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As part of its ongoing effort to provide fleet executives with valuable resources, NTEA, the association for the work truck industry, regularly releases articles and other technical materials. Recently, an article by George Survant, senior director of fleet relations at the association and a veteran fleet manager himself, provided some very helpful advice on how to address the need for reliability in vehicles that operate in a rigorous vocational work environment.
Here is some of what Survant had to say in “Designing for reliability: How to make your vehicles outlast rigors of the work environment:”
“Fleet managers are charged with designing reliable, functional work trucks capable of undergoing the stresses of the vocational market,” Survant wrote. “It is imperative to understand the work mission of these vehicles in order to provide the tools that will maximize efficiency and reliability.”
Drive and duty cycle go hand in hand when designing work trucks, Survant noted. Drive cycles provide data on how vehicles are used. These data points include maximum/average speed, idle time, engine off time and power export time (PTO).
Duty cycles give fleet managers insight into how much a vehicle is being used, including information like days per week or other measurements of usage cycles, hours per shift/day, total distance traveled, and engine load profiles. The key is to evaluate both drive cycle and duty cycle data clusters while vehicles are interacting with your operational environment.
Survant went on to mention that things like the operational environment and weather conditions could easily influence vehicle design. For example, are your vehicles operating in snowy or salty regions that require corrosion protection? Are they functioning in mountainous areas that demand starting gradeability and present powertrain concerns?
“Conforming to regulations is nonnegotiable when designing vehicles,” Survant said. “However, those requirements are constantly changing so it can be challenging for fleet managers to keep up with the latest rules.”
One recent regulation to be aware of for work trucks, Survant related, was enacted to improve rearview visibility. New Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard (FMVSS) 111 rearview system requirements for vehicles with a 10,000-lb. or lower GVWR manufactured after May 1, 2018, cover field of view, image size, response time, deactivation, durability, default view and linger time.
“Without proper information, you will most likely specify vehicle systems and components that is not best suited for the intended task,” Survant said. “It’s wise to think about possible factors not yet taken into account and to be willing to ask questions of the right stakeholders, including end users and maintenance personnel.
“Suppliers can also be a wealth of product knowledge,” Survant continued. “They are in a position to make suggestions and partner with your organization, and they can be a tremendous resource in building equipment that lasts for years.
“While it’s tempting to view purchasing a new fleet asset as a transactional event,” Survant added, “in reality, when your assets need to work reliably for years, your suppliers become useful partners for the product life.”
In summary, Survant noted that for vocational trucks, well-researched vehicles can minimize maintenance costs and out-of-service time. “To optimize your fleet, be cognizant of the work mission, drive requirements and environmental constraints,” he said. “Accounting for these considerations can greatly improve fleet effectiveness and your company’s bottom line.”
Survant’s complete article on designing work trucks for reliability, as well as other publications and reference materials on technical issues, are offered at the NTEA website.
Fleet managers will also be able to find valuable information during educational sessions designed to help fleet attendees improve their operations at the upcoming Work Truck Show, Green Truck Summit and Fleet Technical Congress that run from March 5–8 in Indianapolis. More than 100 companies have already announced plans to introduce new work trucks and equipment at the events. and 15 manufacturers are also planning to deliver chassis updates on their future plans related to the work truck industry, technical information on their latest chassis specifications and designs, and body and equipment installation options. For more information, visit the Work Truck Show website here.