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.
In this article, we cover two primary topics:
Note: If you’re strictly interested in air compressors for service vans, click the link above to jump to the air compressors section below!
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.
New Work Van Opportunities for Fleet Managers
New commercial van models have entered or will soon be entering the North American market for 2022. These vans are causing fleet managers and business owners to take a fresh approach to application possibilities including plumbers, handymen, construction contractors, mobile mechanics, and mobile tire service technicians.
European-style vans are fuel efficient, have a tremendous amount of cargo space, and allow operators to secure their equipment, making them a practical and efficient service vehicle solution. Here are a few of the European-style service van opportunities for this year:
The Ford Transit
The 2022 Ford Transit is available with a 3.5L PFDi V6 gas engine with 275 hp and 260 lb-ft of torque, or a 3.5L EcoBoost V6 engine with 310 hp and 400 lb-ft of torque. The Transit is also available in three body lengths, two wheelbases, and three roof heights. The Transit has a rear-wheel-drive layout, but its engine layout is perhaps a little more innovative than the competition, mostly due to the EcoBoost engines.
The Ford Transit Connect
Available with a 2L GDI I-4 gas engine, the Ford Transit Connect is a smaller option for those doing lots of city driving and not requiring a tremendous amount of space or power. It is the minivan option of the commercial van market.
The Ford E-Transit
Ford’s brand-new electric Transit van has the potential to be a true market disrupter. The fully electric e-Transit van is available in three body lengths and three roof heights, as well as chassis cab and cutaway models. The E-Transit is the most spacious 2022 van model available with 277.7 cubic feet of cargo space. The E-Transit is a versatile and compelling new option that is likely to become popular in the years that follow.
The Mercedes-Benz Sprinter
Currently available with a 2.0L I4 turbo diesel (161 hp/265 lb-ft), a 3.0L V6 turbo diesel (188 hp/325 lb-ft), or a 2.4L I4 gas engine (188 hp/258 lb-ft); Mercedes has announced the 2022 models will come in 114, 140, 170, and 190 horsepower models, but final specs have yet to be released at the time of writing.
The Mercedes-Benz Sprinter has the highest available roof at 111 inches (almost 10 feet), barely beating out the high roof Transit. The Sprinter also has the longest available body at 290 inches, compared to the Transit at 264 inches, ProMaster at 213 inches, and Savana at 244 inches.
The Mercedes-Benz Sprinter is also available in a four-wheel drive option. For good ground clearance, a 4×4 Sprinter sits about 4 inches higher than a 4×2 model. The Sprinter retains a higher-quality interior than most cargo vans, with highly refined powertrains, although this quality comes at a premium price point.
The GMC Savana
Available with a Vortec 4.3L V6 (276 hp/298 lb-ft) or 6.6L V8 (401 hp/464 lb-ft) gas engine, or a Duramax 2.8L turbo diesel engine (161 hp/369 lb-ft), the GMC Savana provides loads of power and can tow up to 10,000 lb in tow/haul mode which reduces excessive gear-shifting.
It is equipped with numerous additional features, including pro access lift panels, heated mirrors, built-in Wi-fi hotspot, and Stabilitrack with traction control.
The RAM ProMaster
This full-size van is available with a 3.6L V6 gas (280 hp/260 lb-ft), or, 3.0L I4 turbo diesel (174 hp/295 lb-ft) and is primarily configured for commercial duty. RAM believes that by placing the bulk of the ProMaster’s mechanical components ahead of the cargo area it makes up-fitting for commercial needs easier in most cases.
Available with an 88-inch roof height, the ProMaster cutaway and chassis cab models can handle a gross combined weight rating (GCWR) of 11,500 pounds.
Current Trends in Commercial Van Upfitting
Several trends are impacting how people choose between commercial vans and what features they prioritize in a vehicle upgrade.
“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.
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.”
Trend #2: Taking Weight Out
“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.”
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.”
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 Jeff Langley with Adrian Steel. At 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 removing large lug nuts in a mobile tire service application.
Reducing Total Cost of Ownership (TCO)
When switching to these Euro-style vans, the goal isn’t just controlling costs, but also increasing productivity. For example, fleet managers want to add customers by increasing the number of jobs done per day but keep lower operating costs available on commercial vans.
For businesses, the trend has been shifting away from focusing on up-front acquisition costs to lowering the total cost of ownership over the life cycle of a vehicle. Fleet managers are no longer basing their purchasing decisions solely on the acquisition cost. In today’s economy, every dollar counts.
