Cullen Diesel Chooses Mercedes-Benz 4×4 Sprinter Van Over Service Truck

Over the next few weeks we’ll be publishing a three-part blog series centered around Cullen Diesel, the Detroit Diesel and MTU distributor for BC. Cullen Diesel mechanics are factory trained and certified in Detroit Diesel and Mercedes engines, with experience in working with all types of diesel engines, including those in the marine, mining, construction and industrial sectors.

Dennis Miskow Cullen Diesel

Dennis Miskow, Branch Manager of Cullen Diesel’s Vancouver Island, BC operations

Dennis Miskow is the Branch Manager of Cullen Diesel’s Vancouver Island, BC operations. Dennis’ career with Cullen started over 20 years ago, when he was first hired as an apprentice heavy-duty mechanic. Dennis sat down with VMAC to discuss Cullen’s fleet, and his decision to add a commercial van to his fleet.

Choosing the Right Vehicle for Your Business: Commercial Van or Service Truck?

When it was time to add a new service vehicle to his fleet of 7 to replace an aging truck, Dennis went straight to his truck builder. “I spec’d out a truck with a crane and was ready to place the order. It was going to cost about $150k, so I decided to compare it to the cost of a commercial van. The van ended up being half the price.” Because of the significant savings, Dennis decided to explore commercial van options. “We chose the Mercedes-Benz Sprinter over the other vans because the Sprinter comes in a 4×4 option, which is necessary when we’re travelling to jobs in remote locations,” says Dennis.

Service Van Benefits

Cullen Service VanThough the additional draw to the service van option was cost, Dennis was aware of other benefits that come with having a van instead of a truck. “The van is a smaller vehicle, which makes it easier to drive and maneuver. We do service jobs right at the docks, so the van is the best option for driving to these marine applications,” notes Dennis. The Cullen Diesel Branch Manager also appreciates the extra level of protection from theft and the elements the enclosed space of the van offers: “Tools and equipment are kept safe inside the van from theft, but also from rain, sleet, ice, and snow. My team also appreciates the enclosed area to store and organize their tools instead of standing around the outside of the truck in all types of weather.” In addition to the cost, size and maneuverability, and enclosed protection from theft and the weather, the van acts as a moving billboard for Cullen as there’s much more advertising space on the van’s body.

Proven in Challenging Applications

UNDERHOOD for vansHaving never had a Mercedes-Benz Sprinter or any type of service van on his fleet before, Dennis did have some concerns about how it would hold up in challenging applications. Cullen Diesel services a lot of equipment found in remote areas, often requiring their vehicles to travel in mountainous areas up logging roads. “I wasn’t sure how the van would be able to make it up the logging roads, even though the Sprinter is a 4×4. But on its first service it drove easily up to the job site, right behind the trucks. Even our logging customers were impressed!” shares Dennis. Another concern was how long the Sprinter van would hold up in these challenging, dirty and demanding applications. “You see a lot of vans used as delivery vehicles, driving on the roads, but we weren’t sure how it would hold up after continuously being tested on trails and logging roads,” says Dennis. But fast forward to years later, and Dennis confirms he no longer has any worries: “It’s been three years and we haven’t had any problems with the van.”

Overall, the decision to add a commercial van to the Cullen Diesel fleet has had a positive impact on Dennis’ operations. “We’re looking to add another vehicle to the fleet and I want to get another van,” says Dennis.

Subscribe to the VMAC Blog to continue reading about Cullen Diesel’s experience with a service van, and the specialized equipment that it comes with. In part two of this series, which will be released next, Dennis will give insight into his decision to choose an UNDERHOOD™ 40 Van Series Air Compressor instead of a standalone gas drive air compressor for his Sprinter.

