the middle,” Alfano recalled. “Last August, we sent one of our top technical guys to an upfitter in California, who had been looking at prototypes of the Colorado.

“We shipped an S-10 out there with our top on it, so that the upfitter could see exactly what we had. When our guy went out there, they had our truck, they had our top on it, and they had the tank and hose reel that we installed.”

In the spring when the Colorado began production, Alfano said the upfitter investigated getting an actual vehicle, rather than a prototype.

The work then moved to Michigan, where GM investigated using a plastic box for mid-box. “They spent a lot of time trying to figure out how to get our tank and the hose reel into the mid-box,” said Alfano.

Two Configurations Needed The Cook’s fleet trucks also required two configurations to cover the two different aspects of the business, termite control and pest control.

“In termite control, you have baiting systems,” Alfano said, noting that for pest control, liquid chemicals are required. “You can’t have bait and liquid chemicals in the same truck. They’ll contaminate each other. So we had two truck configurations.”

“But the mid-box gave us the potential to have the separation we need on one truck,” Alfano said. He explained that GM engineers worked to put the tank and the hose reel into the mid-box. “But that was tight, so we’ll probably have the tank and reel in the short bed, keep the bait in the mid-box, and achieve the separation we need that way.”

Alfano noted that in the latest configuration, the mid-box is steel and uses the door hardware from the truck cab, so the truck resembles a factory-built item rather than an aftermarket vehicle.

He also said that positioning the tank and hose reel in the bed allowed slide-out shelves installed in the mid-box, creating even greater convenience for their field people.

“We have not received an actual truck yet,” Alfano said. “GM produced the first one only a month or two ago. They worked with it in Michigan, and it was put together in preparation for GM fleet product preview show, held in Palm Springs, Calif.

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