Serves the Commercial Small Fleet Market of 10 – 50 Vehicles

Trailer or Truck Body? Landscape Fleet Weighs Options

July 2017, by Amy Winter-Hercher - Also by this author

Currently, Landscapes USA's fleet has added 24 Isuzu NPR cabovers — each with a customized truck body designed by Morgan Corp.
Currently, Landscapes USA's fleet has added 24 Isuzu NPR cabovers — each with a customized truck body designed by Morgan Corp.

After running a truck-and-trailer combination, Dennis Dautel, CEO of Landscapes USA, has started to switch to Isuzu cabovers in his landscape company. Currently, the fleet has added 24 Isuzu NPR cabovers — each with a customized truck body designed by Morgan Corp.

In addition to Isuzu cabovers, Landscapes USA’s 250-vehicle fleet also includes F-250 crew cabs that pull trailers with maintenance equipment, vans for irrigation repair, and one-ton trucks that carry Bobcats for landscaping.

Dautel is in charge of buying the vehicles for all of Landscape USA’s locations. Currently, he has national lease agreements with Ford and Isuzu.

Started in 2001, Landscapes USA has grown to close to 1,000 employees and operates in eight states, including Tennessee, Oklahoma, Florida, California, Texas, and Arizona. The company focuses on landscape maintenance such as trimming trees, replanting beds, edging grass, pruning trees, checking irrigation systems, fertilizing, and using pesticides.

“We have grown through acquisitions,” says Dautel. “When we buy a landscaping company, we don’t rebrand that company if it already has a well-established brand.” 

Dautel opted for the gasoline engine because of the initial cost savings over diesel. The vehicles average 50 to 100 miles per day and 15,000 to 18,000 miles per year, not enough to warrant a diesel engine, he says.

Each truck’s payload is maxed out at 12,000 GVW (gross vehicle weight), which the gas engine handles fine.

Switch to Cabovers

Dautel is moving away from trailers for a variety of reasons. The Isuzu NPR has been getting better fuel economy than the F-250 truck-and-trailer combination.

Isuzu’s tight turning radius has also been a benefit for Landscapes USA. According to Dautel, the Isuzu doesn’t need as much space to back up and turn; the truck and trailers require more maneuverability space.

“We can park three Isuzu trucks in the space where we park one truck and trailer,” says Dautel. “The Isuzu trucks can be parked nose to tail. With the Isuzus, we can decrease the cost for parking.” 

The trailers have a second axle, which needs additional maintenance, and it also requires the company to pay extra in tolls.

One of the greatest benefits of the fleet's 16-foot Proscape box has been the aluminum ramp, which is mechanically operated.
One of the greatest benefits of the fleet's 16-foot Proscape box has been the aluminum ramp, which is mechanically operated.

Additionally, Dautel says the trailers aren’t built as solid as Morgan’s customized boxes. “The boxes will last longer than the trailers,” he says. “I could see us doing an engine replacement on each Isuzu and keeping the same box.”

One downside to moving away from a truck and trailer has been the height of the box, which stands at about 12 feet tall compared to the F-250 cab’s eight-foot height.

Dautel says hanging trees on narrow downtown streets are a problem. “You really have to be aware of where that truck is going,” he says. “We have started seeing dings and scratches on the top of the boxes.”

Customizable Boxes

Designed for lawn and landscape professionals, Morgan’s Proscape-Van provides space for a landscaper’s tools, materials, and equipment. Custom options include lighting, flooring, and rack systems.

For Dautel, the greatest benefit of his 16-foot Proscape box has been the aluminum ramp, which is mechanically operated. He describes it as solid and long-lasting. Employees drive the mowers up and down the ramps.

“Morgan’s ramp is a better solution than having a hydraulic ramp, and it’s less expensive,” says Dautel. “The hydraulic ramp is just another motor that you have to maintain.”

Dautel goes to a different supplier to install racks inside each Morgan box. The racks are used to store blowers, weeders, hedge trimmers, brooms, ladders, backpack sprayers, and propane tanks for the mowers. After ordering the Isuzu cabovers, the trucks are shipped directly to a Morgan facility to add the body.

Dautel says the areas that grew the most — Houston, San Diego, and Austin — have gotten most of the Isuzus.

“As our company continues to grow, I expect that we will be adding 20 to 30 Isuzu trucks per year,” says Dautel.

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