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Building on the foundation: Freightliner Custom Chassis sets its sights on expansion

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Vocational trucks adapt to their applications—one day a box-truck is called upon to tackle P&D; the next, a dump truck is need to haul dirt to a jobsite. Regardless of the truck’s body, all vocational workhorses share a common steel skeletal structure and fuel-fired heart. Freightliner Custom Chassis Corp. (FCCC) has been crafting truck, bus and RV cores for 22 years, and it’s a business that continues to expand.

Currently, the company churns out more than 24,000 chassis annually. To accommodate a wide array of specifications, more than 15,000 part numbers make their way through the manufacturing floor, with an average chassis using about 1,000 part numbers and 4,000 total pieces.

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“We’re currently building 112 chassis a day; we’re doing that in one shift. What that means is about every four minutes, we have a chassis rolling off one of our three assembly lines, soon to be four lines,” said David Carson, FCCC’s president and chief executive officer. “Supplying all those parts at that pace is very challenging. To support these increasing volumes, we realized that we needed to develop more streamlined material delivery methods.”

In April, FCCC broke ground on a 200,000-sq.-ft. Logistics Center that will enable the company to utilize up to 60% more component kitting.

“Currently, it’s difficult for our assemblers to know what they’re going to build in four minutes,” Carson said. “What we’re going to do is kit parts to deliver exactly what each assembler needs for every chassis as it rolls through their station—no more, no less—and on a just-in-time basis. In essence, this new facility will be one giant kitting operation. As soon as we get this building completed, we’ll have to move material out to make room for another line.”

Freightliner Custom ChassisFor more from Carson and to see FCCC’s groundbreaking of the new Logistics Center, watch our video here.

The ability to customize is seen its offering of alternative fuel systems: the tried and true diesel and gas chassis alongside its S2G propane autogas and the new CNG MT-45/55 chassis offerings.

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“Demand [for alternative fuels] is subject to a lot of different things that are going on in the marketplace, fuel prices and application. We see it potentially growing, for sure,” Carson said. “It’s just a question of what circumstances in the marketplace contribute to that and when. It’s not a huge part of our business at the moment, but we’re always looking to grow that.”

Further spurring FCCC’s evolution is that it will be assembling the Mitsubishi Fuso Truck of America FE Series medium-duty cabover truck with a new gasoline powertrain offering for the market. When that truck rolls off the line, it will be the first completed truck FCCC has ever assembled.

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“It is a little bit different than our core business because we’re talking about a completed vehicle, whereas, obviously, most of what we produce today are chassis products that we’re supplying to body builders,” Carson said. “I think for us, it’s always a tremendous opportunity to be able to leverage the Daimler network and everything that’s in it. Fuso is driving the product, marketing, sales, engineering, but to do the conversion and to have a gasoline product for the market in North America, we’re the entity that will do the manufacturing, and that’s very much up our alley in terms of expertise.”

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