Medium trucks. Big decisions.

by Truck News

Medium-duty truck operators are a diverse lot. Many are not primarily truck people, but small business operators who need a truck as a work tool. Whatever the application, there is no shortage of options in the medium-duty segment.

Here are six things to consider when choosing a medium-duty truck:

Leasing increasing

More medium-duty truck buyers are now leasing their vehicles, for a variety of reasons. In fact, for Hino, 2015 represented the first year the leasing market overtook general freight as its top segment. About 36% of Hino trucks sold were into the leasing segment, with general freight falling to about 33%, according to Eric Smith, vice-president of sales with Hino Motors Canada.

“We’re seeing growing acceptance towards full-maintenance leases, where it’s very convenient for customers to not have to worry about their vehicle,” Smith said. “Everything is taken care of for them, they just have to supply fuel and a driver and it’s a real convenience.”

Robert Ricciuti, sales manager at Isuzu dealer Durham Truck & Equipment in Ajax, Ont. said leasing is also attractive to small business owner who may not have the capital to fund new vehicle purchases.

“Some small companies would just rather make a payment as opposed to purchasing them outright,” Ricciuti said.

Leasing, according to Mark Carlson, account manager with International dealer Maxim Truck and Trailer in Winnipeg, Man., added leasing trucks allows customers to focus on their core business, which in the medium-duty segment often isn’t trucking.

“Leasing is becoming more popular as companies want to do what they do best and want the truck OEM to do what they claim to do best,” Carlson said. “They know their business and we know trucks. Also, full-service leasing is becoming more popular as companies want fixed costs on the transportation and maintenance part of their operations.”

Spec’ the right truck

Whether leasing or buying, medium-duty truck operators need to choose the right truck – and right-sized truck – for their application.

“They have to have a vehicle that’s sized right for their requirement and configured properly to meet their needs and to be efficient,” said Smith. “You don’t need a truck that’s oversized, and an undersized truck is not going to fulfill their needs.”

Choosing the wrong truck for the applications is one of the most common mistakes medium-duty truck operators make, according to Maxim’s Carlson.

“Not understanding the application and/or upfit,” he said as he rhymed off common spec’ing mistakes. “Chassis misapplied as far as on- and off-road applications. Underspec’ing the truck. Overspec’ing the truck. Buying vehicles under 26,000 lbs. Spec’ing air brakes and then realizing the driver does not have the proper endorsement.”

Fuel for thought

Medium-duty trucks can be had with a variety of fuel sources, including diesel, gasoline and even alternative fuels such as natural gas. Consider which one will provide the simplicity and cost of operation that best serves your needs.

“One of the biggest questions to ask yourself right off the bat is, do you need a diesel truck or do you need a gas truck?” asked Ricciuti, noting Isuzu sells both. He said diesel-powered trucks require expensive and heavy aftertreatment systems.

But Carlson said the in-line six diesel engine is still king among medium-duty buyers.

Cabover or conventional?

The cab design is another consideration, especially when operating in urban areas. Cabovers are popular in regions such as Quebec but the conventional cab is the more popular choice further west, said Hino’s Smith.

Cabovers afford excellent maneuverability and the ability to park in tight spaces. But Smith said Hino is experiencing greater growth among its conventional truck line.

“Our medium-duty truck (conventional) sales in 2015 were up 28%,” he said. “Our cabover engine sales were also up, but not quite at the same pace. We have seen tremendous growth in Ontario and B.C. with our MDT line.”

Consider the driver

At the end of the day, you want a truck the driver is comfortable in and happy to operate. Good ergonomics should be a priority. Automatic transmissions, air suspensions, air-conditioned cabs and tilt/telescoping steering wheels are a few spec’s that contribute to driver comfort.

“Customers want the truck to be driver-friendly,” said Carlson. He also said hydraulic brakes are preferred so the average Class 5-licensed driver can operate the truck without an air brake endorsement.

“It has to have a comfortable cab; something that is going to win over the appeal of the drivers,” said Smith.

How’s the support?

Choose a truck that’s supported by a reputable dealer with convenient service locations, sales reps advise.

“Having service locations where the customers want them is really critical,” Smith said.

Ricciuti suggested also asking about and comparing warranties. Is roadside service included? How about oil changes for the first couple years?

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