Creating a better (and safer) ride

Creating a better (and safer) ride

Features - Work Trucks

Trucks are the workhorse of your operation. When it comes to trends and upfitting, safety is on everyone’s mind.

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March 18, 2019

Photo courtesy of Isuzu

Your truck can be a marketing tool, a garage on wheels and a way to get from job to job, but manufacturers are noticing contractors seeking out bells and whistles that make their vehicles safer, more comfortable and more adept to the job.

Safety first.

“Across the board there’s more safety type items that people are looking for in their trucks,” says Brian Tabel, executive director of marketing for Isuzu. Certain safety features like backup alarms have been installed on trucks for years, but Tabel says customers are requesting and expecting more enhanced safety features as they purchase and upfit their vehicles.

For landscapers completing their routes in residential neighborhoods, Tabel says a low forward cab option is better suited for the job.

“They’re driving through neighborhoods and there’s kids, no matter how small, they could be really low to the ground. I’d go with a low cab forward,” he says.

At Navistar, Director of Product Marketing Chad Semler says safety is key for their customers as well. Semler specializes in medium-duty vehicles and sees the drive for enhanced safety coming from business owners.

“Both from a business owner point of view and a driver point of view, and convenience and comfort point of view – (customers) like to have those safety features,” he says.

Passenger to professional.

Backup cameras are becoming more standard options on work trucks as professional customers start looking for the same features that ordinary passenger vehicles have.

“More and more people have become reliant on backup cameras and especially now with commercial vehicles, it definitely makes sense to include that feature,” Tabel says.

He also sees lane departure notifications and alerts becoming a feature that more and more contractors seek for their vehicles.

“Passenger vehicles are setting the stage,” Tabel says. He also says Isuzu is gearing up to add more passenger vehicle features to their trucks like a notification system that alerts a driver to any cars on either side. “Medium-duty and heavy-duty trucks are kind of following that path but are usually a few years behind (passenger vehicles),” he says.

Wider ramps for unloading heavy equipment are just some of the popular upfitting options for work trucks.
Photo courtesy of Morgan Truck Body

Bells and whistles.

Serious business aside, Tabel says there are some accessories and enhancements that landscape contractors might want to upfit their vehicles. Chrome accents like grills are always popular additions after contractors make their purchases. Tabel says they add aluminum wheels and wheel simulators.

Inside the vehicle, it’s still all about comfort. Semler says business owners are really focused on making sure their workers have a comfortable cab to sit in. “In order to keep the driver (happy), a driver wants to have a newer truck,” he says. Certain features can also serve as both a luxury and a safety measure. Some states require drivers to be hands-free while using their phones, so Bluetooth capabilities are becoming more standard.

“One of those new things that popped up that everybody wants is Apple CarPlay now so they can listen to music from their phones,” Semler says. “It’s convenience and safety and regulatory for states where you’re not allowed to have a phone when you’re driving.”

At Morgan Truck Bodies, Paul Jarossy, director of business development, says contractors are looking for easier ways to get equipment in and out of their trucks. Narrow ramps don’t work well for hauling heavy equipment, so Morgan designed a space-saving ramp stored in the back door that extends all the way across the bottom of the box truck.

“It allows the truck to have full flooring and that way contractors can fit more equipment inside,” Jarossy says.

Upfitting considerations.

Before contractors decide they want all the shiny extra features on their trucks, manufacturers agree it all comes down to actual truck use. Jarossy says the general design of a box truck is pretty standard, but contractors can customize and upgrade the interior depending on needs and budget.

He says contractors should feel like they can be walked through exactly what they need (and don’t need) when it comes to enhancing their vehicles. If you’re looking to fit two or three mowers in your box truck, it’s probably not going to make sense for you to add a work bench to the front of the truck, Jarossy says.

“It’s up to us to find out what the needs are and what the customer wants to do with the truck,” Semler says. “So it makes a big difference in what they go with.” A common piece of equipment to add-on is a tree chipper, he says.

And for those contractors who need that type of equipment, a certain type of truck will be required to carry that weight around. “What will you be towing with the truck? Will you be pulling equipment since you’re a landscaper? Are you going to need to pull a (skid-steer) behind your truck? That makes a big difference in terms of your gross weight,” Semler says.

Popular additions to upfit trucks are racks to hang tools and a side opening door to get easier access to the inside. Jarossy says the side door might be something added on if a contractor decides to add a work bench to the front.

“They can fix a broken belt or other equipment right on that surface,” he says. Another useful way to upfit your vehicle might be to add a gasoline pump.

“When they want to add gas to their mower, they don’t need a truck full of those gas cans,” Jarossy says.

Tabel says contractors can expect what normal passenger vehicles have in place to be integrated into these work type vehicles. “Overall,” he says, “I think really the key thing is safety, and rightfully so.”