Vehicle Upfitting 101
Vehicle Upfitting 101
Manufacturers typically sell most vehicles in a standard base model. These cars, trucks, and vans offer the bare essentials necessary to meet the fundamental driving needs of the target customer, but not much else.
For the vast majority of consumers who primarily use their vehicles to commute to work and drive around town, a base model should suffice. However, some businesses—particularly those involved in service industries—may need additional customizations that enhance worker safety or make it easier to transport their tools, equipment, and machinery between job sites.
In other words, they need their vehicles upfitted.
But what is vehicle upfitting exactly?
What Is Vehicle Upfitting?
The purpose of vehicle upfitting is to customize a fleet vehicle so that it can meet your specific business needs or enhance its existing functionalities.
It’s about upgrading your fleet of work cars, vans, or trucks so that they enhance your team’s ability to perform its job. This process could be as simple as adding some racks and a toolbox to a truck bed, or as complex as completely modifying the cab’s interior to be more ergonomic for professional drivers who spend tens of thousands of hours on the road.
Upfitted vehicles are designed with efficiency, safety, and ease in mind. By investing in these vehicle fleet maintenance enhancements, you can drive worker productivity and safety on the road and at the job site.
That said, upfitting is heavily contingent on the vehicle and its body style.
What Types of Businesses Require Vehicle Upfitting?
While practically any business could upfit its work fleet, certain industries are more likely to perform upfitting services and solutions than others. Some of the more common examples include:
- Construction workers – When it comes to construction fleet management, construction workers will regularly transport tools, equipment, and materials to and from job sites. They need a place to safely secure and store these items rather than simply tossing them in the truck bed. Popular upfitting modifications may include:
- Larger truck wheels for rougher terrain and better traction
- Ladder and roof racks to transport bulky or large equipment
- Toolboxes to store and organize expensive equipment
- Specialized lighting and electrical systems to operate power tools and equipment
- Racks and tie-downs to store secure loose items
- Contractors – Similarly, many tradesmen—such as plumbers, electricians, gardeners, and HVAC pros—effectively run their business out of their work truck or van. They may need customized storage solutions to fit all of their equipment or have lighting and electrical systems installed to provide on-site power.
- Emergency services – Fire, police law enforcement, and ambulance services all require specialized upfitting to prepare the vehicles for emergency situations, improve safety for the vehicle occupants, and enhance patient care. This may include:
- Safety features
- Emergency lights and sirens
- Specialized medical equipment
- Storage and organization features
- Communication equipment
- Equipment racks
- Delivery and transportation companies – Freight, cargo, and delivery companies may need to maximize shelving and cargo management. Examples of upfitting may include refrigeration or heating units, custom lighting, and signage.
- Mobile service businesses – Many mobile service businesses will provide their services from the vehicle. For instance, a mobile doggy spa or knife welder will require custom storage and electrical systems to organize and run their shop.
Benefits of Upfitting
Many businesses are willing to invest significant amounts of money into upfitting their vehicles. But why do they view it as a worthwhile investment?
Some of the more common advantages include:
Each job has its own specific needs. Thus it'll require the right vehicle to meet the specific needs of the job.
The upfitting process involves tailoring the vehicle with custom industry solutions to suit the task. So, whatever the job may be, you can add features and enhancements that optimize service delivery, empowering your team to work more efficiently and effectively.
But how do fleet managers know which customizations they should add on?
For that, ask your drivers and workers for their specific upfitting requests. They may think of upfits that you might not ever consider. Taking the time to see what they want and need demonstrates that you care and want to support them in their role.
#2 Increased Safety
By improving storage, visibility, and adding other features, upfitting can enhance the safety of vehicles for everyone on the road, not just the driver.
- Avoiding accidents – Add-ons like lane departure lights, backup cameras, and collision avoidance systems can prevent accidents commonly caused by human error.
- Increasing visibility – Generally speaking, the more visible vehicles are to other motorists, the less likely an accident will occur. Emergency vehicles especially need upfits like sirens and emergency lighting to be easily recognizable.
