Choosing the right truck for your business

Choosing the right truck for your application is fundamental to the success of your business

The very beginning of a successful and sustainable trucking business is about making decisions relating to the type of transport industry you will enter and trucks that you will use and how they will be used.

Choosing the right truck for the right job is more about common sense than the ability to make difficult calculations.

Choosing the right truck: Types of transport tasks

Transport sectors worth looking into for newcomers to trucking include:

  • Manufacturers who need their raw materials delivered to factories
  • The agricultural sector, where farmers need to move animal feed, fertilisers, livestock or fresh produce
  • Wholesalers who need stock delivered to outlets on a regular basis
  • Smaller services could be refuse removal, furniture moving and the like

Truck types

There is a multitude of truck types/configurations operating on our roads. GVM refers to the maximum operating weight a truck can possibly carry while driving, including the truck itself.

CATEGORY GVM APPLICATION
MCV – Medium Commercial Vehicles 3.5 < GVM ≤ 8.5 tonnes Home delivery, logistics, waste and garden rubbish removal, courier services
HCV – Heavy Commercial Vehicles 8.5 < GVM ≤ 16.5 tonnes Cargo hauling, mining, sanitation, construction
EHCV – Extra-Heavy Commercial Vehicles 16.5 tonnes < GVM Construction, long-haul carriers, gas and fuel tankers, forestry

The South African truck market for all commercial vehicles with Gross Vehicle Mass (GVM) ratings above 3 500kg is divided into the three different segments (see table above).

Choosing the right truck: Select the vehicle most suited to your application

Determine the payload and select a vehicle with sufficient capacity for maximum productivity. Consider the expected growth of your business and, if necessary, purchase a larger vehicle for future requirements.

If you buy a rigid unit, consider sufficient traction to pull a trailer for possible future needs. Make sure the truck will have sufficient power to maintain an acceptable average speed for the routes it will travel, but keep in mind that a more powerful unit will use a lot of fuel, so investigate your operating conditions.

Vehicles doing long-distance, high-speed routes normally require more power (kW) and torque (Nm) to handle air resistance in comparison to hauls involved in local, slow, distribution work.

The best way to determine the required power and torque rating is to ask your truck dealer for a tailor-made performance calculation.

Ensure your vehicle is supported by a manufacturer or dealer offering the full back-up service that will be required to keep your vehicle on the road for its expected lifespan.

Remember, the vehicle can only generate income when the wheels are moving.

Are there special loading and unloading requirements; and does it require investment in retrofit equipment, for example, a special floor, a tail-lift, truck-mounted crane, PTO or pump?

Choosing the right truck: Ask your truck dealer

Buying a new truck can be a daunting experience. Your dealer will be able to give you the best advice when choosing a truck suited for your specific needs, and also help you to make informed decisions relating to truck types and configurations.

The dealer will also give you recommendations on after-sales requirements such as parts, accessories and service needs for your choice.

For example, two different models may both be 8-tonne trucks but are used for different road conditions and therefore have different applications.  You will get the best advice from your truck dealer to suit your exact requirements.

Ask questions to gain a full understanding of the transport requirements for the tasks you are going to undertake.

Once you’ve defined your objective to gain a clear idea of the specs you need, you can organise your thoughts into a specification requirement sheet.

Choosing the right truck: Key items for consideration

  • What are your GVM requirements?
  • Seat configurations – how many crew will the truck carry? If two, include a two-passenger seat for your spec. (Keep in mind that the seat configuration can increase or diminish the interior storage capacity.)
  • Is a high-horsepower, high-torque diesel engine a must, or will a lower capacity engine be sufficient? The higher the horsepower and torque ratings, the higher the operating costs of the vehicle.
  • Compare purchase price and specification in terms of cost per legal payload tonne and capital cost as a percentage of the total operating costs over the expected useful life of the truck you wish to purchase.

Before making your final decision, review all aspects of the transport job to be done and then seek out the configuration that offers the best solutions for the specifications you have identified.

Choosing the right types of trucks for specific transport tasks is critical if the truck owner is to succeed in building a sustainable trucking business. Avoid expensive before making the final decision.

  • Don’t take promises for granted – do your own investigations and talk to other truck owners.
  • Write down your motivations and justifications for what you need to get the job done – be objective, get the facts and think long-term.
  • Ask suppliers for information, advice and help in getting to grips with all the technical information you need.
  • Gain an understanding of the lifecycle costs of the vehicle.
  • Subjective or emotional decisions to satisfy short-term considerations should not outweigh common sense.
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