Your other fleet

by James Menzies

CALGARY, Alta. – Light-duty trucks may not boast the power or the glamour of the highway rigs most truckers run.

However, you’re bound to find one or two in the yards of many fleets.

Light-duty trucks are a popular method of personal transportation for many truckers, who wouldn’t be caught dead in a mini-van.

And they’re ideal for running parts around the city or hauling small equipment.

But what makes a good light-duty truck?

As with any Class 8 or medium-duty truck, it’s important to consider the application.

If you’re going to be using it strictly to pick up parts and equipment, then an extended box will offer the best payload and carrying capacity.

But if the truck will be used by the mechanics for lunch outings, an extended cab may be the best choice as it offers more seating and comfort and still has enough room in the box for most parts.

It also provides more room for dry goods.

Each of the domestic truck manufacturers has an offering that fits the bill nicely, so there are no shortage of options.

General Motors

Greg Mander, professional automotive consultant with McKay Pontiac Buick GMC in Calgary, says the Sonoma and the Sierra are the most popular GM offerings.

Both are available as extended cabs, which feature a 6.5-ft. box as well as the regular cab, which offers an eight-foot box length.

“The majority of delivery services are going for the extended cab,” says Mander.

“Dollar for dollar, it works out to about the same moneywise, but they’re able to carry a little bit more dry goods inside.”

Some of the larger GM offerings come with some equipment that may be familiar for many truckers.

The heavy-duty series features an Allison 1000-series transmission, which can be found in many medium-duty trucks.

“It’s a medium-duty transmission, even though your top-end medium-duty’s are using the 2000-series Allisons,” says Mander.

The larger HD series trucks are necessary if a fleet wants to fill the truck up with diesel at the local cardlock, but they come at a substantially higher price.

For running parts around the city and running errands, Mander recommends the V8 Sierra, equipped with an automatic transmission since it will likely be driven by several individuals.

“There’s not a lot of Saskatchewan farm boys that know how to drive a five-speed properly anymore,” says Mander.

The V8 Sierra automatic, equipped with several options fetches about $27,500.

Dodge Dakota

The Dodge Dakota also makes a great yard-truck, says Allan Bowerman, used-vehicle manager for Big 4 Motors in Calgary.

“The thing about the Dakota from a fleet point of view is that at the end of its fleet life it has better resale value than most of the other trucks,” says Bowerman.

He says it also excels in gross vehicle weight rating, payload and fuel economy.

But making it a really attractive option is its flexibility, says Bowerman. It’s available with a regular cab, club cab and a four-door quad cab as well.

“It’s just a really flexible platform,” says Bowerman.

If the truck is going to be used for light work around the city, he suggests the six cylinder five-speed.

Upgrading to an eight cylinder, however, or maybe even a four-wheel-drive Dakota, makes sense if it will be used to tow a trailer or haul heavier equipment around the yard.

“It really depends on the application and how much weight it’s going to be carrying,” says Bowerman.

Ford F-150

Ford sales consultant, Gordon Wilson, says the F-150 XL is an ideal yard truck for fleets.

“The XL regular cab long box is your best bet,” says the Woodridge Ford Lincoln sales representative.

There are several motors available, with the V6 being the standard offering.

“Longevity and how much weight you’re going to pull is going to define which motor you’re going to want,” says Wilson.

Upgrading to a V8 costs $645 more than the V6, which carries a suggested retail price of about $22,480 (before adding any options).

“If you’re carrying a bit of extra weight obviously you’d go to the V8,” says Wilson.

“It’s less work on the motor under heavy load applications which will probably actually give you better gas mileage than the smaller motor because it doesn’t have to work as hard.”

Upgrading to a long box carries a $290 price tag, but if a fleet wants to upgrade to a heavy-duty diesel model it will cost substantially more.

When it boils right down to it, Wilson says most fleets could get by with a six-cylinder XL model.

“The six cylinder is probably going to suffice but I always find that the eight cylinder is going to outlast the six,” he says.

Fuel economy comparison

Each of the major truck manufacturers prides itself on its fuel economy, which is bound to be one of the biggest considerations for the ever fuel-wise fleet manager or owner/operator.

So which one reigns supreme in the fuel economy battle is undoubtedly of interest.

According to the 2003 fuel consumption guide published by the federal government, the most fuel efficient Dodge Dakota edges out the most fuel efficient Ford F-150 and GMC Sierra.

There’s very little room, however, separating either of the models.

In fact, the battle between the Dakota and F-150 is almost too close to call.

The Department of Energy Efficiency estimates an annual fuel bill of $1,666 per year for the most fuel efficient Dakota as compared to $1,678 for the most fuel efficient F-150.

The Sierra uses slightly more fuel with an estimated annual fuel cost of $1,824. When deciding on a new yard truck or personal vehicle there are many factors to consider. Shopping around and asking the right questions will help ensure you end up with a light-duty truck you enjoy driving almost as much as your real rig.

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