In choosing a van, be very specific in the analysis of mission requirements by using weights and actual loads over operating geographies to determine specifically what a van needs to be capable of over a sustained lifecycle. - Photo: Ford

In choosing a van, be very specific in the analysis of mission requirements by using weights and actual loads over operating geographies to determine specifically what a van needs to be capable of over a sustained lifecycle.

Photo: Ford

You must know your business and its exact needs before you can find the best fleet vehicles to serve it. Whether you already own vans or are buying your first ones, this point repeatedly should be reviewed as your operations grow or change. Don't assume your fleet requirements stay static between fleet purchases.

What are you looking for? This is the first step in narrowing down the search for the right vehicle and making it manageable. No single database accounts for the constant-changing and complex vehicle inventory, and because of this, small businesses are unable to pinpoint which vehicle is best for their needs.

So consider these basic questions:

  • How and when will the vehicle be used, how far will your vehicle travel, what tools/equipment/cargo will need to be carried/stored?
  • What kind of roads will you be traveling?
  • Will you have to tow heavy loads?
  • Will you end up pulling a trailer with such loads?

Be very specific in the analysis of mission requirements by using weights and actual loads over operating geographies to determine specifically what a van needs to be capable of over a sustained lifecycle.

Spend time building a tailored, specific solution that allows you to match the van to the requirement precisely. Repeat the analysis periodically to ensure that the determining characteristics have not evolved away from your designed vehicle.

Vehicle performance and available safety features: Find advanced drivetrain products with high mpg performance from the OEMs without downsizing into a ‘micro-vehicle.

Get the weight capacity on the right chassis without having to upscale the van to a size too large for inner-city deployment. Connect directly with the OEMs. Work with the OEMs to provide advanced drivetrain products (and buy them as soon as they are available).

Energy/fuel efficiency: Are there any energy-related ratings or evaluations of cargo and passenger vans, provided by your state? Check out EPA and state resources for energy and fuel consumption ratings in addition to mileage. For example, California the California Air Resources Board (state agency) and/or CALSTART (private association) would be good places to start.

Get safety options from the manufacturer, especially ADAS (Advanced Driver Alert Systems) that include lane departure and collision warnings. ADAS features are now becoming more standard and affordable, and can help reduce insurance rates.

Get drivers and supervisors to agree on a common set of standard configurations for all geographic locations (excluding climate requirements). Focus on safety and keeping drivers happy. Generally, option vans up to the greater level of features.

Keep ergonomic concerns top-of-mind when spec’ing vans: Make sure drivers and/or passengers can safely enter and exit in ways that don't represent a ‘low-center’ or ‘angle of departure’.

Advanced analytics is the key to increased compliance, efficiency, cost, and consumption reductions. Any van purchased must come with telematics that can evaluate the performance and operation of the van and supply data to inform fleet productivity. Telematics are also a must for scheduled regular delivery routes and services. Advanced telematics can also track company-owned equipment via GPS.

Compile industry research on preferred vehicle brands, chassis build and upfit manufacturers based on your business needs. Compare inventory offerings and prices from a variety of sources; source product reviews from professional associations; and leverage other small business owners and professionals in your network to curate the ultimate wishlist of features.

Develop relationships with/prepare for visits with dealerships or vehicle sellers: Bring your list of van requirements as well as an inspection checklist. Areas to consider for the inspection include: a rust-free and well-maintained vehicle exterior, no fluid leakage from the car, all elements under the hood are included, no unusual sounds while test driving the vehicle, and trying out every function of the van, from shifting to turning on the windshield wipers. Talk to customers.

Avoid long lead times and overall order-to-delivery (OTD) times: To create a successful process/timing map, it is important to collaborate with all parties involved in the supply chain/OTD process. This includes weekly OTD communciation with all parties involved to discuss timing, issues, roadblocks, etc., to communicate and resolve any issues. Get all parties involved together on a call, web meeting, or onsite, and start with your desired outcomes. Then, work your way back to first steps in the process.

Remarketing/resale considerations: How determine and assess? What is the market value of a specific year/make/model?

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