Thursday, January 26, 2012

Overloading Trucks is Still a Problem – Spec your Truck using a Rightsizing Approach - A Rebuttal by Steve Taylor

Terry posted an article about downsizing commercial trucks (I've Changed My Thinking about Overloading Trucks) and used the Ford Transit Connect as a very good example of Ford leading the industry with a smaller alternative to full size vans. I have watched the growth of this product from the sidelines, but going back about 5 years and about two years before it hit the US market, I was included in the Transit Connect up-fit planning with Ford. At the time I too was a bit cynical about the viability of a lighter duty vehicle taking over the work of a full size van. I now take my hat off to Ford, and agree with Terry that this product was a great move and shows a lot of leadership for Ford.

I don’t think that Terry meant to say that overloading is OK! I think he meant that smaller, lighter vehicles can be designed with “fitness for use” standards and if we take a closer look at their use and are open to challenging the way things are done; then maybe we can make changes to our commercial work trucks. I agree with that.

But when we look across the whole array of vehicles included in the “commercial segment,” I am not sure that one can make a downsizing a widespread all vehicle goal! When it comes to vans, a lot has been done to “re-engineer” the storage and retrieval space and the work space. There are many new products that have evolved from the introduction of the smaller vans. For example, take the Katerack bin system product that slides out of the van when you need access to or retrieval of stored product or tools.

See my previous blog article: This “Out of the Box” concept utilizes the van for storage and a user has no need to enter the storage space. There are also many storage bins available for efficient storage of small parts. These products enable a customer to use smaller vans.

The use of a truck dictates whether downsizing is viable. Using Ford as an example, look at the Ford F150; Ford has decided that the F150 cannot handle a snowplow, and therefore requires you to “upsize” to a F250 in their product line. I am not privy to their decision making, but you can be sure that if they thought that a lighter truck would stand up to the plowing conditions; they would not be giving up market share to the competition!

Dump trucks probably cannot be downsized! Take the 2-3 yard dumps. In the early 1980’s Ford introduced a new lighter frame that proved to be a problem when a raised dump body slammed to the frame. They quickly returned to the drawing boards and added less than 20 pounds of steel back into the frame. Now someone may come up with newer, lighter materials that will lighten the trucks but the trend seems to be counter to that, for example the growth of the F450 and F550 segment.

Reality in the workplace is that trucks are often overloaded! The manufacturers know that and that’s why they are designed with a safety factor. This mostly relates to the durability of the structural components, frames, springs axles, wheels, power trains and drivelines. But overloading can cause accidents as well, and that is something that you and I and everyone that operates or travels on a highway should be concerned about.

The lawyers at the truck manufacturers know this as well and their influence always ends up affecting product offerings.

So I don’t disagree with Terry on the content of his blog article, but I do have a little problem with its title!

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