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Van Series Air Compressors: Commercial Van Fleets Gain Popularity

Right-Sizing Commercial Fleets: Increased Sales Of Vans & VMAC Van Series Air Compressors

The term “right-sizing” refers to converting a business unit to the optimal size to achieve maximum profit or efficiency. In this case, it describes the trend of businesses shifting their fleets from trucks to vans. Commercial van sales have been on the rise for the last few years, as fleet managers revise their vehicle needs, and opt for vans over trucks. For many industries, vans provide the right amount of cargo space without the added bulk and price associated with larger work trucks.

Vans offer a variety of attractive benefits, including a reduced environmental footprint, lower fuel consumption, better cargo organization, theft and weather protection, and easy driving and maneuvering. In some cases, vans even offer more payload than some light-duty pick-up trucks.

Delivery services and mobile work sites are two industries readily adopting van fleets, with the latter often requiring special equipment on the vehicles. These special equipment requirements present an opportunity for manufacturers to offer van-specific solutions. For example, many mobile work sites use air tools to perform jobs such as tire servicing, utility servicing, and forklift repair. VMAC’s UNDERHOOD40 Van Series Air Compressor has been developed specifically for service vans performing these applications. In addition, it addresses unique safety concerns associated with vans and traditional standalone air compressor systems.

VMAC UNDERHOOD40 Air Compressor For Vans

UNDERHOOD for vansThere are several options available when considering an air compressor for your van, but many options are truck solutions modified to fit inside vans. Installing a traditional air compressor inside of a van can cause many issues, as these compressors can be bulky and heavy, reducing available cargo space and payload capacity. Even more importantly, these air compressors compromise operator safety, and can be dangerous if important precautions are overlooked.

The VMAC UNDERHOOD40 Van Series Air Compressor eliminates each of these issues, all while being the only air compressor specifically engineered for commercial vans, including popular models by Ford, GMC, Mercedes-Benz, and RAM. The VMAC UNDERHOOD40 Van Series rotary screw air compressor delivers 40 CFM at 100% duty cycle, allowing operators and businesses to maximize productivity without sacrificing space and safety.

VMAC UNDERHOOD40 Air Compressor Van Series Benefits

Like all VMAC air compressors, the VMAC UNDERHOOD40 Van Series Air Compressor is lightweight and compact.

  • Saves space, frees up to 10 cubic feet
    • The VMAC UNDERHOOD40 Air Compressor mounts in the engine compartment of the van, freeing up space in the cargo area.
  • Reduces GVW by almost 300 lbs
    • The VMAC UNDERHOOD40 Air Compressor weighs 290 lbs less than other comparable air compressors. This lightweight air compressor can help improve your fuel economy, or allow you to transport more.

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VMAC UNDERHOOD40 Air Compressor Safety Considerations

Being specifically engineered for commercial vans, the VMAC UNDERHOOD40 Van Series Air Compressor eliminates safety hazards associated with traditional air compressors being mounted in the van’s cargo area. Being stored safely under the van’s hood ends lifting injuries, toxic fume exposure, and even the risk of gas fires.

Learn more about the VMAC UNDERHOOD40 Van Series Air Compressor or watch a video of the air compressor in action.

Continue reading about commercial vans and the van series air compressors:
Van Safety: Keep Workers Safe And Save Money Doing So
Air Compressor Options Available For Service Vans

5 Reasons to Choose An UNDERHOOD™ Air Compressor For Your Work Van

Over the last decade, the popularity of commercial vans has steadily grown, as fleet managers and business owners look for cost-savings and improved efficiency in their vehicles. Many companies offer different outfitting options specific to vans, including shelving, storage boxes, tools, and accessories. In the case of air compressors, there are several different solutions, but only one air compressor has been specifically engineered for commercial vans, and that’s the UNDERHOOD™ 40 Van Series Air Compressor. Continue reading “5 Reasons to Choose An UNDERHOOD™ Air Compressor For Your Work Van”

Big Issues Caused By Overweight Commercial Vans

Commercial van weight can have significant impacts on any service truck business, especially in the United States. Heavy vans have to follow tighter regulations, undergo more inspections, and can face costly fines in some jurisdictions. Let’s break down what you need to know about weight and why extra weight on commercial vans can be a big problem.

