-  Image Credit - Adrian Steel

Image Credit - Adrian Steel

Over the last few years, the small cargo van has been slowly transitioning out of the market, much to the dismay of fleets that rely on them to conduct business.

As a fleet manager, what do you do, knowing compact cargo vans are almost phased out? You have two options: invest in a larger, pricier-replacement, or transition to a truck, SUV, or crossover.

That may seem like an easy decision, but it’s complicated for organizations that rely on an upfit solution for their vehicle operators to do their job. Do you have to go bigger just to get the upfit you need?

Many effective upfit solutions exist for large vehicles, but downsizing is an option,” said Katie Groves, national fleet sales manager, Adrian Steel. “Compact trucks, SUVs and some crossovers can be equipped with ladder racks, shelving, and toolboxes,”

If you’re saying goodbye to the small cargo van and hello to something even smaller, how do you make the transition? These three tips can simplify the process and get you an upfit that works.

Tip #1: Assess Vehicle Options

When transitioning from a small cargo van, first think through your company’s goals and objectives as well as the demands on the vehicle. Questions to ask include:

  • What job type/work does this vehicle support?
  • What do we need to accomplish with this vehicle?
  • What is the likelihood that I can get allocation for this vehicle?
  • Is sustainability/electrification an important part of the picture?

“We’ve performed successful upfits on the Ford Maverick, Chevrolet Equinox, Chevrolet Colorado, and Ford Ranger,” Groves said. “Typically, companies lean toward SUVs or crossovers for their sales and diagnostics and trucks or larger vans for their install, service, and general contracting vehicles.”

Although downsizing may mean less cargo space, smaller trucks come with attractive benefits, including better fuel economy, lower acquisition cost, and better maneuverability in urban areas.

Tip #2: Ask the Right Questions About Upfit Options

Once you’ve chosen vehicle makes, you’ll need to find out what your upfit options are. You can start by exploring work truck set up ideas and tips for planning your upfit.

Then, answer these questions to make a list of requirements an upfitter can use to develop the right options.

  • Does this vehicle need to carry a ladder(s)? If so, what size(s)?
  • What inventory does this vehicle need to carry to support the technician?
  • What tools will the technician need to do their job?
  • How often does the technician return to the warehouse?

“A good upfit partner can recommend upfit options for your new vehicles,” Groves said. “A company that has experience helping fleets transition vehicle platforms can walk you through upfit solutions that have been successful for similar fleets and discuss how those proven designs can be further tailored to the needs of your fleet, your technicians, and the job at hand. You’ll want to be sure your upfit partner has ship-thru for this new vehicle platform, since that saves time and hassle, and if they don’t, it takes a long time to set up with all OEMs.”

In addition to answering questions about your upfit needs, you’ll also want to ask the upfit manufacturer questions to make sure the company produces products that meet your standards.

Tip #3: Pilot the Frontrunners

Now that you’ve chosen the vehicle and upfit you think will work best for your business, pilot those vehicles. As you do so, questions to ask include:

  • Does the replacement vehicle platform support the technician and the job that he or she is doing?
  • Does the OEM have ample allocation to support this vehicle platform?
  • What tweaks do we need to make to the upfit to operate efficiently?

“When determining whether an upfit in a truck, SUV, or crossover will work for your fleet, go to the source: the operator,” Groves said. “We recommend surveying the drivers/technicians to understand what kinds of improvements they need. Understand the rationale for each change to make sure the upfit delivers on company goals.”

Before your new vehicles go into service, work with your fleet management company (FMC) and an experienced upfitter that specializes in solutions for work trucks to determine some key performance indicators (KPIs), then monitor progress toward those goals over the first year the new vehicles are in service.

Groves recommends easing into the transition.

“If you have the luxury of doing so, walk before you run,” Groves advised. Hang on to some of your existing vans a little longer than you normally would while you’re piloting new vehicles. That way you have a backup plan if the piloted vehicles don’t meet expectations.”

More Options Are on the Horizon

With small cargo vans still circulating in the fleet world, we’ve only begun to see how trucks, SUVs and crossovers will serve the industry. Groves said exciting developments are on the horizon for upfitting the vehicles that will step in for the small cargo van.

“Adrian Steel is embracing the truck world in a way we never have before. We will be launching a lot of new products over the coming months to support fleets going through this transition. “ 

Next Steps

To learn more visit www.adriansteel.com