For the second year running, commercial fleet managers crowned the Chevrolet Silverado 1500 full-size pickup truck Automotive Fleet’s 2009 Fleet Truck of the Year. Qualified fleet professionals awarded the Silverado top honors in online voting, choosing from among 21 nominated light-duty trucks.

"Our trucks work for a living and are used in heavy applications. They’re out doing a main break or a pipe survey; they operate in muddy fields and the Silverado is a great truck for the type of work we do," said Rob Allen, fleet manager, American Water, a water utility company based in Voorhees, N.J. The company operates a 4,000-vehicle fleet, 70 percent a mix of pickup trucks, including Silverados.

The Silverado is available in four trim levels (WT, LS, LT, and LTZ), three cab configurations (Regular, Extended, and Crew Cab), three box lengths, six light-duty gas engines, two heavy-duty engines (gasoline and diesel), 2WD and 4WD, and as pickups, box deletes, and chassis cabs. Seven Vortec gas engine choices are offered (4.3L V-6, 4.8L V-8, 5.3L FlexFuel V-8, 5.3L V-8, 6.0L V-8, and 6.2L FlexFuel V-8 and 6.0L HD) as well as the 6.6L Duramax diesel.

Cost of Ownership Low

The Silverado is user-friendly in both ride and comfort with 180-degree opening doors in Extended Cab versions. Stadium-style rear seats with a 60/40-split design are standard on Crew Cab models and available on Extended Cabs. Base MSRP starts at $19,550 and runs just over $50,000 with all the bells and whistles.

"It’s been a challenging year in the global marketplace, including the full-size truck market. These challenges make this year’s Fleet Truck of the Year recognition of the Chevy Silverado from the Automotive Fleet readership even more special," said Brian McVeigh, GM Fleet and Commercial Operations general manager. "Fleet customers still need full-size trucks that provide the utility, towing, trailering capability, durability, reliability, and fuel economy that the Chevy Silverado can provide — and at a cost of ownership that’s very important to our fleet customers."

Silverado Goes Hybrid

Redesigned in 2007, the Silverado adds significant improvements every year. The biggest change for 2009 is the hybrid powertrain, available in the first quarter 2009. The hybrid system is similar to its gasoline counterpart with a 6.0L engine featuring Active Fuel Management. Two electric motors can drive the truck up to 25 mph and the 300-volt battery will run all the electronics while the truck is in auto-stop mode.

Used as Money-Making Tool

The Silverado is widely used by fleets across the country for a number of different applications: the ½-ton for delivery services, construction projects, and homebuilders; chassis cabs for service bodies and dump trucks, to name a few.

"These trucks are used as tools to help fleets make money; it’s not so much an emotional buying decision as with a retail customer," said Dan Tigges, GM Fleet and Commercial Operations marketing and product manager for full-size trucks and utilities. "Cost of operation is relatively low, we have the best fuel economy in the industry, the trucks are reliable, and resale values are strong."

Intrinsically designed for aftermarket equipment, Silverado offers chassis cabs with straight frame rails and other specialty equipment options, including a backup alarm and a 12-volt power supply, for example.

Active Safety Features

The Silverado enjoys Five-Star crash-test ratings in front- and side-impact collisions from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). The light-duty truck features head curtain airbags that deploy not only when a driver is in a rollover situation, but also in severe frontal collisions, pending rollovers, and side impact. The StabiliTrak electronic stability control system — standard on all models with a V-8 engine — helps mitigate the occurrence of rollover events, and OnStar 8.0 includes GM’s Advanced Crash Response System, which deploys emergency response in the event of an accident.

Striving for Fuel Efficiency

A significant change throughout the industry is the shift toward more fuel-efficient powertrains. "It’s a big hot-button issue right now and will continue even though fuel prices are currently down," said Tigges. "We’ve done more to improve fuel economy, whether it’s lightening the vehicle or improving aerodynamics."

According to Allen, the Silverados in his fleet achieve a 15-percent improvement in fuel efficiency over the other pickups.

The 5.3L and 6.2L engines are flex-fuel capable. Fuel economy ratings for the ½-ton truck with a 5.3L engine in 2WD and 4WD are 14/20 mpg city/highway. The new, more-aerodynamic XFE (Xtra Fuel Economy) model, only available in ½-ton 2WD Crew Cab equipped with the 5.3L V-8 and 6-speed transmission, are even more fuel efficient at 15/21 mpg city/highway. The Silverado hybrids are expected to achieve up to 21/22 mpg city/highway in 2WD models and 20/20 mpg city/highway in 4WD models.

From a performance and fuel economy standpoint, Chevrolet is rolling out 6-speed automatic transmissions across the majority of its light-duty lineup. The new transmissions enhance performance when launching and towing and also provide better fuel economy because they are equipped with two overdrive gears. Rear-vision cameras and Bluetooth capability features have also been added.

"The Chevy Silverado is America’s best truck with the best V-8 fuel economy, lowest cost of ownership, best warranty coverage, and best initial quality as determined by the latest J.D. Power initial quality survey, which ranked Silverado number one among all full-size pickups," said Ed Peper, GM North American VP - Chevrolet.