What is GVWR?

Commercial van gross vehicle weight ratings (GVWR) and payloads can differ from vehicle to vehicle.  It is important to know what you’re working with when specifying or upfitting a specific commercial van.

According to AboutAutos.com, gross vehicle weight rating is the vehicle’s maximum safe weight that should not be exceeded.  Weight calculations include curb weight, additional equipment that’s been added, the weight of cargo and the weight of passengers.  A vehicle’s GVWR never changes.

GVWR vs. Payload

GVWR should not to be confused with payload capacity.  GVWR includes the vehicle’s unloaded curb weight, passengers’ weight and cargo weight. Payload capacity is the difference between GVWR and vehicle weight.  For example: If a vehicle’s GVWR is listed at 10,000 lb and the vehicle’s weight is 6,000 lb (empty), then its payload capacity is 4,000 lb.

Make & Model (Highest Capacity Model)GVWR (Maximum)*Payload (Maximum)*
RAM Promaster11,500 lb4,680 lb
RAM Promaster City5,395 lb1,901 lb
Ford Transit10,360 lb4,640 lb
Ford Transit Connect5,302 lb1,610 lb
MB/Freightliner Sprinter12,125 lb6,768 lb
MB Metris6,614 lb2,425 lb
Nissan NV9,900 lb3,850 lb
Nissan NV2004772 lb1,480 lb
Chevrolet Express9,600 lb3,841 lb
*Values are estimates only, based on basic trim package and referred from vehicle manufacturer websites. For accurate technical specifications, refer directly to vehicle manufacturer documentation.

FMCSA Regulations Apply Over 10,000 lb

All commercial drivers of vehicles that perform interstate work in the USA and have a gross vehicle weight rating of 10,001 lb or more are required to follow Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) regulations. These regulations are enforced by the Department of Transportation (DOT), and are outlined in Title 49, Part 300 to 399 of the Code of Federal Regulations—an exhausting 734-page document of rules that must be followed.

FMCSA has many regulations for overweight commercial vans. For example, interstate drivers must:

  • Be at least 21 years old
  • Possess a DOT Medical Examiner certificate
  • Obtain and display a USDOT number
  • Follow Hours of Service requirements
  • Maintain proper records
    • Pre- and post-trip inspections
    • Accident reports
    • Vehicle maintenance records
  • Receive an annual inspection
  • And more…

Individual states set their own intrastate commercial vehicle regulations, but these regulations tend to be similar to the interstate guidelines. For example, 37 states require a DOT Medical Examiner certificate, while most include reporting, inspection, accident recording, and hours of service rules.

For many operators, the easiest way to avoid the hassle and paperwork of FMCSA regulations is to ensure their vehicle has a GVWR that is consistently under 10,000 lb. While most commercial vans fall into this category, the Ford Transit, RAM Promaster, and Mercedes-Benz Freightliner Sprinter each have a GVWR of over 10,000 lbs.

Fines For Overweight Vans

Overweight vans can also result in hefty fines. According to Texas Department of Motor Vehicles, fines for on-the-road weight violations range from $100 to $10,000 for first offence.  Fines double on subsequent violations within a year.  Fines and other punishments vary in severity from state-to-state, and can even include prison time.

According to Connecticut General Assembly, criminal charges may be brought against the owner or operator of an overweight vehicle if the weight of the vehicle is the proximate cause of a motor vehicle accident that results in death.

Summary of GVWR Issues

To recap the issues and most important information surrounding GVWR:

  • GVWR never changes.
  • Additional regulations apply for vans over 10,000 lb.
    • Inspections, driver requirements, record keeping, and more.
  • Monetary fines may be imposed.
  • Prison time and criminal charges are possible.
  • Business operations will likely be affected.

With these important issues in mind, it makes sense to reduce the weight of vans by purchasing low-weight vehicles and incorporating the lightest components possible.