Many fleets are now realizing the value in investing the time and energy in researching the best long-term option for their business. They’re taking a closer look at the real cost of ownership and all that the vehicle purchase entails – not just the purchase of the vehicle itself, but all of the lifecycle costs associated with the vehicle, including equipment such as air compressors.
Air Compressors For Commercial Vans
When making purchasing decisions, more commercial van customers are considering TCO over the lifetime of their vehicle. They are prioritizing ease of up-fit and customization options, proven powertrain options, and strong dealer networks. One of the most frustrating up-fit items with commercial vans is the air compressor.
Until recently, fleets were limited to two options:
- An electric drive air compressor that takes up too much valuable cargo space, is underpowered, and not designed for commercial work.
- A gas drive reciprocating air compressor which takes up even more space, is heavy and is known to cause heat damage in the interior of vans. Further, these types of compressors cause safety issues due to exhaust fumes not being properly ventilated, and gas tanks being filled inside the cargo area. Additionally, if the gas drive air compressor is designed to be portable, with a wheel-barrow style chassis, then this opens the operator to potential lifting injuries.
But a better type of air compressor, the UNDERHOOD40, has been designed specifically for service vans. Custom engineered for each van engine and chassis by VMAC, the UNDERHOOD40 is available for most Ford and Mercedes vans. These incredibly compact air compressors weigh only 85 lb, are easy to install, and have the power to fill a 11R24.5 commercial truck tire in just over 3.5 minutes. Best of all, the UNDERHOOD40 eliminates common frustrations and safety issues of other air compressors used in commercials vans.
Eliminate Safety Risks With Air Compressors Made For Service Vans
There are several options available when considering an air compressor for a service 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. More importantly, these air compressors compromise operator safety, and can be dangerous if important precautions are overlooked.
Mobile air compressors are an excellent example of equipment made for trucks that aren’t always safe for vans. Depending on how they are installed, air compressors in commercial vans can:
- Expose operators to concentrated toxic fumes
- Result in heavy-lifting injuries
- Cause falls by forcing workers to stand on precarious surfaces
- Cause the van to explode
Yes, explode. Air compressors installed too close to fabrics or other flammable materials inside a commercial van can catch on fire and cause the vehicle to explode. It’s an extremely rare occurrence, but nobody wants to be the person who experiences it.
Fortunately, all the accidents listed above are preventable with the right air compressor system—one that doesn’t simply stick a truck’s air compressor in the cargo area. Instead, choose an air compressor that was made just for vans.
As previously discussed, VMAC has developed an air compressor for service vans that is installed in the engine compartment, away from the operator and cargo. This UNDERHOOD40 eliminates the risk of toxic fumes, fires, explosions, heavy lifting injuries, and falls, all in one go.
See the UNDERHOOD™ air compressor in action on the Cullen Diesel van:
Protect Profits With Employee Safety
Now we’ll take a step back and talk about why keeping employees safe and using the right air compressor is simply good business practice. Even businesses that don’t prioritize safety still care about profits.
Job site injuries caused by air compressors or other equipment can quickly become the single most costly line item for any business. Injuries themselves cost money to fix, but the expenses don’t end there. The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has revealed that job site accidents have significant indirect costs that most businesses don’t account for.
Let’s look at the direct and indirect costs of a few injuries, according to OSHA:
|Injury||Direct Cost||Indirect Cost||Total Cost|
Direct and indirect costs add up, quickly transforming a bad situation into an even worse situation. It can take months or years for a business to financially recover from the expense of a serious injury. Businesses often underestimate this expense, forgetting to include indirect costs.
Common indirect costs are:
- Filing a Worker’s Compensation claim
- Lost days of productivity
- Legal costs
- Hiring and training a replacement worker
- Repairing damaged property
- Accident investigation and corrective action implementation
- Insurance maintenance
Less obvious indirect costs include:
- Schedule delays
- Added administrative time
- Decreased morale
- Increased absenteeism
- Poorer customer relations
- Hits to company reputation
- Ability to bid on future jobs
The best way to eliminate these costs is to prevent injuries from occurring in the first place. Choosing the right type of equipment for service vans is one way that can be done.
The Bottom Line
Commercial vans have become a popular service vehicle option and it’s clear they are here to stay. OEMs like Ford are now investing in the development of electric vans, such as the E-transit, cementing a future for service vans in the marketplace.
Fleet managers and business owners have a lot to consider when choosing a commercial van for their fleet including:
- Rightsizing the vehicle to the job
- Reducing weight
- Ergonomic interior designs
- Eliminating safety issues
- Choosing the right equipment, including air compressors
Starting with the right commercial van and air compressor combination can help make this process a bit simpler, while improving productivity and protecting profits and employees.