The Future of Vans In Expediting
For the purposes of this article, we'll define a van or "B" unit as usually a 3/4 or 1 ton cargo van with a cargo area at least 8 1/2 feet long, carrying freight that scales 2500 lbs. or less. Most of the companies we contacted report that their van size loads still account for 40% - 50% of their business volume.
In the expedited automotive freight area for example, a shipper can pack a lot of small parts on 1 or 2 skids. Many customers prefer vans because of perceived value; in spite of freight size - based tariffs, some are still cautious of being over-charged for a larger truck to haul their "A" or "B" freight.
Loading and unloading times are usually faster with a van, and more often than not, vans have the speed limit advantage on the highway. This results in the customer's perception that van equals faster delivery.
The obvious advantage of the "D" unit is size; a straight truck will be able to cover the majority of loads. There are a number of shipping/receiving locations that are equipped to handle only dock-high units, and add to that the special cargo handling features found on the larger vehicles such as lift gates, temperature control, etc.
A "D" unit with a team is obviously the choice for those high mileage loads. The expediting companies have always placed a premium on the "D: sized units for the reasons listed. However, the high cost of purchase and operation, especially for the new contractor, has kept the "D" unit a more difficult size to recruit.
Expediters Online posed the question: "What's the future of Vans/"B" units in expediting?" to several companies. Some of the responses we received include:
John Mueller - Safety Director at Try Hours, Inc. "With many of the expediting companies at 50% van fleet levels, the "B" size unit has a future in this business. Many of our customers prefer vans, so they're going to be necessary to our fleet. Also, it's difficult at times to recruit enough "D" units, so vans will be in this industry for some time to come."
Greg Maclean - General Manager - Pronto
"Vans will be with us in the foreseeable future. They have a competitive advantage in expediting with lower cost of operation, currently few regulations, etc. There are a good deal of "A" and "B" sized expedited freight out there, so the vans' future remains bright."
Mary Howard - Safety & Recruiting Director - Nations Express
"Unfortunately, vans appear to be in the process of being phased out. Some companies are eliminating the "B" units in favor of the straight trucks. Nations Express is not currently adding vans to our fleet. However, an alternative to the traditional van might be contractors with cube vans. This allows them the opportunity to haul the low weight, but bulk freight that vans are to small for."
Mike Welch - President - Express 1
"I think "B" units are an important asset to our company and the industry. Approximately 40% of our loads are van size, that's why 35% - 40% of our fleet is that size unit. We are currently adding vans, and foresee an increase in business for the "B"'s. Interestingly enough, we've actually seen a decrease in the need for "C" units, the 12' to 14' straight trucks. Many of our customers prefer "D" units when ordering a straight truck. Overall though, vans will be a necessary part of expediting."