Air Compressor Solutions for Reducing Van Weight

Service vans that require compressed air for pneumatic tools can reduce weight by using UNDERHOOD™ air compressors.  Traditional air compressors mounted in the cargo area can weigh as much as 375 lb., while the UNDERHOOD™ rotary screw air compressor weighs only 85 lbs. This system increases the available payload by up to 290 lbs.

UNDERHOOD™ is the only air compressor specifically engineered for commercial vans. These 40 CFM rotary screw compressor systems by VMAC are available for the most popular commercial van models.  For further benefits of weight savings in vans, check out VMAC’s previous article “Air power: Just why does air matter to commercial van operators”.

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Choosing an Air Compressor for your Commercial Van 2019

New Possibilities for Fleet Managers

All-new commercial van models have entered or will soon be entering the North American market. These vans are causing fleet managers to take a fresh approach to different application possibilities including: plumbers, handymen, construction contractors, mobile mechanics, and mobile tire service technicians. These European-style vans are fuel efficient and have a tremendous amount of cargo space – over 75 percent more than the largest E-series. Continue reading “Choosing an Air Compressor for your Commercial Van 2019”

Learn what an average job looks like for a typical commercial van operator

Mobile mechanics who choose commercial vans instead of traditional service trucks work with a different set of clients. Service trucks are equipped with a crane and a large air compressor so operators can work on heavy machinery wherever it has broken down. Service vans are equipped with electric or air powered hand tools and have work benches inside the cargo area so operators can work on smaller items in comfort. Continue reading “Learn what an average job looks like for a typical commercial van operator”

Commercial Van Education

Interest in commercial vans to replace traditional service trucks continues to grow. Sales figures provided by the NTEA (National Truck Equipment Association) show it’s a trend that is not fading. Growth has been sustained over about a 5-year period, and the reasons for this are clear. Continue reading “Commercial Van Education”

Top Four Trends in Commercial Van Upfitting and How to Capitalize on Them

If you’re a commercial van upfitter, you’ve likely seen a growing number of customers who’ve traditionally selected a pickup or service body truck for a mobile service application, who are now taking a second look at using a van for that job.

That’s because not long ago, in 2008, there were few commercial van options available in the North American market — three full-size vans (Ford E-Series, Mercedes Sprinter, and Chevrolet Express/ GMC Savana) and one compact van (Chevrolet Uplander cargo). Today, that number has more than doubled to 10 van models, offering a much wider range of roof heights, wheelbases, payload capacities, and engines for fleet managers to choose from.

“We’ve definitely noticed an uptick of some customers switching from pickup trucks to vans because there is more choice now, especially with the new small vans and euro-style full-size vans that have entered the market the past few years,” said Jay Cowie, product manager at Ranger Design, a commercial van upfit manufacturer based in Ontario, New York.

With the influx of new van models, how can you seize this opportunity to sell more commercial van products and services? Tailor your offerings to capitalize on these four trends in commercial van upfits.

Trend #1: Rightsizing the Van to the Job

“Fleets are taking a more strategic approach to their business, focused on selecting the right-size van because now there’s more choice,” said Cowie. “Customers aren’t stuck with a one-size-fits-all van, which may be inefficient for certain applications. With greater choice, they can more effectively tailor vehicle selection to increase efficiencies and lower operational costs.”

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How can upfitters capitalize on this trend?

  • Expand upfit offerings to fit each available van model
  • Offer modular or adjustable cargo management systems so that technicians can personalize (or right-size) the upfit to their unique needs and workflows in the field.
  • Reimagine how the increased cargo area inside high-roof vans can be optimized — to create new upfit designs that boost worker efficiency and productivity.

Trend #2: Taking Weight Out of Upfits

“Because some of the new vans are bigger and taller with more cargo area, you can fit a lot more gear in it,” said Cowie. “And the more stuff in the van, comes more weight, which increases the risk of overloading the van. So, we’re seeing a shift toward using lighter-weight materials in upfits to increase legal payload capacity.”

