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The right choices.

It's important for wholesalers and small brewers to ask the right questions when specifying a delivery vehicle

Suppose your family consists of five people and you're in need of reliable, cost-effective transportation. Would you consider a two-seat sports car? What about a two-door compact? Obviously, neither of those are likely to be your choices. Instead, you will probably be looking for a vehicle that will operate efficiently while comfortably carrying everyone and everything you'll need.

The message is simple - buying the right equipment in the first place is absolutely essential. Whether we're talking about family cars or the trucks beer wholesalers employ to distribute products, nothing is more important than knowing what you should be looking for in transportation equipment. Buying or leasing, the considerations range widely, and due to the highly specialized nature of the beverage delivery business those trucks must also be speced with many factors in mind.

What you will want to know? What should you ask about when buying or leasing new delivery vehicles? For some expert advice and the answers to those questions, we turned to Robert Aquaro, director of corporate training and product development at Mitsubishi Fuso Truck of America. In his role, Robert serves as the manufacturer's resident applications engineer in U.S.

The first question to ask yourself, according to Robert, is about configuration. Based on routes, loads, terrain and body or trailer specifications, is a conventional or a cabover (COE) more effective and appropriate? Dimensions are also part of this initial discussion, he added, including wheelbase, overall length and body length as well as BBC (bumper to back-of-cab) and CA (cab-axle).

Loading issues are also important, Robert related, so distributors should to be prepared to discuss them as well. How a company loads its vehicles - off a dock, at ground level; indoors or outside - can all be important elements in specification decisions.

For beer wholesale delivery fleets, Robert advised, specing enough carrying capacity to handle the heaviest loads - usually outbound - is critical for long vehicle service life. For trucks operating in the 32,000 to 33,000-lb GVW (Gross Vehicle Weight) range, Class 7 vehicles with heavy-duty specs are likely to be most appropriate. For smaller loads on shorter routes, some companies may be satisfied with 26,000- or 30,000-lb chassis.

When comparing carrying capacities, Robert noted, beer distributors will want to watch out for differences in the way manufacturers base GVW ratings. It's important, he explained, to look at the axle rating and at the axle capacity. Points to remember: 1) If the axle capacity is higher than the axle weight rating, durability is greater. 2) This is true in both front and rear axles, although in cabover configurations the steering axle usually carries more of the load than in a conventional. 3) Approximate weight distribution guidelines for COEs are 33% front/67% rear; 25%/75% in conventionals.

Focus on frame specifications, Robert stated, by looking at the section modulus - an indication of the quantity of steel in the rails - and the RBM rating. In both cases, he noted, higher numbers mean greater strength, essential especially if the body builder is going to make any frame modifications. In addition, component mounting locations should be included in specs to eliminate labor costs associated with moving them as well as to simplify body installation.

Other specing considerations for beer delivery vehicles that Robert pointed out cover engines transmissions, tires and brakes. His recommendations included an engine with a minimum of 200 HP and 390 to 500 lb/ft of torque capacity; a six-speed transmission for a good combination of startability and fuel efficiency at highway speeds; steel-belted radial tires with adequate load ratings; and heavy-duty air or air/hydraulic brakes along with an air dryer to help extend brake system component life.

Last but not least, according to Robert, is the careful consideration of driver comfort and safety while entering and exiting the cab, driving or doing paperwork. In surveys, he also reported, two of the most requested items were cup holders and better interior lighting, which is seen as especially important for beer distributors that have installed onboard computers in their delivery vehicles. Also, Robert added, to ensure adequate power for lighting and onboard computer devices as well as starting, specifying a larger alternator - rated at a minimum of 80 amps - is recommended.

Seth Skydel is the executive editor of DES magazine, a publication for truck fleet equipment managers.
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Title Annotation:choosing a delivery vehicle
Author:Skydel, Seth
Publication:Modern Brewery Age
Date:Jan 29, 1996
Words:739
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