Equipment Management: Cabover vocational trucks

There are many reasons to consider buying a cabover-style vocational truck for your landscaping business. But one of the best reasons is also one that is somewhat intangible: image.

In an increasingly competitive market, setting your business apart from your rivals is crucial. And spec’ing your fleet with safe, modern and productive work trucks is a bold way to make a statement about your business and where you’re taking it.

Of course it’s possible to achieve the same image results operating pickup trucks. But cabover vocational vehicles have a great deal to offer in terms of productivity, payload and adaptability. “If all you’re doing is mowing and blowing, then there’s no problem with a pickup truck,” agrees Todd Bloom, vice president of marketing for Isuzu Commercial Truck North American. “In fact, I would argue that a pickup is perfect for a specialized operation like that.”

Bloom says more and more professional landscapers are bringing all kinds of products and equipment to their jobsites – everything from compact equipment to large trees along with the crews needed to do the work required. “For those landscapers, a vehicle’s payload is becoming more of an issue in terms of how you operate a vehicle,” he explains. “And when you look at the many abilities cabovers offer, these trucks suddenly make a lot of sense for a landscaper.”

“These trucks are certainly a better option for many landscapers when compared to pickups,” says Mark Jonhson, marketing communications manager, International Truck and Engine. “Remember, these are commercial trucks, designed for maximum durability. This means they’re built with stronger frame rails and durable, reliable V-6 diesel engines – yet they can still be spec’d so that drivers do not need to have a commercial driver’s license to operate them.”

Get involved to get the perfect truck
Conventional vocational trucks are named because of the way their engines and cabs are configured: The time-tested, “conventional” arrangement with the engine compartment jutting out in a long-nosed hood with the truck cab situated farther back on the frame. In contrast, cabover trucks are blunt-nosed looking creations – their cabs are situated directly over the engine. No long nose stretches out in front of the driver.

The overall appearance of a cabover truck is decidedly futuristic – but its design philosophy is based on more than simple aesthetics. The driver’s forward visibility is greatly enhanced, and the set-back axle design employed by this design gives cabover trucks incredible maneuverability. International’s Class 5 CityStar model, for example features 53-degree wheel cuts. That translates into an extremely tight turning radius perfect for maneuvering in cul de sacs or congested worksites.

In addition, the set-back axle also maximizes the length of the truck’s body available for body installations. And that’s important. Because of all the features that make cabovers such a great fit for landscaping businesses, none is more important than the almost endless array of body choices you can spec to engineer the perfect truck for your operations.

“It’s so important to not just buy a truck off the lot,” Bloom stresses. Instead, he says, smart landscapers will buy a new, basic truck and send it off to a local installer to be fitted with the body of their choice. “Unfortunately, most people don’t think about buying a truck until their old one is about ready to die,” he explains. “And so they walk into dealer and if he happens to have a truck with a stake body they say, ‘OK, that’ll do the trick.'”

But often, it won’t. “If you’re spending that much money, you need to get the vehicle that is right for your application,” Bloom adds. “And I say that because a lot of times you get the truck set up the way you want it and it turns out to be less expensive than buying one off the lot. And it will be the way you need it and not have other things on the body that hinder or detract from your application.”

“Landscapers can pick the best truck for their business by analyzing the payload and length of body needed for their particular application,” says Shawn Waterman, marketing segment manager, Sterling Trucks. But, he cautions, you shouldn’t stop there. “You should also be sure to think beyond their current applications and consider if there are areas you’d like to try to get into. For example, if you’re thinking about getting into the sod business, you’ll need a truck that can haul more weight than simply moving mowers and trees around.”

There are two ways you can go about finding the right body for your truck. Not surprisingly, Bloom recommends you start with your local truck dealership. “Because the dealer is the one who has the relationship with various body companies – they’re not tied to a specific body company,” he says. “So you go to the dealer you already have the relationship with and tell them what you need. The better you define to the dealer what you want the truck to do, the better you can spec the body for the truck. It will absolutely improve your business.”

This is not the time to be passive. This is the time to be highly involved in the spec’ing process. Don’t be afraid to speak up if something is not going to work or point out if you have special needs. “Every landscaper has a different way of operating their business,” Bloom notes. “And for that reason alone, it’s very important for you to be actively involved in spec’ing a body for your new cabover truck – because one size does not fit all when it comes to vocational truck bodies.”

Are gas powertrains better than diesel?
If a cabover truck’s body is the most important productivity feature it has to offer, then its engine is a close second. One reason landscapers opt to move from pickups to cabover trucks is because of the reliable, long-lasting, powerful diesel engines many of them are equipped with. But gasoline engines are becoming an increasingly important option given the rise in diesel fuel prices and escalating new engine costs associated with increased government-mandated emissions regulations.

“Diesel engines – regardless of who manufactures them – have gone up an average of $4,000, depending on what you’re buying,” Bloom notes. “So if you’re putting less than 30,000 miles on a truck annually, now you have to consider the virtues of gasoline power once you factor in fuel and acquisition costs. A lot of landscapers who are only putting 15,000 miles on a truck a year can’t get the payback with a diesel. For people who are putting 20,000 to 30,000 miles on their trucks, it’s a wash. Many of them prefer the reliability of a diesel engine. And that’s OK. But if you’ve got a crew, you’re on a site about an hour and making six or seven stops a day, and depending on the area you’re in – you’re probably only putting 15,000 or 20,000 miles a year on the truck. In that case we see gas trucks as a great opportunity for controlling operating costs.”

The Attachments Idea Book
Landscapers use a variety of attachments for doing everything from snow removal to jobsite cleanup, and regardless of how often they are used, every landscaper has a favorite attachment.
Attachments Idea Book Cover