CVOC: Smart spec’ing, buying more important than ever

Trucking today has changed more in the past 10 years than in entire history of the industry combined. And that makes spec’ing and buying equipment much more complicated — and crucial — than ever before for fleets.

That was the message Mike Bromhall and his two colleagues had for attendees at the Commerical Vehicle Outlook Conference in Dallas today during a morning seminar titled Equipment Trends.

Bromhall, who is vice president of maintenance and maintenance facilities for FFE Transportation, also noted that failure to adapt to new trends today is simply not an option for fleets. “Fleet managers and technicians once enjoyed a very static life,” he observed. “Today, our work environment is very dynamic. And the pace is only going to get faster.”

Tom Kretsinger, president and COO of American Central Transport, also shared some of his fleet’s spec’ing and buying secrets. One essential component, he noted, was to ensure that the purchasing process was an absolute team affair, involving all interested parties within the fleet.

“The decision to buy is a multi-million-dollar issue, and you want to get that right the first time,” Kretsinger stressed. “And while overall vehicle price is important, we don’t look so much at the price of a new vehicle as we do the cost to operate that vehicle over the course of its life with us — which is normally about five years.”

Kretsinger said FFE Transportation’s whole team approach to spec’ing takes in a number of critical factors when evaluating potential products, including:

* Reliability

* Life cycle costs

* Dealer support and footprint within the desired operating area

* OEM support

* Driver acceptance of the product

* Testing of new equipment to confirm its productivity and durability

* FMV’s with new product testing

* History of the product/brand reputation

* History of product resale values

For Kretsinger, the driver is the most important aspect of the process — particularly the importance of retaining highly skilled drivers. “We did some studies recently to discover the financial impact we incur when we lose a driver — and that figure was shocking,” he told attendees. “We estimate we lose $7,600 every time a driver leaves us. But spec’ing the proper equipment to keep drivers comfortable, efficient and profitable while they’re on the road can go a long way toward lessening the chances of that happening.”