Thinking of upfitting your fleet to better suit your drivers’ needs? Here are the most popular ways to do it (and the reasons why).
Safety will never go out of style in our industry. Beyond the enhanced safety features that manufacturers already build into vehicles, more and more fleet managers are giving additional consideration to upgrades that improve safety and ergonomics for drivers who spend a lot of time in their vans or trucks.
As always, safety carries with it the added benefit of productivity. Simple upfits such as backup cameras and alarms, grab handles, drop-down ladder racks, and better seats reduce the likelihood of accidents and strains and, by extension, driver downtime. There’s no need to specify these features in the factory vehicle, which could bump you up to a higher trim level. Making tailored alterations during the upfit process will save costs.
One more benefit of upfitting for safety is reducing your risk of litigation, by avoiding potential hazards in the first place.
Specifying lighter-weight materials—such as aluminum or fiber-reinforced plastics—in vehicle upfits is a growing trend for many van and truck fleets. Reducing fuel consumption is the biggest reason, but there are other benefits to lightening up.
Lowering general vehicle weight could give you the opportunity to downsize to a smaller vehicle—you might even be able to choose a smaller chassis, which lowers initial acquisition costs. If a smaller vehicle isn’t an option, you should at least be able to increase the legal payload of the vehicle by having lighter service bodies, racks, bins, and shelves. Of course, if increased payload is your strategy, it’s important to remember that fuel economy is no longer a benefit.
Finally, switching to materials such as fiberglass and plastics could have some additional benefits for fleets located in the Snowbelt and coastal regions. In addition to being lightweight, they’re also corrosion resistant, so fleet managers reap the rewards of longer service life for exterior upfits.
3. Standardized packages
This trend is about lowering capital costs while also keeping consistency across all of your vehicles. More fleet managers are looking for standardized upfit packages to increase efficiency, maintain safety standards, and to reduce the number of variances for individual drivers or for whole branches.
For example, if you run a trades company with plumbers, roofers, and electricians—who require slight differences in their vehicles—you can standardize several options according to the role. Option 1 would include what is needed for one group of technicians. Option 2 would include the same features, plus small variances for the second group of technicians, and so on.
In addition to consistent safety standards across all vehicles, there is also a financial incentive to standardization, such as volume discounts from the equipment manufacturer. Other financial benefits are time-based: installers can stock the standard equipment, which will shorten upfit lead times. If standard packages are similar, adding or removing only a few pieces of equipment—as opposed to an entire interior—when transferring a vehicle reduces downtime. Finally, standardization reduces new-hire training time.