Knowing what technicians need can make vehicle upfitting smoother

From the April 2019 print edition

Mark Boutlier is director fo business and fleet development at Action Car an Truck Accessories.

When the time comes for fleet managers to turn over vehicles within their fleet, it is also a good opportunity to assess their needs with regards to upfitting requirements. Far too often, fleet managers rely on the information given to them by their end users. However, many of these items might be wants versus actual needs. Those needs could actually help their technicians perform better, operate safer, be more efficient and offer savings to the overall cost of ownership. Replacing vehicles starts with deciding whether the vehicles being purchased suit the needs of the required applications. Choosing the right vehicle involves understanding how the operator functions day to day, the types of service they perform, the terrain they travel through and whether they need to operate inside the vehicle for long durations or if the vehicle operates as a mobile warehouse of sorts.

Assessing needs
Once the decision has been made regarding which vehicles will be required for each technician and application, the next and equally important step is to assess the upfitting needs. The choices are endless and understanding them all can be overwhelming. Safety and practicality are always top of mind for fleet managers.

There are new products being released every year that increase safety and allow for less stress on the operators by preventing bending, squatting, pushing and pulling. Climbing in and out of a vehicle multiple times a day sets up the risk of falls, strains or other injuries. Investigating options that allow everything within a vehicle to come to the operator such as pull out trays, cargo bed slides, side access doors or parts cases allow for better access, organization and overall allocation of space for required equipment.

When it comes to exterior lighting such as a beacon or strobe lights, there have been very significant improvements in this market over the last few years. These lights are required for various reasons such as warning of specific hazards, transporting oversize loads, or providing visual aid to your surroundings in inclement weather. However, the class of light and the number of lights per vehicle depends on the load being carried or the amount of hazard it represents.

Most manufactures have switched to LED bulbs that offer better efficiency and increased illumination. Class 1 lighting is the brightest of the three classes and is typically used on emergency response vehicles such as ambulances and fire or police vehicles. Class 2 lighting is often used for in- an on-road traffic setting that would indicate to oncoming traffic of potential hazards. This class is approximately twice as bright as a Class 3 option. The Class 3 option is used in a light duty setting such as warehouses or lumber yard settings and are typically used on a forklift or tractor.

Knowing in advance
After these major components of an upfit are established, the add-on items come into play. These can include laptop stands, power inverters, cab boxes and so on. Knowing beforehand the equipment utilized by different divisions of your fleet will indicate the products required to accommodate these needs. Some questions you will need to ask may include, ‘do my operators carry electric equipment that needs to be charged?’ and ‘do my operators receive work orders electronically through a tablet or computer?’

Once you have answered these questions, deciding on the best solution for your needs is very important. For instance, power inverters are great however, they have their limitations. The total power that an inverter can provide depends on the construction of the inverter itself, along with the manner in which it is used.

Overloading an inverter is very easy to do if you do not pay attention to the specifications of the unit. If your technicians are required to work using a laptop or computer, there are many options when it comes to mounting solutions. They range from No-Drill, Drill Down or Seat-Mate options. They can also be make- and model-specific, or universal. If your entire employee base uses the same device, a model-specific unit would work. However, multiple devices might require a universal mount system.

In the end, the upfitting process can be a daunting challenge. But remember that knowing the needs of your technicians first will help to ensure that quality, safety and efficiency remain top of mind.