Cowie said that Ranger Designs incorporates aluminum and composite materials to reduce overall upfit weight, depending on what mix of materials is best for the customer’s functionality, durability and budget requirements.

How can upfitters capitalize on this trend?

  • Offer lighter-weight upfit options where the customer’s application allows.
  • Help customers assess the cost-benefit of “lightweighting” in terms of productivity gains from increased payload capacity or the potential to “downsize” the vehicle and reduce acquisition costs.

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Trend #3: Higher Demand for Ergonomic Upfits

According to the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), work-related musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) — typically caused by awkward movements, heavy lifting, and repetitive motion — account for 34 percent of all lost workdays, which can get very expensive for employers.

So, a growing number of fleet managers are looking to equip their vehicles with upfits that improve ergonomics to protect their technicians’ health — and their organization’s bottom line.

“[At Adrian Steel], we start by observing how the [technicians] do their work, so we can create a process flow of the types of equipment they need to access most often and what they need less often,” said Jeff Langley, fleet account executive at Adrian Steel, a manufacturer of commercial van accessories and truck equipment, headquartered in Adrian, Michigan. “We’ll then design an upfit system that positions those high-use items where they can be accessed quickly and easily, so workers can be more safe and productive when performing their job.”

Also, the upfit products themselves can be designed with ergonomics in mind. Take, for example, a bulkhead (between the cabin and cargo areas) that’s contoured to allow the driver seat to recline a few degrees further than a standard bulkhead, improving driver comfort and reducing risk of lower back fatigue. Another example is a drop-down ladder rack, which is especially helpful with the taller Euro-style vans because it enables workers to load and unload ladders from the side of the van, while standing safely at ground level, instead of having to strain and lift awkwardly to load a heavy ladder onto a standard roof rack.

How can upfitters capitalize on this trend?

  • Educate customers on more ergonomic options to standard upfits, such as drop-down ladder racks, contoured bulkheads, grab handles, etc.
  • Study how the vehicle is intended to be used in the field to uncover new ideas for designing upfits that help improve workflow and ergonomics.

Trend #4: Increased Demand for Mobile Power

“We’re seeing a trend toward fleets wanting van interiors that offer a more productive mobile workplace, with increased demand for power ports to run laptops, charge mobile devices, and operate electric tools,” said Langley with Adrian Steel.

VMAC UNDERHOOD 30CFM Air Compressor in VanAt VMAC, we’re seeing similar growth in demand for air power in vans – for fleets that traditionally use pickups or service body trucks to run high-powered air tools, such as impact guns for breaking off heavy-duty lug nuts in a mobile tire service application.

The challenge has been that conventional air compressor systems available for vans — electric drive and gas/diesel drive compressors — are either too underpowered or take up too much cargo space (and weight) to be useful for most mobile service applications. So, the VMAC engineering team has developed the UNDERHOOD 40 CFM air compressor (40 cfm/ 100-150 psi), designed specifically for the commercial van market, with a compact rotary screw compressor. This system is powered by the vehicle’s engine to generate sufficient air power for a wide range of heavy-duty air tools, while minimizing the system’s footprint and weight inside the van’s cargo area.

How can upfitters capitalize on this trend?

  • Expand your product offerings and expertise to account for your customers’ mobile power needs for commercial vans, in terms of electrification and air power.
  • Help customers strike the right balance between maximizing onboard power, while minimizing the system’s weight and impact on cargo capacity.

The Bottom Line

With today’s commercial van landscape, opportunities abound for upfitters that serve the mobile service market. So, as you evaluate your product portfolio, look for any gaps that, if you were to fill them, could open up exciting new revenue streams — and make your company more valuable to customers.

Want to learn more? Read about your air compressor options for service vans!

If you have any questions about this article or anything mobile compressor related, please contact us.

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