Trucks. Whether two or three for a small firm, or a fleet for a large company, electrical contractors can’t conduct business without them.

Commercial vans still are the most widely used service trucks, although some firms prefer pickups. Contractors also can choose the low cab forward (LCF) chassis with box van, which provides standup room and more cargo space than regular commercial vans.


Many engine options are available, as are multiple accessories and different upfit packages that enable buyers to select toolboxes, cabinets and racks that best suit their businesses.


American manufacturers Ford, General Motors and Chrysler continue to offer wide selections of pickups and vans; however, Nissan and Toyota are actively competing for those sales. Other overseas suppliers include Mercedes-Benz, which markets Sprinter vans, and Isuzu, which is a supplier of LCF trucks.


According to Ford’s Marc Rogowski, marketing manager, E-Series/transit (www.fleet.ford.com): “Ford’s E-Series vans are the most popular van choice of electricians and are the right choice because of the large number of aftermarket companies that offer specialty racks, bins and other hardware for vans.


“E-Series cargo vans offer up to 319.1 cubic feet of cargo volume, up to 10,000 pounds of towing capacity, and have three engine choices up to 305 horsepower [hp] that can be converted to compressed natural gas [CNG] or liquid propane gas [LPG].


“Ford also offers the Transit Connect, a van that carries like a truck and drives like a car, offering excellent fuel economy, up to 129.6 cubic feet of cargo space, and modular cargo management options to customize space for specific tasks.


“Introduced in 2013 is the all-new Transit Van, available in two wheelbases, three body lengths and three roof heights—the tallest allowing a 6-foot, 4-inch person to stand upright in the cargo box. A choice of three power trains is available, including 3.7-liter V6, 3.5-liter EcoBoost, and the all-new 3.2-liter Power Stroke diesel. Transit Van will provide superior performance, customizability and lowest operating costs in its class.


“CNG and LPG prep packages are available for E-Series, Transit Connect and F-Series Super Duty pickup trucks and chassis cabs. Demand for all three is increasing. A hybrid power train isn’t available. In F-Series Super Duty trucks, approximately two-thirds are equipped with Power Stroke diesels, and one-third are either the 6.2-liter V8 [pickup] or 6.8-liter V10 [chassis cab] gas engines.


“For upfitting vans and pickups, Ford works with a number of specialty suppliers, which dealers can access and order from. Depending on the upfit, the work will likely be conducted by the dealer.


“Over the past five years, Ford has brought better fuel economy, increased payload and towing, new technologies such as MyFordTouch and Sync, and lower overall total cost of ownership to the marketplace,” Rogowski said.


According to Joseph G. Langhauser, General Motors’ product manager, vans and mobility and GM fleet and commercial operations, GM’s family of vans provide full-bodied, fully framed cargo bodies and cutaways that are typically used by electrical contractors (www.gmfleet.com).


“The most traditional configuration for Express and Savana vans for electricians tends to be a three-quarter or 1-ton short [135 inches] wheel base, full-bodied van,” Langhauser said. “This configuration is 8,600 to 9,600 pounds [gross vehicle weight] and provides 239.7 cubic feet behind the front seats, and up to 4,186 pounds of payload. Power-heated side view mirrors, backup cameras and backup sensors are common options.


“Over the past five years, we’ve seen a trend of companies optimizing the weight of what they are carrying to reduce the overall payload.


“Vans today are safer, offer more fuel types and provide many conveniences to make the driving task easier. Today, all General Motors single-rear-wheel vehicles have electronic stability control [StabiliTrak] standard, coupled with antilock brakes and the availability of OnStar, [these features] make today’s vehicles significantly safer than their predecessors. Vehicle fuel economy has improved with the addition of a six-speed transmission and other improvements boosting fuel economy. Bluetooth, rear backup cameras and backup sensors make driving easier.


“General Motors trucks and vans are offered in a variety of engine configurations and fuel types. For example, Express and Savana vans are offered with six engine configurations, using five fuel types: diesel, B20, gasoline, E85, and Mono fuel CNG.


“Traditional gasoline power trains remain the largest portion of vehicles sold, with a smaller number of diesel and CNG. As the infrastructure for CNG expands, we are expecting a commensurate increase in the sales of CNG-capable vehicles and expect this growth to continue.


“Upfitting is available through our dealers. Some options like ladder racks and bulkheads are available directly from General Motors. Upfit companies help facilitate customized solutions to meet the specific business objectives of the electrical vocation. Some upfitters install their equipment prior to delivery by the GM dealer by using a ship-through process.


