The team at Expertec derives a lot of satisfaction from the seemingly simple act of taking a stock pickup or van and adding in the custom touches tradesmen and fleets need to execute their jobs – perfectly. 

In the two decades since we opened for business, the overall trend in upfitting trucks and vans has grown from the old standard of a ladder rack or a service body to specifically designed vehicles that can handle any number of tasks for their owners, all while giving them the creature comforts and reliability they would expect from a high-end automobile.

Today, functionality, storage, and usefulness are the mainstays of successful upfitting strategies, not a “one size fits all” approach. 

While we’ve discussed it over and over again in these pages, there’s one thing too many owners and businesses often neglect to consider… the overall safety and design of the finished vehicle. 

Now, “safety” means a lot of things to a lot of readers.  Anyone could – in theory – build, weld, bolt, and strap in perfectly safe alterations to their truck or van.  In the end, those folks could have perfectly useful modifications to work from.

But are they practical?

One of the biggest trends we’re seeing from fleet managers is an increased focus and consideration of how any upfit works with the user:

  • Is it ergonomically safe for them to use?
  • Are any (and all) modifications designed to enhance the user’s productivity?

So what is the difference between the “do it yourself” crowd and a professionally outfitted truck or van?

When our team works with customers, we don’t simply create a storage solution for them or randomly install, for example, a shelving unit or work bench.

We focus on how their job needs to be done.  Are users climbing in and out of the vehicle multiple times a day? 

Are there special needs for the user to be able to most effectively serve their client? 

How will the user work with and around the modifications we’re doing for their vehicle?

By planning daily activity and safety into an upfit, we can reduce injury and wear and tear on the driver/service person; therefore, decreasing the overall costs to the company and increasing productivity and quality of life for the employee.  In the end, if a driver is exhausted as a result of driving and working from the ergonomics of a truck or van, can it be considered a useful tool or is it a detrimental one?

A great way to think about this is to consider that many fleet managers are dealing with skilled workers who aren’t professional drivers.  Adding in a quarter ton of unsprung weight in the wrong place can make a truck or van feel “sloppy” in traffic and, for employees used to driving a four-door sedan may not be 100% comfortable driving a truck or van that handles poorly or is far larger than the vehicles they are most familiar with. 

The Upfitting Trend Too Many Miss – SafetyCorrectly planning a vehicle upfit enables Expertec’s technicians to help reduce injury and wear and tear on employees.

With these “dual role” employees, safety and ergonomics are far more important than simple storage.  As companies push to meet their bottom lines, they have to consider alternatives to get the job done.   Professionally upfitted vehicles take the operational competence of the driver into account to accommodate that and make it safe, comfortable, and productive for the driver and the business. 

The classic example of this is the rise of the small “transit” style vans in crowded cities, while more rural locales might be able to effectively deploy full-sized, dual-rear wheel (DRW) trucks and vans.  Each can be perfectly upfitted to do the job(s) required, but driver competence and confidence is generally sacrificed when dealing with an 8,000 pound dually, while a small transit van can be easily parked and is nimble in rush hour traffic. 

Which one is the best for your scenario?  It’s a question for the pros and if you’re in the market to add to your fleet and would like a better understanding of what your options are today, then we’d love you to give our team a call to discuss it.