If you have been relying on larger vans and light-duty service vehicles to move product to the jobsite, you may need to consider investing in larger-duty vehicles to accommodate larger, higher efficiency unitary equipment. With gas prices on the rise, this might not seem like an ideal time to start truck shopping - but on the flip side of that coin, you may find vehicle dealerships and selling owners who are more than willing to bargain with you.

In short, today's gasoline prices might make this a good market for finding a larger service/delivery vehicle to carry higher efficiency systems and equipment. Gas prices may settle back down later on, but the best time to buy a bigger truck could well be now, when sales in general are sluggish, we are approaching the end of the 2005 model year, and people in general are looking to sell their larger vehicles.

Of course, you will first want to examine the square footage of your existing fleet and look at ways to best utilize your current vehicles, through space allocation and efficiency systems. (See the August 2005 Tech Tip.) You will need approximately 40 percent more space than you are currently using now.

Thinking Inside The Box

For increased size and space efficiency, you may not need to look any further than a standard box truck.

According to Dale Wickell from About Trucks/SUVs (http://trucks.about.com), "Box trucks have separate, box-like cargo areas that sit on the frame. The box on some trucks is totally separate from the cab. The cargo area in those trucks cannot be accessed from the cab." Some box trucks, however, have a cargo area that is grafted to the cab. Most have a roll-up rear door.

The most commonly seen box trucks are rental company moving vans. In fact, companies such as U-Haul (www.uhaul.com) and Ryder (www.ryder.com) offer used and lease trucks. Repair and maintenance history records generally are available. There are countless other sources of used vehicles, including eBay. For all purchases, let the buyer beware.

Cargo vans, on the other hands, are one-piece vehicles, Wickell said. "Some cargo vans are similar in design and size to family passenger vans. Vans of that type may or may not have cargo guards to separate the rear cargo area from the cab."

Some larger cargo vans are similar to those used by FedEx and UPS, he continued. "Larger cargo vans often have roll-up rear doors, but unlike box trucks, they are still vehicles of one-piece construction."

All can be outfitted with accessories such as bed slides, lock boxes, and perhaps most importantly, loading ramps. Make sure the ramps you invest in are commercial grade, strong enough and wide enough to load a higher-efficiency condensing unit. Roller ramps might be an advantage.

The type of vehicle you decide to add depends on the capacity of your existing fleet and the amount of space you need to add to it. Box trucks and cargo vans are available in a variety of sizes, from a variety of sources.

The most important thing is to determine what it is you want to add and the accessories that will make it a smarter purchase. And remember, timing is everything. Today's truck market might make this a good time to buy.

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