- Preventing falling debris – If tools, machinery, or work equipment are improperly secured, they can pose a safety risk to both the vehicle occupants as well as other motorists. But customized solutions can minimize the risk of injury or damage caused by falling debris.
All it takes is a single accident to put your business and its assets at risk of a liability suit, which could have downstream consequences on your brand's reputation. By proactively installing these safety measures, you can promote a culture of safety and reduce the likelihood of an accident occurring, thereby minimizing the risk of your business facing future liability claims or lawsuits.
#3 Enhanced Efficiency
Upfitting can empower your teams to work smarter, not harder, particularly when it’s conducted as a standard practice across the entire fleet. Even minor changes can make a major impact on productivity.
- Organization – Professionals need their tools to be organized, maintained, and accessible at all times. Adding dedicated storage, shelving, and drawers make it easy to store and then find the items they need while removing the organizational and logistical headaches commonly associated with constantly taking out or putting away the equipment.
- Space optimization – Upfitting can help maximize the vehicle’s available space, increasing the amount of tools, equipment, or products that can be kept in the vehicle at any given time.
- Technology integrations – Modern GPS and mobile communication systems can optimize route planning and improve communication between drivers and dispatchers. This, in turn, can help you navigate how to reduce fuel costs and speed up service delivery.
By adding features like this, you can save your fleet time and money.
#4 Improved Comfort
The average professional driver will spend more than 125,000 miles on the road, driving approximately 60 to 70 hours each week, 300 days out of the year 1. These countless hours behind the wheel can take a toll on the driver’s mental and physical health, especially if the cab isn’t outfitted for extended long-term use.
Ergonomic upfitting focuses on making the driver feel as comfortable as possible by designing the cab’s interior to promote proper posture and reduce the physical strain associated with driving itself or other repetitive motions. This may include add-ons like adjustable seating, auxiliary controls, custom storage, and sound insulation.
Making such alterations can help reduce workers’ comp claims and absenteeism associated with work-related injuries. But, beyond that, it can have a significant positive impact on employee well-being and morale, helping to:
- Increase driver productivity
- Reduce driver turnover
- Boost satisfaction
- Attract high-quality drivers
#5 Enhanced Resale Value
If you frequently upgrade your fleet, upfitting can dramatically increase the resale value of your work vehicles, especially within industry-specific circles. Many would-be buyers would prefer to simply buy the vehicle already outfitted to suit their needs, rather than performing this task after the sale is finalized.
Considerations Before Upfitting
Upfitting may seem like a complicated process. And, if you go in blind, it likely will be. However, with proper planning and research, you can ensure that the upfitting job provides tangible ROI to your fleet and its drivers.
To that end, keep the following tips in mind:
- Consider vehicle type and body style – As mentioned, your vehicle's body style will have a significant impact on the available upfits. Most upfitting is suited for larger vehicles such as big rigs, vans, busses, or pickups.
- Know and set your budget – If you’re not careful, upfitting pricing can balloon quickly, especially when multiplied over the entirety of your fleet. As you plan your budget, prioritize the vehicle upfit solutions that are necessary over those that might just be nice to have.
- Find the best time for vehicle upfitting – Naturally, you don’t want all of your work vehicles to be in the shop simultaneously. Consider triaging vehicles or planning to perform these upgrades during expected down periods.
- Spec the best aftermarket equipment – Select high-quality aftermarket equipment purposefully designed for the needs of your fleet and business. Doing so will ensure that the vehicles are properly equipped at a reasonable price.
Upfitting Your Fleet
Vehicle upfitting is an essential process for businesses that depend on their work vans and trucks to perform daily activities. By customizing the vehicles in the fleet, a company can improve efficiency, productivity, and safety on the job.
Want to save money that can be better spent on upfitting your fleet?
AtoB’s fleet fuel cards can help you save at the pump and reduce your fuel spend. With AtoB, you can set spending limits, enjoy fuel discounts, track drivers’ transactions, and receive the intelligent insights you need to save more money.
1 CDS. Life as an Over-the-Road Trucker. https://cdscdltraining.com/blog/life-as-an-otr-truck-driver/#:~:text=The%20average%20OTR%20driver%20will,in%20solitude%20behind%20the%20wheel.