Delivery Trucks Get A Makeover

Manufacturers' models are versatile and economic.


The U.S. is the only country where companies have the choice between purchasing cabover models or traditional conventional trucks and cabovers have been gaining market share because of their easy of maneuverability. "They're easy to turn," notes Isuzu's Bloom. "It's also a safety issue in that you can see the ground easily from the cabover position."

"For our type of business they're exactly the type of truck that we need," says Sam Ingardia of Ingardia Brothers Produce Inc., of Costa Mesa, CA. "They're very easy to drive, almost like a personal car."

His company, which delivers produce, sea food, frozen food and dry goods to restaurants in five different California counties, uses 18 foot-long cabover models purchased from Isuzu. It maintains a fleet of 50 trucks.

"We do about five counties here in Southern California and whether it's the hot area of Palm Springs, or the cool area of San Diego, or even the hills of San Bernardino County, the truck operates exceptionally-it's very low on repairs, is great on fuel and most of all, it's very maneuverable. It's very easy for our drivers to park in tight spaces in back of restaurants," says Ingardia.

Hino's Ellis says that his company's conventionals offer a number of positive features that make the traditional style of truck worth considering. "We actually use the same cab in our class four truck that we use in our class six and seven trucks, so it's a very roomy cab as well as ergonomic."

Hino has also increased the maneuverability and turning radius of its conventionals by incorporating a propriety steering gear from TRW, which allows for a 55 degree wheel cut, similar to that of a cabover product. "We actually do a test with some of our cabover customers. We park a conventional and a cabover 57 inches apart from each other and if you cut the wheel all the way on a cabover, you actually have to do a three point turn-you can't cut the wheel completely. With our conventional truck you can cut the wheel all the way and pull out in one turn," says Ellis. He adds that a conventional will also have stronger residual value than a cabover, as well as great fuel economy.

Emissions, Gas, Diesel

As everyone in the industry knows, all diesel engines produced after January 1, 2007 are now required to have particulate filters, called DPFs, on them. Initial purchase prices are high on these vehicles and so is the maintenance.

However, there are still some interesting bargains to be had by purchasing pre-emission trucks that remain in dealer stock.

Nissan's Trussel says, "We all overbuild and then the economy slowed down dramatically, so there are still quite a few pre-emission vehicles left at all manufacturers in all classes." He calls pre-emission products a terrific buy that companies should consider taking advantage of in the next six months.

The major manufacturers are offering many of their models in both gas and diesel versions and both options offer some incentive for purchasing; depending upon a company's financial wherewithal.

The Isuzu company is now offering cabovers with either diesel or gas engines. "Most of your food logistics people are putting more than 30,000 miles on a vehicle," says Isuzu's Bloom. "But, if they're putting less, then of course the key is to now consider gas because the gas engines are much lower in initial purchase price and don't require much education for the drivers to use them."

Christi Brown, marketing manger for Dearborn, MI-based Ford Motor Co.'s E-Series of delivery trucks agrees. "The technology on gas engines over the last decade or so has improved so significantly that I find a lot of gas engine E-Series on the road getting over 500,000 miles on the first engine and transmission."

Companies putting more than 30,000 miles on a truck, says Isuzu's Bloom, should consider diesel, as less can go wrong and the engine's provide longer service life. "Our 4hk1 diesel engine is a four cylinder that delivers over 205 horsepower, 346 pounds of torque, and it has a 310,000 mile design life.

"You want an engine that's not only durable but reliable, because a down day for these food distributors is absolutely critical. They're not in the distribution business they're in the food business."

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