Put Some Thought Into Vehicle Selection
August 6, 2007
Until such time as the Star Trek transporter becomes a reality, we are faced with the challenge of getting the service to the customer. Chemicals, equipment, tools, materials and personnel all have to be transported to the service location. As a business owner, manager, supervisor or person in charge of purchasing company vehicles, consideration of current and future requirements of the vehicle should be part of the evaluation process. There may be some truth to the urban myth of folks that literally work out of the trunk of their car, but they are limited to the size of job they can pursue using that methodology. Most professionals utilize a utility van (mini, maxi or custom) or at the very least a pick-up truck to haul their equipment around with. The preference is usually a van because it is enclosed, protecting the contents from foul weather and the tailgate is lower than a pick-up truck, which is safer when lifting equipment to load or unload. Additionally, cargo vans can be modified or customized for intended use. The majority of cargo to be transported is supplies: chemicals, equipment, tools and materials. Personnel are usually less of a problem because work crews are generally made up of one to three technicians. On larger jobs that require more technicians, it is not uncommon to use more than one vehicle. The type and size of the equipment to be transported has the greatest impact on vehicle selection. Think in terms of cargo space: How much will you be transporting? What about weight, how heavy is it? A standard commercial equipment package fits nicely in a standard minivan; however, it would be a poor selection if you wanted to transport an automatic scrubbing machine. There are very strict laws that govern how much weight a vehicle can carry; it is important to ensure that your vehicle is in compliance with all laws in your area. Driving an overloaded vehicle is unsafe and could result in catastrophe. How the supplies get into the vehicle should also be considered. Most chemicals, tools and materials weigh less than 50 pounds and can be loaded and unloaded by hand. Equipment, on the other hand, is generally much heavier and may require the use of a ramp, lift gate or rail gate. Ramps can be a single unit or folded units (one to two folds) and can give the technician a means of loading equipment or carts that have wheels such as rotary floor machines, wet vacuums and burnishers. They are weight-rated; as long as the equipment is not too heavy it can be pushed into the van without much strain on the technician. The angle of the ramp will vary depending on its length, which can cause some issues when items are long. When heavier items, such as propane-powered equipment, are required, lift gates may be incorporated. Lift gates generally have small platforms that fold under or behind the vehicle and can be installed on some vans. They utilize a hydraulic arm under the vehicle to raise and lower the platform. Because of the location, the angle of the platform can fluctuate, especially under heavy weight. These can be very effective for moderate load capacities. Rail gates can only be installed behind box trucks or vans because they raise and lower utilizing rails that are mounted perpendicularly on the box. The platforms are usually larger to accommodate larger loads and attached to the rails by chain. The chains ensure the cargo is raised and lowered on a level plane parallel with the vehicle. When transporting battery-operated equipment, such as automatic scrubbing machines and burnishers, this is the safest way to do it. It is important to ensure that the equipment is secure on the platform before raising or lowering it; when transporting heavy equipment you should always be thinking about safety. The loading of equipment in the van is one thing; keeping it secure during transportation is another. Chemicals are liquid and equipment is bulky and heavy, but as long as nothing is moving, no problem. Once in motion, however, these things can move and shift about. This could result in chemical spills, dings and dents in the vehicle or injury should an accident occur. Compartmentalization for storage and secure anchor points to tie down equipment is the only way to keep it in its place. There are many van packages that can be purchased that enable the technician to secure chemistry, tools and materials in a safe place. Even if the technician utilizes and empty van, items can be stored in boxes or crates that can reduce the potential of shifting. The main thing is to compartmentalize the smaller objects that would otherwise just be floating around the back of the van. Check the van to ensure that it has adequate tie down points to secure heavier items. When loading equipment, put the heaviest items as far forward as you can and tie them down securely. Smaller and lighter items should be loaded in the rear. Should you have to hit the brakes, you don’t want the heavy stuff traveling too far. The vehicle is an integral part of the hard floor maintenance business. Selecting the appropriate vehicle for the operation is simplified by evaluating the true requirements it will be used for. The proper selection will ensure a safe and effective means of getting everything you need to the job site. If you liked this article circle 141 on the Reader Inquiry Card.