“Upfitters report essential upfit products for electricians include wire storage products like reel holders. Most electricians also have a lot of drawer units installed to store small electrical components like connectors, fuses and fittings. Electricians almost always have a ladder rack on top of their van and a conduit carrier on that ladder rack for safe transportation of conduit. Pull-out drawer units also are popular to easily access cargo from the side and rear doors. Expensive power tools or testing equipment is locked in these drawer units for security. Another essential upfit is a vehicle graphic. Work trucks make a great source of inexpensive advertising for their business,” Langhauser said.


According to Chrysler Group LLC’s Mike Ring, head of small business sales and operations, Chrysler offerings range from the powerful Ram 5500 Chassis Cab to the versatile Ram C/V van and provide first-class capability and technology across the complete line of commercial trucks and vans. Van options fit customer needs. C/V Tradesman vans stand out on several fronts, including payload, cargo space and towing (www.ramtrucks.com).


“Equipped with the award-winning Pentastar V-6 engine mated to a six-speed automatic transmission. The C/V Tradesman provides excellent horsepower and torque and a driving range of up to 500 miles on a single tank of fuel,” Ring said.


“Ram offers both CNG and diesel versions of the 2500 heavy-duty pickup. For diesel, the ‘take’ rate is very high at about 80 percent. The CNG interest was new for 2012 and we’re seeing positive data for its future.


“Upfitting is available through Ram dealerships. Upfit products also are available through Mopar and with specialty products provided by our bailment pool partners. These partnerships allow us to offer various upfits to meet the contractor’s needs and minimizes the time our customers have to wait for a truck upfitted to specifications. 


“Pickup upfits include weatherproof, lockable, drainable, lighted storage bins [that] run the length of the pickup bed and are as wide as the wheel well, creating a total of 8.6 cubic feet of space. Large side bins hold items, including toolboxes, cable, chainsaws or beverage cans and ice. RamBox side bins create storage along each side of the pickup bed space previously left untouched due to wheel-well intrusion.


“We recently launched the Ram Commercial division timed with the introduction of the all-new Ram ProMaster. Ram Commercial is tapping into Fiat Professional, one of the largest producers of commercial vehicles in the world, to help Ram enter new segments and expand the product line. Based on the Fiat Ducato, the Ram ProMaster full-size van will be transformed for the North American market.


“The auto industry grew by 2 million units in 2012, and further growth is expected in 2013. Commercial business will be key, representing about one quarter of the total sales volume. With positive housing data, we’re seeing purchases across all vocations, including electrical contractors,” Ring said.


Isuzu (www.isuzucv.com), Brian Tabel, retail marketing manager, said: “The three most common work trucks among electricians and electrical contractors are pickups, vans and LCF trucks. Each has relative strengths.


“Many electricians are attracted to LCF trucks because of their versatility. The design allows a variety of upfitting options, including utility bodies of steel, aluminum or fiberglass and stake bodies with hardwood or steel construction. Enclosed utility bodies have become very popular for their versatility and security, and they can be easily outfitted with shelving, drawer organizers, conduit carriers and wire spools, allowing the contractor the ability to organize their workspace. Isuzu partners with a number of leading body manufacturers. Specialty bodies and contractor specifications can be coordinated, designed and upfitted through the local Isuzu dealer.


“The LCF design maximizes visibility with the driver sitting at the front of the vehicle, improving maneuverability in traffic and at the job site. Curb-to-curb or wall-to-wall, LCF trucks are more maneuverable and more nimble than comparable conventional trucks. In addition, LCF cabs are spacious and provide ease of entry and exit.


“Isuzu N-Series LCF trucks are available in a range of wheelbases from 109 to 212 inches, and [gross vehicle weight ratings] from 12,000 to 19,500 pounds. In addition, they can accommodate bodies from 10 to 24 feet in length. Isuzu also offers a choice of diesel or gasoline power plants.


“Current Isuzu models NPR-HD, NQR and NRR come with a 5.2-liter turbo diesel engine that delivers 215 hp at 2,500 rpm and 452 foot-pounds of torque at 1,850 rpm when equipped with an automatic transmission. This engine delivers approximately 8 percent better fuel economy than its predecessor. All Isuzu N-Series diesel engines carry a B10 durability rating of 310,000 miles. Isuzu also offers a version of the gas V-8 engine that is CNG/LPG-capable,” Tabel said.