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Me And My Service Truck

A look inside these mobile shops

Spencer Whitt with service van

Spencer Whitt, president of A.M. Davis Co. (Richmond, VA) views his service vans as "rolling billboards that represent the company." This 2007 GMC DUALLY one-ton diesel truck has a wide, covered utility body to allow capacity for tooling and parts. Each company truck holds between $2,500 and $4,000 in parts, stocked individually for each tech, depending on his territory and selling habits.

When it comes to what type of service vehicle for a forklift dealer to use, it’s not an easy decision. Material handling distributors want something that’s big enough to hold adequate parts inventory, but not so big that fuel mileage suffers. Can it be both a workshop and an office? What service equipment needs to be on board?

Advantage Materials Handling (South Bend, IN) favors gasoline-powered 14-foot GMC cube trucks for road technicians. President Tim Balint says each of his ten trucks carries between $40,000 and $50,000 of inventory, including high-volume air compressors, computers, torches, workbenches, forklift jacks and vices. Several of the trucks have welding equipment. “Our people are comfortable when they’re out there working because they have everything it takes to do the job,” Balint says. “Our customers benefit too because we get more things done on site the first time rather than having to return later with parts.”

The 14-foot box truck is also utilized by Rob Stress, manager at Greene Enterprises Material Handling (Tucson, AZ). After trying regular vans and trucks with service bodies, Stress converted his whole fleet to the box truck. “It’s the best thing we’ve found so far, even though it’s quite a hike to get in and out of it,” Stress says. To mitigate that problem, the company put a toolbox on wheels in the back corner so technicians can easily reach their hand tools without climbing in and out. He also likes that, because of the truck’s height, it’s harder to get grease prints all over the sides like with a regular service truck. Each truck contains workbenches, hydraulic hose machines, presses and welders. “They’re really loaded up pretty good and I’m pleased with what we have. I haven’t found anything else I would buy even if money was no object,” Stress says, adding that the company is currently looking to purchase larger six-wheel service trucks to handle increased business in the copper mines.

Robert Siano with service van

National Lift Truck Service (Fort Lauderdale, FL) President Robert Siano uses a fleet of 42 gas-powered, three-quarter ton GMC vans to carry welding equipment, torch sets, air compressors and roughly $9,000 in parts inventory that is customized for each technician's customers.

Tom Showalter with service truck

No two of the 71 trucks in Herc-U-Lift's fleet have the same inventory, says President Tom Showalter, who lets the mechanics choose between Ford and Chevy vehicles. Most are gas-powered but some do use diesel.

Mike Holzbauer, service manager at Stoffel Equipment Company (Milwaukee, WI), has a mixed fleet of Fords, Chevrolets and Dodge Sprinters, but the majority are three-quarter-ton Ford E350 vans. “The half-tons just weren’t cutting it, so we’re spending the extra money to get the bigger ones.” He says the company typically runs them three years or 30,000 miles. Ideally, he says, the back of the truck would have less room for manuals and more room for parts. “I really don’t want anything bigger because then the guys couldn’t fit in their garage at night, but it would need to be better organized with room for laptops that wouldn’t break. That’s my dream.”

Equipment Inc. service truck

Equipment Inc. utilizes 30 Ford F250 diesel trucks because "our techs don't like crawling in and out of covered vans," says Service Manager David Thomas. Each unit carries between $2,500 and $10,000 of parts, depending on the tech's requirements.

Three-quarter-ton pickup trucks are the vehicle of choice at Equipment Inc. (Jackson, MS). In addition to material handling equipment, technicians also work on heavy construction equipment. President Joe Schmelzer tried vans in the past, but technicians have found pickup trucks easier to work from. However, if money were no object—“That would mean the cost of fuel is no object,” Schmelzer says—he would probably lean toward a large, enclosed van big enough to carry every conceivable part a tech might need, complete with computer software and all the up-to-date technology needed to analyze and fix the problem.

A combination of vehicles works for Herc-U-Lift (Maple Plain, MN), which uses one-ton extended vans in more metropolitan areas and cube vans in outlying areas where it makes sense to have more materials on board. All vehicles are outfitted with tools, workbenches, hydraulic presses and laptops. President Tom Showalter says he would use a cube van if money were no object because it holds much more and leaves room for a nice working environment inside. However, in practice, he is making a conscious move to more fuel-efficient vehicles.

B&H Industrial Service (Springfield, MO) uses half-ton and three-quarter-ton vans currently, but President Wayne Bates says in a perfect world, “Vans are not the answer.” He would like to use a vehicle that gets better fuel mileage, perhaps a minivan or closed utility vehicle. “It should be enclosed so that the parts and tools don’t get wet in the rain, and with the price of fuel it would need to be fuel-efficient,” Bates says.

Stocked for Sales
A covered service-body one-ton Ford or GMC truck is the preference of Spencer Whitt, president of A.M. Davis Co. (Richmond, VA). “The guys like working out of those trucks because they have pretty much everything we need,” Whitt says. “The trucks also isolate the smells and noises into the separate body.” Whitt’s trucks are currently stocked with what he calls “the everyday items we always need but don’t amount to a lot of money,” along with various manufacturer’s tune-up parts, LP gas components, switches, electrical components, starters/alternators, PM parts, hoses and fittings. In a perfect world, Whitt would like to see his trucks stocked with more inventory, especially hoses, fitting and larger tools. “We have air tools and compressors on board all the trucks, and I’d like them all to have one-inch and larger torque wrenches and multipliers.” The trucks carry varying inventory. “When a tech asks if he can stock a certain part, I ask if the tech can sell it regularly and will it make him more productive,” Whitt says. “If those answers are yes, then we will stock the part and review it for activity.”

 Stoffel Equipment service van  Stoffel Equipment service van interior
All of the Chevy G3500 gas-powered vans in use by Stoffel Equipment Company are no more than four years old and get about 13 miles to the gallon. Each carries roughly $7,500 worth of parts. Service Manager Mike Holzbauer likes the vans because they don’t require a lot of repairs, but would like to increase space for tools and parts by replacing the manuals techs carry with laptops within the next 24 months.

All of his forklift service trucks are diesel, which Whitt was happy with until the recent price increase. The diesel service trucks get between 14 and 16 miles per gallon and have plenty of power to pull a tire press or any other forklift service equipment. However, Whitt recently made the switch to one Sprinter for testing. “It’s good on fuel but I’m waiting for it to prove itself because the maintenance is pretty expensive.”

 Advantage Material Handling Group truck exterior  Advantage Material Handling Group truck interior
Trucks for Advantage Material Handling Group carry the logos of one of the corporation’s four companies: B/T Equipment Service, Balint/Ryder Handling Equipment, B/T Battery & Charger Systems and Climate Adjuster Co. The inside holds between $40,000 and $50,000 of parts inventory. “Our techs like roominess, and our customers like that the amount of inventory we carry allows us to complete 90 percent of repairs on the first trip,” says President Timothy Balint.

View a blueprint of “The Ultimate Service Vehicle” as described by MHEDA members.

Material Handling Equipment Distributors Association

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