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Fleets: We prefer spec’d equipment

Linda Longton March 19, 2013

Two fleet heavyweights told supplier attendees during a panel discussion at last week’s Heavy Duty Dialogue in Nashville, that they prefer to purchase equipment spec’d specific to their needs, versus standardized equipment.

“I’m not a big fan of vertical integration,” Russ Thompson, vice president of equipment purchasing and shop operations, Swift Transportation.

“We like to spec,” said Dwayne Haug, executive vice president equipment purchasing, Werner Enterprises. “Everyone operates just a little bit differently.”

Haug recognized OEM’s responsibility to design and produce equipment that fleets will want to run for years, but lauded companies such as Eaton, who he said served as a “testament to the fact that spec’ing is alive and well,” If independent suppliers don’t produce great products, “than the OE may try and pick up something on his own. If you’ve still got a better widget, you’ve still got a better widget,” he added.

Panelists said environmental and safety regulations have driven up the cost of equipment significantly in the last decade, making finding ways to manage those costs a major focus.

To reduce costs, Swift has increased its day cab fleet, mostly on dedicated hauls, Thompson said, although sleeper cabs will remain critical to the company’s line-haul applications. Improved fuel economy has also helped fleets manage higher equipment costs.

“OEMs have really gotten on board with fuel economy in recent years,” he said. “That used to be left to the fleet. That has helped our total cost of ownership.”

When it comes to improving fuel economy, Swift focuses on the truck first because it’s more difficult to see returns when trailer numbers greatly outweigh those of trucks.

“It’s gotten to the point it’s very hard to measure because the 1 percent improvements we’re now going for are almost too small to measure.”

Haug agreed. “You may have a product that’s supposed to give X percent aerodynamics or fuel economy improvement, but when you meld it with everything else it becomes insignificant,” he said.

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