SpecialtyTrux has operators fax a sketch of what they want. "We might talk back and forth three, four or five times before the work begins," Cox said. He then chooses shelves he's had fabricated in a sheet metal shop. "You can't buy the kind of shelving you need from those places (home improvement stores), he said. "It's trial and error. We've learned how to do it."
"They can get by with it," said Pearson about DIY (do-it-yourself) shelves, "but we feel like the aluminum shelving is infinitely more adjustable because it's on slides. If the packages of snacks or drinks change, you can reset them. They are flexible."
Pearson recognizes that often it is price that lures people to build their own shelves, but this can prove costlier in the long run. According to Pearson, if the operator took into account the time to go to the lumberyard and build the shelves, along with the cost of materials, the operator would realize he or she isn't saving any money. "Also, aluminum shelves are better for the GVW.
Wood shelves weigh more, using up GVW with wood," he concluded.
Operator cites Incremental savings
Fezell claims the incremental costs of each part, the workers' compensation, the efficiency, the gas mileage, the vehicle maintenance costs, etc., all add up. "If you don't analyze the big picture, then you're not going to save," Fezell said. In fact, even with the higher initial investment, Fezell is convinced he's seen savings within the first year.
Cabs aren't customized
Operators and suppliers agree that very little is done to the vehicle cab. "I give them a radio, and now air conditioning because they (the drivers) came in looking like melted candy bars," said Koritz at Dynamic Vending in St. Louis, Mo.
Fezell said, "The drivers don't spend much of their time in the cab, hopefully. I have air conditioning and heating." He wants to make the driver's job as easy as possible, but feels there's little value in cab accessories.
Roll-up side doors, cost versus Convenience
Cox at SpecialtyTrux said he's gotten more requests for roll-up side doors in the last three to five years, but when the operators hear the price, some balk. "It costs around $2,000 to have two doors put in," he said. "And a lot of it has to depend on how the warehouse is set up. If the warehouse has a low dock, it's a disadvantage because the driver has to get off the dock to load from the outside."
Pearson at Hackney argues that the new trucks with the side doors are more efficient, ergonomic and safer. "Putting shelving systems in existing trucks is better than nothing, but you're going to get the full benefits when you have the roll-up side doors," Pearson said. The racks and shelves that Hackney sells are the same design as ones installed on new vehicles.
He has noticed a trend in demand for the custom trucks with roll-up doors. "Our strongest showing is in the medium-sized vending companies. They see the efficiencies. You can save (and this isn't our number, operators have told us this) one to one and a half days at least running this type of truck on a route. Seven trucks can do the work of eight."
Pearson added that there is also a big demand from small companies with few routes because often the owner is running a route and sees the benefit firsthand.
Refrigeration: up and coming
Although coolers are expensive, they are becoming more important in finding and keeping business.
Munn of CL Swanson said, "I believe it's important for milk and other perishable items during summer conditions."
McDaniel also feels refrigeration is important. "We installed candy and cold coolers on every truck," he said. "We use the Omnicube for that." McDaniel also has one truck that powers up at night. It has an isolated cooler inside with a permanent cold plate.
A major problem with typical refrigeration is when the driver opens the cooler, the temperature inside rises. Identifying this problem, Equipment Innovators came up with a combination unit. "We've reduced the amount of heat gain by doing two things," said Lindsey. There's a chocolate compartment, which is usually opened at every stop, and a separate food compartment that might only be opened four or five times on an average route. A freezer compartment is also available if needed.