Customizing the interior of a route vehicle to maximize the efficiency of inventory handling is an important element to running an efficient operation. To do this, operators often debate doing the work themselves or utilizing the services of vehicle design specialists.
Whether working with a professional or designing the interior on your own, the first question is, "How much inventory do you need to carry?"
First consideration: Soft drinks
The layout of the interior hinges on the volume of beverages an operator will move on a route. "It all centers around the drinks," Mike Pearson, national sales manager with Hackney Specialized Vehicles Corp., said. Soft drinks take up a lot of room and need to be located for a good weight distribution. A simple rack won't do when there is a mixture of 12-ounce soda cans, 6-ounce Red Bull cans and 16- and 20-ounce soda and water bottles on the same set.
Design specialists encourage operators to only carry what they need on a vehicle. It minimizes weight and extends the life of the truck. "On the majority of routes, over 200 cases is wasteful," said Drew Lindsey, a sales engineer at Equipment Innovators.
"Not only because of the weight factor," he said, "but with today's incredibly thin can walls, proper inventory turnover is one of the essentials to prevent nasty leaks.
"We work very closely with operators to determine their true capacity needs and then design the body so that proper weight distribution is achieved," Lindsey continued. If there's too much weight on the front end of the vehicle, it will wear it out prematurely. If there is too little weight, the vehicle will bounce and the tires will wear early."
Step two: Snack shelves
After the number of beverage racks is determined, the snack shelves are considered. The amount of shelving required will again depend on the quantity of product and variety the company plans to transport.
Chips, for instance, are light. They won't affect the center of gravity or hurt the driver's back, so they can be stacked on higher shelves.
Operators also need to consider if they plan to transport perishable product (which will necessitate coolers) and other items such as office coffee service products and carbon dioxide canisters.
Lindsey recommends a candy cooler be considered for chocolate so operators won't get a "blooming" effect. Blooming, according to chocolate maker Ghirardelli, is the result of temperature changes (i.e., cold chocolate put in a hot environment or chocolate slightly melted that's been cooled quickly).
A place for a hand truck should also be added, so it isn't rolling around the back.
Serious Miscalculation: gross vehicle weight Estimate
The biggest mistake operators make is underestimating their vehicle weight requirements. "As far as GVW (gross vehicle weight) — 10,000 pounds is the low. The average vendor uses 14,000 to 16,000 pounds," said Tony Cox, owner of SpecialtyTrux.
Pearson of Hackney added, "That's where vending people have the most trouble. They overload the trucks." The tendency to get a smaller vehicle because it's cheaper, then to overload it causes wear and tear on everything. "It wears on the chassis, brakes, transmission, and lots of money is spent on repairing," he said.
A truck filled with enough product for a profitable route will weigh more than 10,000 pounds. "What most of our vehicles are and what we recommend is the 14,500-pound GVW rating," said Pearson, although "an office coffee operator can get away with a smaller vehicle."
Cost and configuration control
Cost and the ability to control the configuration of the space are the two major concerns operators shared about getting a "professionally" customized vehicle interior. But beyond these issues, each operator does something different when it comes to installing an interior.
"We make our own configurations," said Joshua Koritz, owner, Dynamic Vending, St. Louis, Mo. Even when Koritz ordered a brand new truck for one of his 55 routes, he planned to customize the inside in-house.