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.
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.

The choices and options for vocational work trucks continue to grow in complexity and sophistication. Concrete producers, who are under increasing pressure to document the return for their investments, are discovering that it's no longer prudent just to buy what they've always purchased in the past.

To keep your vehicle maintenance and operation costs down, managers need to do some homework before making another call to their truck dealer. This process should start well before completing the purchase order for a new work truck.

The last few years, the National Truck Equipment Association has offered several workshops to its members on how to best help customers specify trucks. These experts recommend starting by establishing and following a logical design process. In most cases, it's a simple four-step approach. Those who have adopted this process of specifying a new work truck have found the new vehicle meets the needs of the task.

Step 1. Determine what you need the truck to do.

Ask what the vehicle will be used for. Exactly what will you haul with it? How far will you drive it and how often? What special circumstances will your drivers/operators encounter and how often?

Don't just say, “I need a pickup truck.” Thoroughly explore what will make that work truck most productive. Perhaps an upgrade in class will increase the vehicle's durability and extend its life.

For example, will your truck haul equipment? Does the driver need to be able to get equipment on and off the truck frequently? Do you need to haul material to unpaved jobsites? What kind of material are you hauling and how much? Will the truck have different uses at various times of the year? How many workers will it carry regularly?

Think about the environment in which you will drive the vehicle. Consider how features can improve or hinder productivity. Look at the performance of your current trucks. Ask your drivers which truck styles and equipment they prefer and why.

Step 2. Explore technical details.

Now that you've identified what you want the vehicle to do, figure out how to make it happen. If you have determined that the truck needs to carry six pallets of bagged product, defining how big those pallets are will impact the vehicle's bed size, and how much the pallets weigh will affect the vehicle's payload requirements.

How much payload weight and volume will the vehicle have to carry? What are the dimensional requirements, based on the size and shape of materials you are transporting? Will you use the vehicle to plow snow?

Then begin to ask about performance requirements. What is the optimal speed with a full load, braking considerations, and fuel economy? For many fleets, the question of fuel source is becoming important. Determine early in the decision process the availability and costs of alternate fuels.

What type of truck body and/or special equipment do you need? Account for the size of special equipment to be upfitted to the chassis, the weight of these components, cargo storage needs, component installation requirements and operational requirements, such as power sources for equipment, and equipment access. For many vehicle configurations, you must account for accessory items like generators, hose reels, and compressors. Your local vehicle equipment distributor can be a useful resource in this process.