The recession forced many business owners to find ways to streamline operations in order to stay afloat. For remodelers, this included getting the most out of the vehicles used to carry workers and materials to job sites. Even as business is getting back on track, people are looking for ways to keep transportation costs down.

“There is a push toward reducing cost of ownership. People are trying to get more done with the same vehicle and reduce their overall costs,” explains Tony Marshall, product manager at Knapheide. He says Knapheide is keeping up with the trend by offering new service bodies that allow for “increased functionality on trucks that haven’t been able to offer that degree of functionality in the past.”

Tom Wilkinson, communications manager for Chevy Trucks, says that to keep up with the needs of modern workers, Chevy started offering Wi-Fi as a standard option on its Silverado and Colorado models about a year ago. “It’s been very popular for work applications, giving people on the jobsite the ability to check email or see products on a larger screen,” he adds.

Caleb Drennen, marketing specialist at A.R.E., says he’s noticed that “the midsize vehicle is being preferred for a lot of industries, such as remodeling, with operations that have 10 or less trucks on the road.” Drennen also points out that users with a small to mid-size truck need more storage solutions.

But when it comes to selecting and outfitting work vehicles, there’s no one-size-fits-all. Remodelers have many different needs depending on company size and the types of jobs they do. “In terms of trucks, we’re seeing a diverse range of customer needs,” Wilkinson says. “Chevy’s pickup sales are up 32% across the board.”

Ron Labbe, owner and president of Naples Lumber in Florida, took a different approach:  he commissioned his own custom-made trucks.  Labbe worked with truck manufacturer Wallace International for over 10 years to engineer trucks with a lower chassis, smaller wheels, taller trailers, and sliding curtains. The new design allows lumber, windows, doors, and trim to be delivered in the same truck and loaded and unloaded in any order.

One of the custom trucks in the Naples Lumber fleet.
One of the custom trucks in the Naples Lumber fleet.

With an attached forklift and heavy-duty vinyl side curtain, a single driver can unload the whole truck. All trucks also have a rear microphone and camera so the driver can hear and see what’s behind the vehicle. Labbe says Naples Lumber now has five of these new trucks doing what 11 trucks used to.

For those firms not ready to make the plunge to a custom fleet, these new products showcase the latest offerings, from technological advancements to storage solutions, in vehicle accessories and add-ons.

In Sync

SYNC 3, Ford’s latest communications and entertainment system, builds on existing vehicle technology and boasts faster performance and improved voice recognition that understands more conversational language.  The touchscreen display gives the user a choice between three sections—navigation, audio, and phone—and is designed to be used like a smartphone or tablet, with features such as swipe and pinch-to-zoom. Drivers can connect their mobile devices to the vehicle using AppLink, which will automatically discover a variety of popular apps and allow them to be controlled through the vehicle. The system can also connect to a Wi-Fi hotspot to download over-the-air updates. SYNC 3 is available on the 2016 Ford F-150.

Diamond Plated

A.R.E. launched a Diamond Edition Deluxe Commercial Unit (DCU) truck cap this spring. The Diamond Edition is made of 0.063 diamond plate aluminum, which is a heavier duty material than what’s used on A.R.E.’s standard DCU. Available in 20-, 23-, 26-, and 29-inch heights, it can be customized with a variety of door sizes, window options, tool box configurations, and roof racks. Side doors feature a folding T-handle with an automotive-style lock. Rear doors can be configured as a half rear lift door, double full doors, and a single full door. Both side and rear doors use the same key. The Diamond Edition can be ordered to fit any domestic or import truck, large or small.