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One Size Will Not Fit All: The Evolution of the Field Services Vehicle

On the subject of field service vehicles, why does one size no longer fit all? We worked for years to achieve a specification that made field service trucks standard. One of the goals was to provide a one-size-fits-all solution in order for central dispatching to be more efficient, as well as for fleets to have a uniform appearance.

So what happened? A rapidly changing work environment has caused a complete re-evaluation to take place.

We need to examine objectively the primary issues that are influencing and shaping today’s specifications and how the truck of tomorrow will look in order to understand why one size does not fit all when designing the right field service vehicle for your company.

A common phrase heard from work truck operators across the country is “My truck is overweight.” One major factor is that the truck has components that aren’t being used that contribute to the weight issue, but that still continue to be specified. A common example of this is welders. It is not rare to see trucks with seven-plus years of service and a welder with barely 100 hours of usage. The reason for this is that most of the field service welders are used to provide electricity, not welding. A lightweight, costeffective alternative to a welder is an inverter, as it can provide the needed capabilities without the weight of the welder. Another common example is a crane. A crane mightsdqsa be a necessary component on the truck, but it is important to evaluate what reach and capacity the operator truly needs. In most cases, by eliminating the welder and rightly sizing the crane, you can reduce the weight by over a thousand pounds.

Another question to consider: “Do I have too much truck?” As the scope of field service work continues to shift from “heavy iron” tasks to diagnostic, sensors-and-emissions type work, it is smart to evaluate how many trucks in your fleet actually need a large-capacity crane or welder or a high-output air compressor.

When working on the specs for your field service truck, it is important to consider what type of machines the truck will be servicing. As the population of compact machines continues to grow worldwide, the factors of servicing compact machines prove to be challenging regardless of the diminutive machine size. These machines commonly work in downtown and urban areas where it would be tough to even park a large-scale field service truck. The accessories required to work on these compact machines, in most cases, don’t require a crane or a high-capacity air compressor. This is opening the door for a variety of compact field service trucks, such as vans, in configurations that only a few years ago would have been considered unthinkable, but they do have a place right alongside the traditional large-scale field service trucks.

How do we begin to evaluate the necessities of a field service truck? The first step is gaining a new perspective that starts with analytics. Having a working understanding of your field service operations each day is no longer sufficient, and having real-time data is a necessity. By using existing technology, a field service manager can have data available on a laptop, tablet or smartphone and know how much of the truck is actually being used. This is a huge benefit and highly influences component specifications. If you know how often components are used, you can understand the return on your investment.

Large-scale mechanics trucks will never disappear from fleets, but it will no longer be necessary for all of the field service trucks to be equipped with the traditionally required components, such as large cranes and air compressors, as the scope of work performed in the field moves to a preventative model rather than a reactive model. We all know that machines will still have breakdowns, but work orders today are nothing like they were a decade ago.

More and more end customers are leasing or renting equipment, so it is in everyone’s best interest to keep that machine running. Telematics from the machines are providing real-time information that gives an unprecedented level of connectivity not available in the past. As time changes and technology evolves, it is imperative that we take advantage of these advancements in order to maximize the output of our fleet equipment and truly get the most out of our service vehicles. 

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