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At The Work Truck Show, fleet managers will have opportunities to learn about writing better specifications and to closely examine various vehicles and components.
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More than 60 companies plan to launch new work truck chassis, bodies, equipment, and components at this year's Work Truck Show in Indianapolis.

If you're like most fleet managers, you are constantly looking for ways to improve the quality and productivity of your work trucks, while also reducing your maintenance and operating costs. One of the best ways to accomplish these goals is to improve the equipment specification process. The specifications you provide to the chassis dealer and upfitter(s) who will supply your truck-mounted equipment will ultimately determine how productive and cost-efficient your new work truck will be.

Getting started

More and more fleets rely on third parties such as chassis dealers, equipment distributors, body and equipment companies, and leasing companies to provide work truck specifications. There are a number of reasons behind this trend, including many fleet managers' increased workloads, lack of knowledge about the functional requirements of the vehicle, limited awareness of the products available to meet those requirements, and lack of training in how to develop a quality specification.

Chassis dealers, body and equipment companies, and equipment distributors can be valuable resources in the work truck specification process. Many are factory-trained and can provide recommendations about the best products for your applications, based on manufacturer specifications and their own experience working with organizations similar to your own. But ultimately it's up to you to apply their expertise and suggestions to your own situation.

Many fleet managers confess they don't know how to write specs. Admittedly, writing a good specification isn't easy. You need to understand issues such as regulatory compliance, vehicle payload and weight distribution calculations, matching truck bodies and equipment (second unit) to the chassis, and truck powertrain design. Fortunately, there are a number of resources available to educate fleet managers about these topics.

Step-by-step

You don't have to jump into the specifying process all at once. You can start with the chassis or the second unit, whichever you are more comfortable with, and learn the total process in steps. Qualified truck chassis dealers, equipment distributors, and body and equipment companies are willing to explain what is needed to get the job done.

The National Truck Equipment Association (NTEA) is another great resource. In addition to offering training about developing specifications, the NTEA provides fleet members with basic engineering assistance and guidance through the specification writing process.

The first step in developing any specification is to research the requirements for the job that the truck and equipment will perform. Your equipment operators can help provide this information based on their daily experiences with existing vehicles.

The maintenance shop is another important source of information. The people who maintain and repair your equipment can give you valuable insights into what typically goes wrong with existing units so you can design your new equipment to avoid those problems. This, in turn, will reduce your maintenance costs and prevent unnecessary downtime.

Once you have done your basic research, it is time to determine if you are going to write the specifications yourself or involve a third party. When making this decision, remember the hardest part of the process is the initial assessment and research.

When properly referenced in a purchase order for a new piece of equipment, the specification becomes the controlling document for the entire process. By controlling the development of the specification, you are also controlling the ultimate end product.

Types of specifications

There are several different types and formats of specifications. The most common types include:

  • Engineered - Has a high level of detail to include specific material and dimensional requirements, manufacturing processes.
  • Functional – Addresses specific job requirements with minimal additional detail.
  • Performance – Provides specific performance requirements (cycle times, capacities) but typically does not address issues such as equipment layout.
  • Hybrid – Combines aspects of the other three types as appropriate to fully define a unit without becoming over-involved in detailed engineering requirements. This is the most common format of specification for work truck bodies and equipment.