How to Optimize Your Mechanics Truck
3 Things You Can Do to Get the Most Out of Your Field Service Vehicle
A mechanics truck is a powerful tool that can enhance technician productivity and minimize costly equipment downtime — if the truck is optimized for your construction operation. To reach its full potential and provide maximum value, a mechanics truck must be properly specified, appropriately organized and well-maintained. Let’s take a look at three things you can do to get the most out of your mechanics truck.
1. Spec for success
Optimizing a mechanics truck for your operation begins during the specification process. The most important point to keep in mind when choosing a mechanics truck is that neglecting to properly specify the truck could result in costly underutilization or overutilization. A truck that is too large for your application will not provide maximum return on investment, while a truck that is too small could lead to unmet needs and a higher cost of operation.
Contractors should work with a mechanics truck distributor to design the right mechanics truck for their operation. Manufacturers such as Iowa Mold Tooling Co. Inc. (IMT) have widespread distributor networks offering a complete range of mechanics truck sizes and complementary cranes and accessories.
While a good mechanics truck distributor will work to fully understand and meet your precise application needs, consider these tips before entering the buying process:
Understand weighty issues
If your application requires a crane, the first step in specifying a mechanics truck is determining how much you need to lift, and how often. One mistake customers commonly make is underestimating the weight of the load to be lifted. It is extremely important to figure out your exact lift and reach needs before selecting your crane.
The total weight of the load — the sum of the weight of the load and the weight of load handling devices — should not exceed the capacity on the crane’s load chart in the lifting position. Failure to perform lifts within the rated capacity of the crane can lead to safety hazards, shorter crane life and reduced productivity, so knowing how much your load actually weighs is critical.
In addition to ensuring that rated capacity will not be exceeded, it is also important to consider how often the crane will lift at maximum capacity. All IMT telescopic cranes incorporate an Excessive Load Limit System to protect the structural components of the crane, but longer life can be achieved by choosing a crane that will not need to operate at maximum capacity for the majority of lifts.
Avoid cutting corners
Most mechanics trucks are outfitted with either a hydraulic or electric telescopic crane. It is important to avoid underspecifying your crane in an attempt to reduce acquisition cost.
Electric cranes generally feature maximum lifting capacities between 2,000 and 6,000 pounds and are intended for lighter, intermittent-duty lifts. Hydraulic cranes are designed for regular use and typically offer capacities from 6,000 to 14,000 pounds. If lifting requirements exceed 14,000 pounds, customers should consider an articulating crane.
IMT recommends that customers select a crane that most closely meets the common lifting need. A corner-mounted hydraulic telescopic crane continues to be the most frequent crane choice for mechanics trucks. While the need for a PTO-driven hydraulic system makes a hydraulic crane more costly than an electric model, a hydraulic crane offers more lift capacity, reach and speed for greater productivity.
Customers who lift 6,000 pounds or less once a week, or slightly more often, can save some money by choosing an electric crane. However, if buyers think they will spend less on an electric crane and then end up using it daily, the crane’s shortened life cycle will make it more costly in the end.
Take tools into account
In general, once the ideal crane size is selected, the appropriate body can be chosen. However, tool requirements are another factor governing body size. Not every truck will have the same air system requirements or require a welder. Some technicians may need fewer hand tools than others. The need for many tools may drive a contractor to a larger body even though a smaller crane is required.
A thorough understanding of the tool requirements of each technician will help you select a right-sized mechanics truck. Analysis of utilization and operation/maintenance costs should help in this decision.
’Air’ on the side of productivity
The air compressor is typically the most-used accessory on a mechanics truck. Pneumatic tools required for the truck, combined with additional air needs, will determine whether a rotary-screw or reciprocating air compressor is added.
The industry trend is toward rotary screw compressors, which provide a continuous supply of air on demand. Rotary screw units are compact, lighter than their reciprocating counterparts and can run for extended periods of time with greater efficiency. In contrast, reciprocating piston compressors are designed for short, intermittent job needs and have a lower price point.
No matter which compressor is right for your operation, IMT recommends that customers carefully assess their air needs on the front end to ensure that the compressor is not undersized and detrimental to productivity.
Many mechanics truck users are adopting fully integrated power units to provide an air compressor, auxiliary electrical power and a welder instead of a PTO and hydraulic pump to manage fuel consumption, environmental impact and lower chassis maintenance costs. It is important to ensure that the capabilities of each component in the combination unit meets the demands of your operation as well as stand-alone units would.
2. Get organized
Once you have the mechanics truck that is specified for your operation, continue to optimize the truck by organizing it for maximum productivity. A well-organized truck enables the technician to work efficiently and get equipment up and running as quickly as possible.
Even the most carefully considered truck setup will not be ideal for every job, so strive to obey the 80/20 rule: Organize tools and parts so that the operator can work at peak efficiency at least 80 percent of the time.
The typical mechanics truck arrangement might find hand tools stored in the left-front vertical compartment, oxygen/acetylene tanks and torches housed in the right-front vertical compartment and additional parts and tools stowed throughout the truck. For increased efficiency, consider:
- Storing tools and parts in locations on the truck body where they can be most efficiently accessed
- Grouping tools and parts that are frequently used together
- Utilizing organizational aids such as drawer sets, bolt bins and pigeonholes
IMT mechanics trucks offer easy-access compartments with a patented shelf hanger system for adjustable storage space, along with a full complement of shelf, drawer and bolt-bin options for customized organization.
3. Be mindful of maintenance
A mechanics truck that is ideally specified and organized will not be fully optimized unless it is properly taken care of. Diligent inspection and maintenance of mechanics truck components can help ensure safe operation, maximize uptime and manage repair costs.
Many maintenance and repair needs can be identified during daily inspection and corrected inexpensively — long before they cause safety issues, extended equipment downtime and costly failure.
The cost of overlooking daily inspection items can be significant in terms of safety, uptime and dollars. For example, a missing pin retainer bolt — which may cost less than $1 to replace — could cause a dropped load resulting in expensive crane and property damage. If not repaired, cracked welds could propagate to a point that the boom would need to be replaced. A blown hydraulic hose could result in an oil spill. Replacement wire rope may cost $300 to $400, but a dropped load due to broken rope could cause thousands of dollars of damage and/or injury.
Additional crane inspections and service should be performed according to manufacturer-recommended intervals and applicable regulations. IMT recommends performing daily, monthly, quarterly and annual inspections, each with their own specific list of items.
IMT operator’s manuals feature an inspection checklist, and the company offers a Crane and Vehicle Log for recording inspections, tests, maintenance and repairs to help keep your equipment in safe and productive condition.
Construction contractors are always looking for ways to enhance productivity and minimize equipment downtime. With an optimized mechanics truck that is properly specified, appropriately organized and well-maintained, you can keep your technician working efficiently and get your equipment back up and running as soon as possible — boosting your bottom line in the process.