Upfitting is one way to make fleet vehicles more efficient, but it isn't exactly straightforward. It requires knowing how the vehicle is used and how best to make it efficient. You need to select the right equipment to go with your work vehicle, and the right upfitting vendor to ensure the work is done correctly.
What is Fleet Upfitting?
Fleet upfitting is the customization of your vehicles to increase your crew's productivity by ensuring its design optimizes your driver's performance, reduces the cost of your fleet, and improves customer experience. Upfitting includes ergonomically designed interior packages that can reduce driver fatigue and injury. Custom upfits such as rearview, 360-degree camera systems, spot mirrors, lane avoidance, and reverse sensing systems prevent potential accidents.
Upfitting, by definition, is installing features on an existing vehicle to help the driver do their job more efficiently. As a result, this leads to a lighter interior, needs less refueling, and makes payload higher. By upfitting your vehicles' fleet, you're deciding to make your working vehicles more efficient.
Pros & Cons Vehicle Upfitting
Lower Initial Cost: Truck upfits can range from $400 - $1,200 or more depending on body size and manufacturer. However, aluminum is cheaper. Aluminum is available in different pre-painted colors, which helps keeps costs down when compared to nonwhite exterior colors. Plus, FRP (fiber-reinforced plastic) is only available in white, which means extra costs are incurred to color the panels or put a colored gel on.
Lighter Weight: Aluminum weighs in 8 - 10 percent lighter than FRP. This means a 14-foot base van in aluminum would weigh about 2,150 pounds compared to the 2,328 pounds if the van was made with FRP. Aluminum would save you 200 fewer pounds in payload capacity. Whether you use aluminum or FRP, the reduced weight equates to better fuel economy and additional payload capacity.
Increased Productivity: Drivers are more productive, effective, and happier.
Reduce Driver Turnover: When you improve the effectiveness and driver safety, you reduce turnover rates. This, in turn, lowers the costs associated with hiring and training new employees.
Attract High-Quality Drivers: Better-equipped vehicles attract and retain more qualified drivers.
Better ROI: Creating upfit specifications can help your organization reduce operating costs, new vehicle purchase, fuel, and maintenance. Additionally, you'll prevent potential accidents and insurance claims. As a result, good truck upfits can lead to a better ROI for your company.
Improve Efficiencies: Providing an efficiently designed work vehicle can improve driver organization, comfort, morale, reduce time at work stops, and shorten driver training.
Boost Driver Satisfaction: Decked out trucks have a more comfortable cab after most outfitting, and the purpose of upfitting is to make their job easier and more efficient.
Cost of Aluminum is Increasing: Recently, there's been a trend of aluminum cost rising significantly, making the costs much closer to fiberglass plywood. This makes aluminum only a slight upgrade over FRP.
Extended Delivery Times: Order-to-delivery (OTD) times are going up because of strong retail demand right now. This can largely be attributed to pickups and SUVs, as well as dropping fuel prices.
Required to Clear Customs: OTD times are extended by customs, since compact vans made in Europe are subject to inspection and modifications.
Creates Unrealistic Expectations: A service-level agreement (SLA) can create unrealistic expectations. Issues and delays are expected, but it’s also best practice to communicate these issues to the end-user as they come up, so there are no surprises.
Product Costs Goes Up: Rigid SLAs usually lead to inefficient production. Upfitters who have to put overtime to meet timelines will often need to charge more. Upfits can be quite expensive; thus, it can be frustrating if the upfitted van is sitting on the lot due to custom specifications that haven't met a customer's needs.
Requires Legal and Sourcing Resources: Only with the right legal and sourcing resources will the useful documents be created. Because of the amount of care required to build out these agreements, they are usually not suitable for transactional relationships.
Tips for Vehicle Upfitting
- Review the total expenses of ownership and lifecycle costs of a truck constantly running at a higher capacity. Then factor the increased maintenance or possibility of breaking down and incur repairs not covered in the warranty. Consider leasing an upfitted work truck so that you don't have to work with an upfitting vendor and make the upfront investment. Leased vehicles have lower gas mileage and are cheaper to run.
- Don't overload your fleet vehicles. Eliminate that concern by moving a class up or controlling the specifications and option creep where we constantly try to fit more and more on a given size chassis.
- Avoid the original equipment manufacturer (OEM) warranty if necessary. It's important to ensure the upfitter is cognisant of any alterations to the vehicle that will void the manufacturer’s warranty.
- Take time to review the quotes and terms. Forgetting to do so will cause you to miss important details.
- Install GPS tracking in addition to your fleet upfitting. This allows fleet managers to track your work vehicles and designate more efficient routes.
- Try and keep the process as simple as possible. It may be worth paying a premium to have all the work done under one roof—if it saves you a significant amount of time. Ideally, find a vendor that does the entire upfit solution rather than hopping through multiple vendors simultaneously.
- Place your upfitting orders as soon as possible, because this will lower the chance of production delays. Certain popular models, unanticipated quality holds, or transportation delays can all occur, but are avoidable by getting orders in early. Urgent upfits will only add a significant bill to your expenses and cause a delay in asset deliveries.
Check out the Azuga Asset Tracking to protect all of your valuable assets. Through geofencing, you'll know when your assets leave an area. With the Fleet dashboard, it's convenient to schedule, and pick up asset deliveries.