Finding That Perfect Ride
We drivers are notorious for seeing a beautiful rig and saying, “Gee, I wish that were mine.” While the emotion might be valid, can one go out and buy an exact rig they have seen and have it work for them? Probably not, especially in expediting.
There is a lot of information that one has to have before even getting to the type of truck part of the deal, starting with what company will you be leasing on to. Some expediting companies have specific requirements beyond whether a dry box or a reefer is needed. For instance, how far apart ETracks are, the size of the box or how a truck is painted. One also needs to figure out if over the road, or local is how they will want to run so is a sleeper needed or not.
The next thing is to find a dealer that is experienced in providing expediting equipment; not all dealerships can do this. The salespeople at these dealerships are highly educated in the expediting industry and know the various carriers’ requirements along with what works for the different types of expediting.
Wes Hearn of Middle Georgia Freightliner, Macon Georgia, moved from semi truck sales to expediting equipment sales in 1995 when he went to work for Middle Georgia Freightliner. Mr. Hearn explains the role of the dealer.
“The end user as a general rule doesn’t have to know a lot about how the truck chassis is setup as long as he deals with a truck dealer that knows the [expedite] industry. An expedite dealer generally will spec a chassis based on the dealer’s prior knowledge and success of truck completion. All expedite companies, as a rule will ask for a 22’ van body, a minimum rear door opening of 85” wide and 88” tall, 3 rows of ETrack per sidewall, a forklift package to protect the entrance to the body and to protect the lower sidewalls. Dolly legs are required (stabilizers legs as some call them) to be used at the docks. The most common body configuration will be 22ft, 102” wide outside dimension and 103” inside height dimension. Swing rear doors are the norm however, some opt for a roll up door in the rear but that makes you lose door opening size.”
“Certain expedite companies need alternatives to the above. Companies such as Fed Ex and Panther run reefer divisions that change requirements on body setups but for the most part the dry van is the most popular. Just on the body side one can see that the dealership needs to understand and know what is required for the customer.”
“Sleepers have evolved into rolling condos. They have and can include most comforts of home. 96” to 100” is most popular on new units. Large refrigerators with freezer, flat screen TV with DVD, surround sound, microwave, sink with holding tank for water, lots of cabinets, dinette with bed conversion is our most popular choices to choose from. Sleepers have their own a/c unit. Some opt for a roof air unit, and of course all the comforts require power - a generator or APU unit. A dealer works with the customer to determine what weight they will be able to have in the sleeper and adjust the amenities.”
Hearn continues about the time it takes from ordering to getting the unit. “Ordering a truck chassis is generally 60-90 days, but that can vary greatly according to industry demand. The sleeper is the same way. A basic dry van expediter can be completed in four months; a more complicated unit such as a reefer would be more like 6 months. Truck chassis can be special ordered but most of the time dealers opt to order several at a time set up the same way. The type or model chassis one chooses controls engine horsepower. For example, Class 7 M2-106 can allow up to a 350hp engine, where a M2-112 can opt up to a 450hp class 8-style engine. In our case, we have done a lot of work with chassis engine spec, transmission, ratios etc. Dealers that work with these type chassis know what the best possible setup can be and they put that on the ground ready to sell.”
Cargo vans and sprinters are a different story, most can be purchased at any dealership and then the adaptations are made either by the owner or a third party. Terry O’Connell, a former owner operator with Roberts Express and Fed Ex Custom Critical, currently Field Safety Liaison for Fed Ex, has this to tell about the history and buying of sprinters and cargo vans. “Historically, The Ford E350 and the GMC or Chevrolet 3500, one-ton cargo vans have been the mainstay of the expediting cargo van industry. Each of these trucks will handle the carrier and shipper “B” load, which is recognized as two 4’ X 4’ X 4’ pallets that weigh no more than 2500 pounds total. These trucks are readily available from most Ford or Chevy dealerships and the servicing of the drive train can be reasonably accomplished at any legitimate repair facility in the USA and Canada.”
“These cargo vans are attractive to the expediters who own them because the gross vehicle weight ratings are less than the US Government regulated commercial vehicles unless they carry placardable amounts of hazardous material. With very few exceptions, the drivers do not have to maintain logs or worry about entering the State operated scale houses. Dealerships do not need any expedite experience or knowledge because they do not outfit the vans for expediting; this is usually done by the owner or a third party outfitter. However, many van dealers would have information where an owner could get the van outfitted for personal comfort and optimum cargo containment. One such place with a good reputation among expediters is Bolt Custom Trucks & Manufacturing in Fort Wayne, Indiana.”
“In 2001, Freightliner launched the Sprinter brand in North America. The Sprinter has slowly become a favorite of carriers and owners. The Sprinter allows a lot more personal space than the Ford or GM cargo vans while still capable of carrying two taller 4’ X4’ pallets. With a little less personal area, the Sprinter is capable of carrying three pallets. The Sprinter is more sensitive to regularly scheduled preventive maintenance schedules than the other vans but will provide many miles of comfortable expediting for those than can look beyond the larger purchase price.”
As has been seen, buying an expediter truck goes beyond passing a dealership and going in to impulse buy one of the pretty trucks sitting in a row. Company requirements, weight restrictions and the type of expediting one will be doing is just the tip of the iceberg in finding that perfect ride.