Buying a Medium-Duty Truck? Here are 6 Things You Should Consider

By March 11, 2021Truck Blog

Commercial trucks are an important component of our economy. They contribute not only to business and infrastructure, but to the country’s income.

If you are planning to buy a medium-duty commercial truck to upgrade your fleet or to fulfill a business requirement, there are a few questions you need to ask yourself to make sure that need really exists. The questions are:

  1.  Are my vans and smaller commercial trucks exhausting their maximum suspension capacity when fully loaded?
  2. Are my trucks holding up traffic especially when running uphill?
  3. Is my delivery team taking too much time to complete each trip?
  4. Do I notice a trend in the reduced number of trips per day even if there’s no breakdown with my trucks?

If you answer “yes” to at least two of these questions, you really need to buy a medium-duty truck to accommodate the growing requirement of your business.

Medium-duty commercial trucks are vehicles that have a gross vehicle weight between 9,500 and 33,000 lbs. They are designed for lighter duty applications but they have larger engines, larger load capacity and stronger frames and transaxles than light-duty trucks.

Most medium-duty trucks are built specifically for their intended application, and unlike light-duty vehicles, they’re not manufactured as a single unit. Medium-duty trucks are basically composed of a cab and a chassis. They’re also called commercial trucks and trailers. Their specialized body will be added depending on the requirements of the owner.

Granting that you have already made a final decision to buy a medium-duty truck, here are 6 factors you need to consider:

1. Payload and Type / Quantity of Merchandise to Haul

In the automotive or trucking world, payload refers to the weight of the cargo and passengers a vehicle can carry using its cabin or truck bed. It is an important element that plays a big role in the commercial trucking business.    

Additionally, you should also consider the type and quantity or weight of items that you need to haul. This will be your basis for determining the cab, chassis, body type and engine horsepower of the vehicle to be able to deliver an efficient trucking performance. Payload weight is the equivalent of the truck’s gross vehicle weight rating (GWVR). It is the totality of the weight of the vehicle plus the weight of the driver, cargo, passengers and equipment. Payload capacity is the difference between the GVWR and the weight of the empty truck .

You should know your cargos and establish your payload before talking to commercial box truck dealers about the size, type, and capacity of medium-duty trucks you want to purchase. It can help you to be more efficient in your operations.

2. Towing Safety

Towing safety is an indispensable aspect you should not ignore if you’re planning to buy a medium-duty truck or commercial truck and trailer especially if you’re hauling a fifth-wheel trailer longer than 28 feet or greater than 28,000 lbs.

The practical reason for your need to upgrade is this: A light-duty truck has smaller caliper brakes which don’t have the ability to stop the truck and trailer effectively like the larger medium-duty. While going uphill is a challenge for light-duty vehicles, it is not as difficult as going downhill because there is so much risk involved in this process. This should justify your need to buy a medium-duty vehicle.

3. Gas Vs. Diesel

Fuel economy is a major factor that you need to consider when buying a medium-duty commercial truck. To clarify things, this is not about the rate of fuel consumption but the type of fuel your truck consumes. The type of fuel affects not only your operating cost but your mileage, operating time between services, operating environment, and budget. 

Here’s a simple illustration  of how you can choose between gas and diesel trucks:

  • Diesel engines are more expensive than gas engines, but they do better in terms of power and durability.
  • Unintentional abuse of a diesel engine truck can result in diminished value, reduced life expectancy and higher repair costs.
  • Gas trucks are cheaper and they have lower service costs.
  • Determine where the vehicles are intended for highway driving where lots of diesel fueling stations exist, or they are intended for city driving where gas is more available. 
  • In terms of fuel economy, diesel trucks still have the edge of up to 40% more mileage than its gas engine counterpart. But with the unstable price of diesel, fuel cost savings won’t be easy to count.

But since you really need to make a decision, you can choose diesel for its towing capability, torque and ability to deliver high annual mileage. Choose gas trucks if your cargos are lighter, your trips are shorter, and you’re operating in urban areas. Gas trucks are easier and cheaper to maintain than diesel-powered vehicles.

4. Cargo

The type of cargo you carry can be used to determine the type of body you should order for your commercial vehicle. For example, if you’re hauling goods in boxes such as consumer electronic products or baked goods, a cube body or dry freight would be a wise choice. But if you’re hauling landscaping equipment or heavy construction supplies, buying a flatbed with a lift gate could make sense. If you are a carpenter, electrician or plumber, you may choose a utility contractor body as it would be a perfect fit for your work.

5. Cabover Vs. Conventional

The design of a typical medium-duty truck is totally different from a cabover. As you may have guessed, the engine of a conventional medium-duty is placed in front of the steering wheel. This can be a disadvantage because placing the engine in front adds to the overall length of the vehicle. This will result in decreased visibility and maneuverability, yet it provides easy accessibility to the engine and more safety to the driver in case of collision.

A cabover on the other hand, has its engine mounted below the cab and it doesn’t require a huge hood in front which reduces the driver’s ability to see what’s right down in front. It offers increased cargo space and maneuverability especially in narrow streets, but it doesn’t give much protection to the driver in the event of a collision.

As far as engine accessibility is concerned, the conventional truck has the advantage because it can be accessed by simply pulling up the hood. On the contrary, a cabover’s engine is difficult to access because it is located beneath the cab. You need to jack up the cab to get access to the engine.  

6. Operating Environment

The type of environment you’re operating in can help to determine the type and size of commercial truck you need.

If you’re operating in major cities or suburbs and you are navigating narrow streets and making lots of stops, you may give up more of your truck’s length for better maneuverability.

But if your business involves navigating to the country, you’d generally be cruising lots of highways rather than narrow city streets. To maximize operating efficiency, choosing a truck with a longer wheelbase would be a great decision. But you need to compromise a good turning radius for it. 

You really have a lot of factors to consider when planning to buy a medium-duty truck or commercial truck and trailer for your business. And as you begin to discuss the matter with commercial box truck dealers, here’s one rule you should always remember: Avoid lowering the specs of your vehicle. Don’t ever attempt to under spec your project vehicle in order to get a lower initial cost. Optimize your truck for its intended application instead. It’s the best way to get the best value and lowest overall cost of ownership of a commercial vehicle.

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