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Work truck 2024 trends: Data and upfitting at forefront

May 14, 2024
This year's trucks from Ford Pro, International, Ram Professional, and more are designed to streamline maintenance data collection and customization.

This is Part Two of a two-part story.  Click here to read Part One.

The latest work trucks feature a plethora of body upgrades and technology features, all while focusing on the adaptability to suit any jobsite. In Part One of this story, we covered the various upgrades OEMs are featuring on their new vehicles, from greater range for EV vans and trucks to anti-theft measures. But the latest trucks also offer more monitoring and maintenance options and upfitter-friendly designs, all of which are geared toward greater uptime so work trucks can get their jobs done faster.

Maintenance matters

“We’ve implemented changes designed to increase uptime, both in terms of how the vehicle operates and the data and insights that can be gathered,” said Ford Pro’s Kevin Lieberum, commercial truck brand manager. “For example, the Ford Pro Telematics dashboard features fleet manager and driver views to help manage service intervals.”

With enhanced digital services, customers can monitor their vehicle maintenance requirements, noted Iain Forsyth, director of product management and marketing at Mercedes-Benz Vans USA. “The Mercedes me connect Portal serves as an entry point for activating available digital services and for commercial fleets to contact their dealers,” he said.

“Diagnosing issues is much easier with on-board diagnostics and fault codes,” said Bruce Vasbinder, director, medium duty marketing at International. “For example, an operator may choose to have one button activation for required daily vehicle checks, or fleets may elect to prohibit enabling drive unless certain conditions are met.”

Ram Professional has also rolled out the Dedicated Ram BusinessLink dealer network, which provides fleet customers with all their maintenance needs along with additional benefits to improve uptime. For example, BusinessLink customers can jump to the front of the line for diagnostics, get upfitting advice, and receive loaner vehicles to ensure work doesn’t stop when the truck is in the shop. The dealer network will provide maintenance for all makes and models, not just Stellantis vehicles, too.

Putting it all together

Manufacturers are also working to make their Classes 3-6 vehicles more upfitter friendly. Among their offerings are detailed documentation and dedicated teams of experts who work with customers, upfitters, and body and equipment suppliers to ensure proper fit and function.

“Our chassis are designed to be easily integrated by having standard electrical connections, which eliminate the need for cab and wire cutting during the upfit process by leveraging a plug-and-play electrical architecture,” said Johannes Kuhn, vocational and medium-duty product marketing manager, Freightliner. “The M2 106 Plus also has clear back-of-cab packaging to allow the seamless integration of any body. By rerouting aftertreatment systems, batteries, and other components, we can avoid interference or complications for upfitters during the installation process.”

“We work with body integrators to enhance integrations and safety via our Diamond Logic Electrical System,” Vasbinder at International said. “Customizing includes specifying one of several dozen factory features or creating custom logic to meet each customer’s needs. Our application engineering department also maintains chassis layouts, body builder manuals, and other documentation.”

Read more: Test drive: Chevy Colorado crewcab 4x4 is 'a kick to drive'

Vasbinder also pointed out that International has expanded body builder integration capabilities on its eMV electric model with integrated features like ePTO and ePower, which enable a body builder to utilize the batteries to power refrigeration, mobile shredders, bucket trucks, and other applications. 

“Battery electric vehicles in general provide unique challenges for body integrators,” Vasbinder added. “They must learn how to integrate a body safely and effectively on a BEV chassis. That includes lock out/tag out procedures, mounting around new electrical components, and new ways to power bodies which have been traditionally powered by a conventional PTO.”

At Mercedes-Benz Vans USA, the eXpertUpfitter program grants highly qualified upfitters access to 3D engineering data, technical updates, and detailed technical seminars, Forsyth related. Additionally, eXpertUpfitters gain access to VIP technical support services.

Specific benefits for eXpertUpfitters from the manufacturer include:

  • A Delayed Start Warranty for a maximum of 24 months from the vehicle production date to allow for the upfit build time.
  • Opting into a Ship-To program that allows vehicles to be delivered directly to their facility.
  • Priority Technical Support for access to technical information, including 3D CAD data and vehicle specifications.

“We’ve prioritized the ways our customers need to customize their vehicles,” said Lieberum at Ford Pro. “We have a dedicated team, and our Body Builder Advisory Service, which actively works with customers on installing equipment or modifying our trucks for the work they need to do.

“That team’s work to get solutions into vehicles also lets us see how we can benefit future model years,” Lieberum added. “In addition, we maintain partnerships with many major upfitters, and we solicit their feedback to make sure we build vehicles with our commercial customers’ needs in mind.”

Improving performance

Innovation is the most important factor for improved performance in new vehicle design, noted Forsyth at Mercedes-Benz. “With innovations, we can offer customers the highest functionality, perfected ergonomics, and intelligent concepts that make everyday work as easy and as intuitive as possible,” he said.

“For the future, the focus will continue to be on innovation for a seamless user experience and simple and efficient processes,” Forsyth added. “In this way, customers will have new opportunities to improve the performance of their businesses.”

About the Author

Seth Skydel

Seth Skydel, a veteran industry editor, has more than 36 years of experience in fleet management, trucking, and transportation and logistics publications. Today, in editorial and marketing roles, he writes about fleet, service, and transportation management, vehicle and information technology, and industry trends and issues.

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