With all the options available these days, it’s easy to make a mistake when specing your truck. You can fix minor errors like selecting the wrong radio or seat, or overlooking a fuel heater or remote-mounted jumpstart studs, without too much effort and expense. But correcting major specing mistakes—engine, axles, height and weight—can be extremely expensive and may cause a body builder to refuse to put a body on your truck.
Communicate, communicate, communicate
So what’s the best way to avoid costly specing mistakes? In one word: communication! Talk to your Cat® dealer upfront about your application, what you’re looking for, what works well (and what doesn’t) on your current truck, and when your truck spec was last updated. Because the industry is constantly changing, what worked well 10 years ago may not be your best choice today. Your dealer can make recommendations on new advancements and the best ways to eliminate previous issues.
If you’re ordering a straight truck, let your dealer know the name of your body builder, your body builder’s requirements, and how much cab to axle tandem (CA), axle to end of frame (AF) and clear frame rail (clean CA) is needed BEFORE you order. Relocating mid-chassis components can be very costly, if not impossible. Your dealer may want to visit with your body builder to verify all the requirements.
For fleet customers, it never hurts to get your drivers’ input. It makes them feel like part of the team and gives them confidence they’ll get a truck they’ll be happy driving. And when your drivers are happy, there’s a good chance they’ll stay with your company.
Double-check these specs
• ENGINE: Know the horsepower demands of your application. You don’t want your truck to be under-powered, but you also don’t want to pay for more power than you need (unless you need a high HP rating for resale value). If you normally haul 80,000 pounds, but occasionally need to haul 120,000 pounds, spec for the worst-case scenario.
• REAR AXLE GEAR RATIO: Make sure you adjust it accordingly if you change tire sizes or transmission from your previous spec.
• DOT REQUIREMENTS & BRIDGE LAWS: Know the regulations in your state and make sure you have the correct wheel base to meet them.
• HEIGHT: If overall height is a concern, ask your body builder about the maximum allowable frame height. On tractors, know your maximum fifth-wheel height. Your Cat dealer can help you calculate both frame and fifth-wheel heights.
• AXLE WEIGHT RATINGS: You may have selected the correct axle and suspension, but a lower rated tire could limit your axle’s overall capacity. Axle weight ratings are determined by the weakest of these four components: axle, suspension, wheel and tire. Ask your Cat dealer to check the final axle weight ratings.
Don’t be afraid to experiment
Part of managing a business is trying new things to make it more profitable and productive. You may wonder if you can get by with three batteries instead of four to save money and weight. Or you may have heard that other companies are specing new wide-base, single-drive tires instead of duals to improve fuel economy. The only way you’ll know if options like these will work for you is to give them a try. Ask your Cat dealer and body builder for advice. You may be thrilled with the results—or at the very least, you’ll have learned a valuable lesson for next time.
When it comes to specing your next truck, the bottom line is this: Spending a little time upfront to make sure everything is in order can save you lots of time and money down the road. And remember, your Cat dealer is always available to help—together, you can spec a truck that’s just right for the job at hand.