With holiday sales expected to reach over one trillion dollars, and Cyber Monday projected to be the largest online shopping day in US history, a record number of retail delivery vehicles will be on the road this holiday season. To meet the higher demand, retail fleets must strive for optimum performance. Whether buying a new fleet or upgrading an existing fleet to meet the growing demand, fleet managers need to choose a delivery vehicle that’s affordable, reliable, and practical for the needs of the driver and business. Here we provide a quick guide to help fleet managers sort out which delivery vehicle type is the right option to meet their retail delivery needs.
Box Truck (aka cube truck)
Box trucks have been the workhorses of the moving and retail delivery industry for generations. If your business delivers appliances or furniture, this is probably the right fit for your fleet. Box trucks are made by adding a larger cube-shaped cargo area to a chassis cab, making the cabin and cargo areas separate (some models include a smaller door leading from the cabin to the cargo area). Box trucks can usually carry a sizable load while still being able to maneuver crowded downtown areas or neighborhoods. The rear door is typically a roll-up door that provides easy access to the cargo. Box trucks can also be fitted with a stow-away ramp or a hydraulic lift making them ideal for delivering heavier retail items.
The downsides: Rear visibility can be challenging, but this is easily overcome with experience and the right mirrors. Since it’s a sizable heavy-duty truck, maneuverability in small areas can be tough for even experienced drivers. Their larger capacity requires a larger, more powerful engine which translates to higher fuel consumption.
Multi-Stop Truck (aka step van or walk-in truck)
If your fleet is regularly delivering larger parcels or a high volume of packages, a multi-stop truck can be a good match. These delivery vehicles are most notably recognizable as the bread-and-butter workhorse of FedEx and UPS. But they can also be a great option for small business fleets – food trucks, bakeries, and dairies to name a few. These taller style delivery vans allow the driver to stand up comfortably inside a cargo area that is spacious and easily convertible to suit business needs. The driver can also access the cargo area from the cab or from the rear of the vehicle. They are generally lower to the ground with steps leading to the driver seat and to the rear cargo area, thus the name step van.
The downsides: There aren’t many downsides, but, like the box truck, multi-stop trucks can be tight in small areas and can have rear visibility issues.
Smaller, but similar to the multi-stop truck, the cargo van is perfect for delivering small- to medium-sized parcels. Cargo vans usually have side doors and rear doors to access the cargo area. They can range in size from more compact sizes like the Ford Transit Connect to larger vans like the Mercedes-Benz Sprinter, which is closer in size to a multi-stop truck. Cargo vans are very versatile, and their more reasonable size makes for easier maneuvering in tight spaces.
The downsides: They are less ergonomic than a multi-stop or box truck because loading and unloading can require bending or kneeling. Cargo vans typically do not come with a separation between the cab and cargo area, which can make hauling some retail goods without modifications to the cab impractical or even dangerous.
Like it sounds, the light-duty truck or pickup truck is used for more lightweight payloads – up to two tons. Light-duty trucks are perfect for smaller retail deliveries. Because of their size, they are much easier to maneuver and park. They can also be more fuel-efficient than any of the previous options.
The downsides: Their capacity is limited compared to box trucks and multi-stop trucks. They come standard with an open bed, which makes hauling sensitive cargo impractical without the addition of cover.
Once fleet managers identify the right option for their delivery fleet, the real work begins. Finding a delivery vehicle with a decent resale value, fuel economy, durability, and reliability will take further analysis. But performing thorough due diligence can help fleet managers to choose a delivery vehicle that will perform optimally and meet the increasing demands of retail delivery fleets in the 21st century.