Sloppy spec'ing creates headaches for buyers, dealers, manufacturers

OVERLOOKED issues can make body and chassis mating a nightmare. Why does it happen? Because of mis-communication between buyers, chassis dealers, and body manufacturers, says Chuck Martin, vice-president of quality assurance for Mickey Truck Bodies, High Point, North Carolina.

Martin spoke at the 38th annual NTEA Convention and Work Truck Show in Orlando, Florida, along with Robert Mercer. Mercer, manager of vocational chassis for Freightliner Trucks, presented several key points of concern about correctly mating the body to the chassis.

Martin and Mercer shared their experiences in the beverage truck business. Both agreed that communicating with the buyer about the newest chassis options and technologies is a key ingredient to fulfilling any customer's expectations, regardless of the planned vocational use.

“Lots of different factors converge to create the nightmare of bodies not fitting chassis,” Martin said. “It's not that we can't get a body to mount on a chassis. It's the surprises that accompany mounting a body on an incorrectly spec'd unit. Unfortunately, most surprises end in disappointments for the end user of the vehicle.

“Customers have so many chassis and technological options that there is the possibility for confusion when they don't talk to the body manufacturer,” Martin said. “Lots of things have changed from the days when one chassis fit all vocational challenges. Chassis buyers went to their local dealer and bought a ‘one-size-fits-all’ chassis.

“The option menu and the technology that's currently being used has moved so far ahead that it's possible some customers can't keep up with it all. It's up to the chassis dealer and the body manufacturer to educate the buyer about the possibilities that exist in manufacturing the finished product. If both groups don't do their jobs, there can be some disappointments for the customer.”

Martin said that another area that can create concerns is when an unsophisticated chassis buyer isn't aware of the full impact that the newest technologies have on the operation of the body. “Every chassis manufacturer is different. However, customers aren't aware that engine ECMs can control everything from whether a PTO can be engaged to the driver getting the doors unlocked while the truck is running.

“A buyer goes to a dealer, purchases a chassis, and sends it to us to lengthen or simply to install a drop-frame body,” said Martin. “When we say that we have to get an OEM's ABS extension harness or that we can't do it, the end user can have an unpleasant situation on his hands.

“Some end users have been using the same spec for over twenty years,” said Martin. “Dealers and manufacturers have to show them how chassis and body technology has moved forward. This can help them find the lowest cost solution to their delivery scenarios.

“In many cases, I'll visit a customer who is extremely proud of some rigging job that he finished on the body. But we probably found a way that is safer, less damaging to the body, and in the long run cheaper than the rigging job that he has accomplished.”

Martin said that disappointments could range from a multitude of items, some of which cause small inconveniences to the rare case of full-blown chassis-body incompatibility.

Several beverage body specific situations mentioned by Martin and Mercer were:

  • Low profile chassis that didn't allow enough ground clearance for the customer specified body.

  • Paying a premium for a low profile chassis that has no effect on lowering the bay height.

  • Dual or high volume fuel tanks that required the partial elimination of a behind-cab bay.

  • Inappropriate Gross Vehicle Weight Rating.

  • Incorrect drive gear/horsepower combination for completed vehicle.

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