Ask questions before buying a new truck. What's worked for you in the past won't necessarily be the right vehicle for the future.
Step 3. Consider operating conditions and environment.

How often will your employees drive the truck in the city, on the highway, off-highway, and in combination? Will you use it predominantly in level or hilly terrain? Evaluate its operational cycle, including desired cycle time and daily hours of operation. Also consider loading cycle, climate/weather and maintenance. These factors will help you select the correct engine, transmission, and other components.

For example, if you will use the vehicle in temperatures above 90° F for an extended period, you may want to upgrade the engine and transmission cooling systems, select high-temperature-rated tires, and specify deeply tinted glass in the cab. In a very humid climate, you may choose to relocate air system tanks or use remote drain systems to facilitate manual draining, install upgraded air dryers, and specify heated mirrors and windows.

Step 4. Review the maintenance histories of existing vehicles.

Look for common failure patterns to see if you need to upgrade vehicle specifications. Typical high-maintenance areas include suspension systems, front-end/steering, brakes, engines, transmissions, differentials, and vehicle frames.

This can also alert you to other potential issues. If a particular truck has higher maintenance costs than similar vehicles in the fleet, that truck's driver may be responsible. Repeated repairs within a short period may point to poor maintenance and repair procedures.

Even if the vehicle you are planning to buy is not part of the hauling fleet, work trucks are crucial to the success of your business. Take time and make the effort upfront to add vehicles to your fleet that have been properly selected and equipped to best meet your needs. Your workers, maintenance providers, and bottom line will all benefit.

— Robert Johnson is director of fleet relations for the National Truck Equipment Association. For more information,, telephone 1-800-441-6832, or

For More Information...

Need some help? The National Truck Equipment Association (NTEA) offers its members free access to extensive vehicle engineering, specification, and design resources.

The NTEA's engineering staff can explain best practices for specifying chassis, selecting truck bodies and equipment for specific applications, performing weight distribution calculations, and conducting accurate payload analysis.

The NTEA also keeps members updated on important regulatory changes, including Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards, Canadian Motor Vehicle Safety Standards, CDL licensing requirements, and federal lighting regulations.

A wealth of free information is available at, including a directory of hundreds of suppliers that have products available for installation on work trucks, a glossary of industry terms, and several articles about specifying vehicles.

Another valuable resource is The Work Truck Show, Feb. 25–28 at the Georgia World Congress Center in Atlanta. Produced by the NTEA, this is the largest event in North America dedicated to Class 1-8 vocational trucks and equipment. The event offers fleet managers an opportunity to check out specialized equipment and receive training that is helpful in specifying truck chassis, bodies, and equipment.

This year's event will feature the opportunity to compare truck chassis, bodies, components, and accessories from more than 500 suppliers. Many exhibitors also bring engineering and technical staff to answer your questions. An educational conference offers 40 technical sessions on topics such as life cycle cost analysis, new and updated federal regulations, methods for reducing maintenance costs and downtime, vehicle specifications, and updates on new chassis from the leading manufacturers.

The show is held in conjunction with the 44th Annual NTEA Convention. For more, visit