Serves the Commercial Small Fleet Market of 10 – 50 Vehicles

How to Select and Spec a Pickup

January 2002, by Bob Cavalli

There are any number of reasons your business needs vehicles: basic transport of people and goods, compensation for key employees, servicing your customers in the field. Certain jobs call for certain vehicles, and the pickup truck might be able to fulfill more missions than any other vehicle class.

Much has changed from the bare-bones, utilitarian designs of 20 years ago. Pickup trucks today haul like trucks, drive like cars, and hold value as well as do many premium automobiles. Choosing from the sometimes bewildering array of pickups available, and the equally large choice of equipment, can seem daunting. But you don't need to be an automotive engineer to get it right-- a clear knowledge of the mission and simple common sense will do the job.

Mission, Mission, Mission

Think of vehicle selection in the same manner you do filling a job on your staff. You create a description of the job to be done, establish the qualifications necessary to do it, then examine candidates who have the background "equipment", and experience to fill the position. More than anything else, determining the exact mission the truck will have to perform (the job description) will make filling the "position" easier.

As the introduction indicated, pickups today can fill any function, but we'll focus on choosing a truck for a job that needs a truck. Assuming the job can't be done by a car or minivan, there are a number of important criteria:

  • Load-Pickups are built to carry things. But so are vans, even SUV's and station wagons. If the load is very heavy, bulky, and requires regular and easy access, you'll need a pickup. Large tools and equipment (pumps, landscaping equipment, etc.) must be loaded and unloaded quickly and easily. Size (for choosing bed length) and weight will be important factors here.

  • People-Standard cabs, crew cabs, club cabs. . .today's pickup trucks can often carry up to six passengers comfortably.

  • Driving Conditions-What kind of driving will the mission require? Local driving (such as for landscaping and yard care) will require more "carlike" handling. Driving on difficult terrain, off-road, such as on construction sites or on mountainous roads, or in severe weather call for options such as four-wheel drive and beefed-up suspensions. In cold weather areas, diesel engines will need engine block heaters to prevent fuel gelling.

  • Power Train-Choosing the right combination of engine and transmission is a function of much of the above. Heavy loads, often coupled with carrying three or four people, call for 8-cylinder engines and heavy-duty transmissions. But you won't need an 8-cylinder diesel engine to haul a load that may be bulky but not heavy (such as lawnmowers or small pumps).

  • Other Equipment-Many missions require the driver to haul small hand and power tools along with the larger load. Bed mounted tool boxes and utility upfits may be necessary.

  • Towing-Some applications require the truck to tow small equipment trailers, necessitating towing packages and hitches be added.

    Remember, you wouldn't hire an MBA to fill a clerical position, nor a high school grad to be the director of finance. Determine the mission carefully, then examine your options to find the best candidate to fill the job.

    Company Policy

    Another criterion which must be added to the decision mix is your company vehicle policy. How long do you normally keep your vehicles?

    In the case of a work truck, some companies will keep them in service nearly indefinitely; as long as they run, apperance and comfort are secondary.

    In other cases, trucks are also a form of marketing. The logo on the door, carrying customers and prospects, and other non-physical job functions require that the vehicle not only do the job, but look good doing it.

    Basic work trucks don't need options such as CD players and upgraded interiors. Trucks used by sales engineers and the like, however, are more visible to the general public, and carry important customers. Such trucks need to look sharp and be more comfortably equipped.

    Next, create a "resume" for each of the vehicles you wish to consider for the job. A price and equipment matrix which lists the equipment available and the cost will make your final choice much easier.

    Depending on the replacement policy mentioned above, you might consider researching used-vehicle prices and value retention statistics as well as upfront cost.

    Finally, conduct the "interviews" before making your final choice. Most local dealers will permit extensive test-driving, and, in some cases, demos can be obtained from the dealer or the vehicle manufacturer. Choosing the right pickup will make your job easier, your employees more productive, and your customers come back.

    FORD F150
    DODGE RAM 1500


    119.9 IN.
    4.2L V6 202 HP
    6.5 FT. (SHORT)
    8 FT. (LONG)
    6,050 LBS
    2,060 LBS
    4,700 LBS(STD)
    120.5 IN.
    3.7L V6 215 HP
    6.5 FT (SHORT)
    8 FT (LONG)
    6,550 LBS
    1,850 LBS
    8,650 LBS(MAXIMUM)
    128.3 IN
    3.4L V6 190 HP
    6.4 FT (SHORT)
    8.2 FT (LONG)
    5,500 LBS
    1,705 LBS
    5,200 LBS(STD)
    119 IN.
    4.3L V6 200 HP
    6.5 FT (SHORT)
    8.1 FT (LONG)
    6,100 LBS
    2,042 LBS
    4,200 LBS(STD)
    FORD F150
    DODGE RAM 1500
    40.8 IN
    40.9 IN
    37.8 IN (SUPERCAB)
    32.2 IN (SUPERCAB)
    40.9 IN
    41 IN
    40 IN (QUAD CAB)
    36.4 IN (QUAD CAB)
    40.3 IN
    41.5 IN
    38.3 IN
    28.6 IN
    41 IN
    41.3 IN
    38.4 IN (EXTENDED CAB)
    33.7 IN (EXTENDED CAB)

    Editor's Note: Bob Cavalli has more than 27 years' experience in the fleet industry, including fleet management, leasing, and fleet services.

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