The cornerstone to spec’ing a productive and safe upfit is to fully understand the fleet application. This involves talking with the end-users who will be actually using the equipment. These are the people who know what is needed to perform their jobs safely, effectively, and efficiently. The more information you can collect from end-users about the fleet application, the greater the likelihood that a truck will be properly engineered to successfully perform the intended operation.

It is a good idea to schedule site visits, if possible, to see firsthand how a truck is being used in specific work environments. This will give you the opportunity to confirm firsthand what is really needed as opposed to what a user may want. By understanding the day-to-day application, you will be able to build a truck that meets their needs and get an idea of tomorrow’s needs.

The key objective of your discussions is to match the truck with the fleet application. Once you have completed your end-user discussions, make sure the completed upfit specs have been reviewed and approved by all parties prior to order placement. It is critical to have a documented sign-off to avoid misunderstandings that result in after-the-fact upfitting modifications.

For light-duty fleets, a common upfit for a truck chassis is a service body. There are four factors that determine the size of a service body. The first is the chassis itself, which is determined by the required gross vehicle weight. The other three factors are cab-to-axle dimensions, service body floor width, and required compartment depth. Additional service body considerations are whether it is enclosed or open and the type of bin configuration. If you need to install equipment in a service body, such as winches, generators, or compressors, it may require compartment cutouts or access doors. These decisions should be made in consultation with the vehicle and equipment users.

If you operate a pickup fleet requiring storage equipment, it is critical to examine the various configurations from the user’s perspective in order to provide good ergonomic accessibility to stored items. The type of pickup selected and its bed length will determine the size of the tool storage box. The three most common types of pickup storage boxes: a crossbed box, side-mount box, and storage box in the bed. In addition, the type of storage box is usually determined by the size and number of items that require lockable, dry storage space. A crossbox, mounted directly behind the pickup cab, is favored when there is a minimum number of items to be stored. Side-mount boxes can be configured for large bins to carry shovels, pipes, or conduits. The bed-mounted boxes are installed inside a pickup bed against the fender walls or back of the cab and are primarily used to carry large items that can be secured with the addition of a tonneau cover.

One of the most common upfits is the installation of ladder racks. When specifying ladder racks, it is important to first determine the size of the ladder to be carried. Look for ease of maneuverability. Locate a rack so a ladder can be easily removed by the driver. How difficult is it to lock or unlock the ladder rack? This is important when service techs have a quota of stops needed to be made each day. Also, a ladder rack location determines whether a driver will remove a ladder from the driver side or curb side, which is important when working at an urban job site.

Another common upfit is the installation of a liftgate. The first consideration is whether one is actually required. Sometimes company policy will dictate the necessity of a liftgate, especially if there are limitations on how much weight a driver is allowed to lift. When selecting liftgates, the key consideration is to determine the required lifting capacity. It is also important to examine the mounting requirements of a liftgate. If vehicles are frequently replaced, select liftgates that bolt on to facilitate transfer to replacement vehicles.

Planning for Lead Time

A good rule of thumb is to find a balance that will keep the upfit process as simple as possible, while spec’ing the capability to fulfill the intended fleet application. Make sure you plan for sufficient lead time between the time you order and the time you ultimately put the upfit into fleet service. Make sure the lead time for the body is concurrent with the lead time for the chassis and not in addition to it. Also, if possible, avoid negotiating with multiple component suppliers and installation vendors. For example, some companies will order racks and bins from one vendor, ladder racks from another, and decals from a third. While this sourcing strategy may initially save money, it increases overall lead time, which ultimately increases costs. Late deliveries are an expensive hidden cost, since you are paying interest on equipment that is not in service.

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About the author
Mike Antich

Mike Antich

Former Editor and Associate Publisher

Mike Antich covered fleet management and remarketing for more than 20 years and was inducted into the Fleet Hall of Fame in 2010 and the Global Fleet of Hal in 2022. He also won the Industry Icon Award, presented jointly by the IARA and NAAA industry associations.

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