Features
27 Sep 22

Challenges and Solutions to vehicle upfitting in North America

Upfitting in the United States and Canada is big business considering the large number of corporate fleets made up of tool-of-trade vehicles, but it has been a challenging task in recent times. 

Today, inflation and supply chain delays are impacting the time it takes to upfit vehicles, resulting in back-orders on prefabricated parts and auxiliary equipment which use raw materials such as steel, aluminum, rubber, wood, and glass. 

With these bottlenecks come delays in delivery times, a frustrating challenge for fleet managers wanting to optimize their operations especially if they are setting up custom installations. Basically, you want your fleet to be ready for anything and at any time. 

What can you do about it?

As vehicle customization could entail various installations such as tool boxes and ladder racks or even aerial lifts and cranes, make sure to plan your upfitting package well ahead of time. You don’t want to make any mistakes as last-minute changes may require many steps to fix, a costly task that no fleet manager wants to do.

Remember that you may find yourself looking for out-of-stock units so anticipate by ordering parts early. In some cases, ordering your upfit package can be done at the same time as ordering your chassis or just a few days later. Nowadays, longer order-to-delivery times are usually a result of delayed chassis shipments. 

Also keep in mind that no singular upfitting project fits the needs of all fleets. There are many things to consider, many options at hand, and it really depends on the profile of your drivers and your fleet. One thing to consider though is safety so you may want to add extra safety features to your vehicles.

To prepare yourself, another tip to keep in mind is the use of bailment pools from companies who have built vehicles on consignment just waiting for custom upfitting. 

Chevrolet Silverado, RAM, and Ford F series pickups are highly popular for North America upfits. Pictured here is the 2022 Ford F-250 (courtesy of Ford)
 

Standardizing

Although customizing is usually necessary, try to develop some type of standardization as this results in shorter vehicle deliveries, upfitting setups that are more familiar for your employees, or to say more efficient operations overall.

Standardizing also gives you more leverage to ask for volume discounts and more flexibility as your fleet can be relocated to other business units and facilities with ease.

Collaborating

Upfitting a large fleet can get daunting at times so discuss step by step planning with a fleet management company to help you along the way. Also form strong relationships with upfitters as communication and flexibility will be important in today’s environment. 

Finally, remember that many upfitter setbacks are due to delays in chassis and parts deliveries, things that are really out of their control. In the end, try to strike a balance between being patient and being firm.   

top photo: Common van upfitting requests include installing partitions, lights, ramps, and lift gates (courtesy of Merchants Fleet)

Authored by: Daniel Bland