One of the most nerve-wracking parts of buying a new vehicle – whether it’s for personal use, work, or one to place into fleet service – is the hope your new truck or van will outlast the payments on it.

That can be a big order, with challenging weather conditions, salty slush covering the roads for 5 months of the year, and distracted drivers all over the place.  Factor in how tough jobsites can be on a truck or a van and a LOT of owners and fleet leaders are happy to get even a “few good years” out of a work vehicle.

Enter the current economic challenges between the COVID-19 pandemic and the simple fact that new vehicle production is more limited than it has been in years and you can see a big problem:

A lot of small companies can’t afford a new truck, a lot of fleets don’t want a new truck, and if you can find that “new” vehicle, it might not have the options you really need.

So what do you – as an owner, a skilled worker or a fleet manager do?  You need a work truck or van to do the job, but you can’t necessarily get it.  There are two tactics folks can use to solve this particular problem – one takes some time and the other you can implement right away.

Let’s look at the one that can solve your immediate problem, and next time, we’ll look at how you or your fleet team can implement a long-term strategy to maximize the length of time a truck or van is in use and capable of “getting the job done”.

So how can you solve the immediate need of getting (or keeping) a truck or van in the fleet?

For starters, look at how you and your business use that truck or van.

Do you need that one-ton dually?  Do you need the full size van?  Many times, we see owners opting for bigger vehicles, and the CRA does allow different deductions based on whether you’re using a “passenger vehicle” or a “motor vehicle.”

Heck, for that matter, do you need to buy a new vehicle?

Now, we aren’t accountants, so we will not be getting into that debate, but simple math tells us there are a lot more half-ton trucks and SUVs on the road, along with a variety of “crossover” vehicles that we’ve seen many fleets deploy to handle smaller jobs like light maintenance, courier work, and simply getting crews to the sight.  A shrewd bit of planning and the “right” basic passenger vehicle can put a crew to many jobsites as easily and comfortably as any full sized truck or van and, while it might not be the system you want, it’s a very workable system.

There’s a couple of benefits to this strategy, the biggest being simply that the cost of acquisition for a top-of-the-line (for the year) used heavy duty truck, for example, is less than might be expected for even the most basic brand new half ton truck.

The other primary benefit is that the trucks and vans already in service would not need to be used as much – reducing mileage, wear and tear, and maintenance costs – or, would only be in use for specific jobs or contracts.

One thing we’ve been noticing over the last year was the very beginnings of another trend, where companies were investing in upfitted trailers – both flat deck and enclosed – and using them with lighter GVWR trucks or vans to handle jobs they once had reserved for heavier trucks with, for example, service bodies.

Commercial Trailer Equipment

As we reported then, the nice thing about this was that in many circumstances, those trailers could be hauled to the site (assuming proper security was available) and then left for the duration of the job.  Then, employees could use their own vehicles for transportation, or more efficient vehicles in the fleet could be used for the daily “back and forth” of handling the job.

That brings us to another possible solution we’re seeing – the revision of company rules and regulations regarding employees and how they might get to the jobsite.

For years, many companies doing work “offsite” have followed the practice of using the company’s trucks and vans to bring their team to where the work is to be done.  Obviously, there are costs associated with this, so perhaps, given the present situation, it might be worth it to review how you get your people to work.

Is it smarter to pay them for using their vehicles?  Pay them for the windshield time involved?

Again, there’s no “right” or “wrong” but it might be able to give you and your team the edge you need in this slow economy to make sure the doors stay open and your people stay busy.

Right now, as we all feel the economic effects of COVID-19, the solution isn’t to sit at home in fear, it’s to really think creatively.  In some cases, we’re already been seeing this – how many more “virtual” calls are you making?  Are there ways you and your team can automate some of the work you used to have to do onsite?  Is there technology that could support remote observation and troubleshooting in your own field?

We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again – we’re here to help put people back to work and to get the work done.  If you’re feeling some challenges on how you can make sure your fleet is ready to grow – or ready to work more efficiently, then give our team a call to see what we’ve seen in terms of new and creative ways to solve our client’s transportation challenges.

Stay safe, because in the next article, we’re going to look at some longer-term solutions to keep your fleet moving longer…