As a fleet manager, you need to plan how to use the money in your upfitting budget wisely to get the vehicles you need with the accessories that are the most efficient for you.
Choosing Your Vehicles Upfits
The first decision to make when developing your upfit budget and plan of action is to choose a fleet vehicle. Decide what works best for your fleet based on what equipment you need to have applied. Will you need a sedan, a van or an SUV? For fleet vehicles that carry a large amount of tools or supplies, such as those for telephone and electrical technicians, a van usually works best. Other vehicles may need to carry two people at a time over long distances or time periods. These types of fleet vehicles are usually sedans, which offer the most comfort on the long drives. If your fleet travels down power-line right-of-ways and over bumpy or uneven ground to make repairs, surveys, or inspections, your best option may be an SUV.
Do you have a specific brand in mind? Don’t always assume that the same make and model that has been used in the past is the best choice. Check the fleet sales divisions of each brand of vehicle to see what buying incentives they offer. Compare similar models from each brand and make a choice on the price point that fits into your budget the best. Chevrolet and Ford may offer very similar sedans, for example, which will likely cost about the same to upfit. Saving some money by purchasing the cheaper vehicle can allow you to put that money towards other upfitting services for your fleet.
Collect all the data you possibly can from your current fleet vehicles. Either do a ride along or talk to the end users (your drivers), or both! Ask them if the vehicles they have now, as they are outfitted, work well for them and what changes they would make to make their vehicles more functional, comfortable, efficient, or helpful to doing their jobs. Check all of the vehicle repair logs to see if your current choice has an inferior or frequently troublesome part or feature on it that you want to avoid in future purchases. Any downtime of a fleet vehicle can be very costly, because in addition to the cost of repairs you lose time while it isn’t available to perform the job that you need it to do. Downtime of vehicles can also reduce your employees’ available working hours and isn’t good for department morale.
If you have a current GPS tracking system in your fleet, you can consult it to find answers to many questions about vehicle performance and efficiency, including fuel consumption, labor hours that a vehicle has been driven, mileage reports, overtime, and insurance costs. This can help you choose vehicles and options that are equally or more efficient for your fleet upfit.
Choose Your Lighting
Lighting can be one of the most costly products in your upfitting. Your lighting system may include 4 corner LED lights for safety purposes, rear deck LEDs, and grill LED lighting. Many fleet vehicles, such as police cars and emergency vehicles of all types, use a top light bar on the top of the cab to be seen and heard.
If you are going to have different lighting sequences, you need to choose a controller that will enable you to change between the different modes easily without degrading the safety of the vehicle and driver. Make sure you carefully examine all of your lighting options, since small changes and differences can add up to big additional costs. In this category specifically, it is important for you to weigh options you need againsts options and capabilities you want.
Choose Your Interior and Exterior Upfitting Accessories
If you need a car cage or partition, decide which is the best for your application. For example, if you need a prisoner transport cage or partition, you should choose one that is the most heavy duty so it will last for many years without becoming susceptible to compromise under repeated stress. Purchasing a lower-grade cage could result in a threat to your driver’s safety if it failed during a transport. On the other hand, if you need a K-9 partition for a K-9 officer in a vehicle, you might choose one at a lower price point. In this case, the partition is only to keep your partner safe in the back of the vehicle during high-speed runs—he will not be testing the limits of the partition or cage as a prisoner could so it is much less likely to fail.
You can choose your push bumpers from a wide selection, either a wraparound design or a front sedan push bumper. The Setina push bumper is a great choice, as it is heavily constructed and includes integrated LED warning lights. It is also lightweight, constructed from aircraft grade aluminum; this allows superior performance without additional weight, which would increase fuel consumption and reduce vehicle efficiency.
Choose Your Technology
The technology in your fleet vehicles absolutely has to be the best, especially if you have first responders. The computers need to be the best of the best; Panasonic’s fully rugged computer models can hold up to harsh field conditions and to operate perfectly in any type of environment. Communication systems are the key to linking all of your fleet vehicles together seamlessly. Sierra Airlink is a true winner in this category, operating flawlessly with the best networking capabilities you can find for any type of fleet vehicle. Its advanced vehicle multi-networking is done in real time with no delays. Although top-of-the-line communications equipment can seem expensive in the short term, its reliability, dependability, and longevity make it a more economical choice in the long run.
Finally, you’ll also need to choose a vehicle mounting kit for your rugged computer. You can choose an entire mobile office solution, like a Gambler-Johnson fully integrated kit, or a solid or swing mount with a docking station. Choosing the right mounting kit can help keep your technology investment safe and working properly, cutting down on maintenance, repairs, and replacement costs.
The best advice you can ever have on getting the most out of your vehicle upfitting budget is to consult an experience professional like Keltek professional vehicle upfitters just outside of Des Moines, Iowa. Our knowledgeable and experienced technicians know exactly what people expect and need in an upfit and are happy to help you with your entire project from start to finish. Our experience helps you streamline your purchasing, accomplish all of your goals for your fleet vehicles, and maintain the safety of your employees. Contact us today to learn more about how we can help you with your Iowa vehicle upfit.