Once you have chosen the type of truck you need, the next step is to look at more detailed specification of its core parts. This can be thought of as ‘building’ the type of truck that is best for your operation.
Your truck dealer will guide you though this process, but it is important to have an understanding of your options before you start looking at different makes and models.
This section will help you understand the following key vehicle elements:
What type of chassis do I need?
The chassis is the structural skeleton for the truck. It is the platform on which the vehicle is designed and contains the axles, engine, cab, fuel tank and batteries.
The chassis has major bearing on the final size and shape of your truck and is crucial to fuel economy.
A chassis larger than your needs will waste fuel. A chassis which is too small can result in your truck being overloaded and may mean you need to make extra trips which can waste time and fuel.
For more information, see the Chassis page.
How much power do I need?
Getting the engine that matches your overall needs will maximise fuel efficiency.
Engines can be specified in terms of power output and torque. In simple terms, horsepower gives a truck an ability to move along, cruise and accelerate. Torque helps vehicles carry a load, move from a standing start and travel up hills.
If the best possible torque is achieved at a low engine speed, then overall fuel use will be better compared to an engine running at maximum speed. Trucks should be specified so that maximum torque is achieved at the speed at which it most commonly operates.
For more information, see the Engine page.
Should I consider an automatic transmission?
There are two major options for transmission in a truck: automatic or manual. While manual transmission is the most common type of transmission for trucks of all sizes, automatic gearboxes have become more popular in recent times and are well suited for trucks used in operations with plenty of stops and starts.
New automatic gearboxes for trucks can be more fuel efficient compared to manual transmission as they make it easier to drive smoothly, and are designed to shift gears at the points of peak engine efficiency.
For more information, see the Transmission page.
What type of body do I need?
The body of a truck is a key factor in ensuring that it is right for its intended use and performs its required tasks with maximum fuel efficiency.
When selecting the body for your vehicle, make sure the body is no higher than it needs to be. Material choice is also important. Remember, the body of your truck is a weight that you will always be carrying, so the lighter this is the less fuel you will use carrying it.
For more information, see the Body page.
What sort of cab should I choose?
Generally speaking there are only two cab options for small trucks—standard ‘day cab’ and ‘crew cab’. Crew cabs are useful when your truck's activity requires a group of people to support it, but they may reduce load space.
Getting a cab which is larger than you need will increase the amount of fuel your truck uses, and may create a need to make extra trips because of lost payload. Driver comfort and safety is also important, particularly if your operation requires long hours in the cab.
What tyres do I need?
Tyres help your truck perform safely at its top design speed. They should offer as little resistance as possible when rolling. Low rolling resistance tyres can be helpful if you spend a lot of time driving on high speed roads. If you choose conventional tyres, remember that the tyre pattern has an effect on its drag and fuel efficiency. The more aggressive the tyre pattern, the greater the drag and the more fuel consumed.
Remember that tyre maintenance is more important than tyre choice for small trucks. A well-maintained tyre that operates at the correct pressure will last longer and be more fuel efficient that one which is not.
For more information, see the Tyres page.
Is an alternative fuel a good option for me?
Diesel fuel is the norm in most small trucks, but there are other options available which are now receiving more and more attention because of rising fuel prices and environmental concerns. Hybrid electric engines for example can be effective for trucks driving in stop start conditions (i.e. large number of small deliveries).
Alternative fuels with low emissions may have appeal for environmental reasons, but you should look at them in the same way that you would for other features, thinking about extra costs, the potential need to convert engines and what is available as an Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM) product, and the availability and location of refuelling sites.
Oil price increases may make these and other fuels more appealing for truck applications, however based upon the current market more significant investigations should be undertaken by potential buyers before proceeding.
For more information, see the Fuel page.