By Eric Brothers
“The business model for beverage delivery has become multi-faceted,” says Todd Bloom, president and CEO of Mitsubishi Fuso Truck of America Inc., headquartered in Logan Township, N.J. Where once 10-bay drop-side tractor-trailers or long wheel-base straight trucks were all that were needed, now, the growth of specialty beverages, such as energy drinks, has introduced a new distribution model.
“The business model is expanding where cab-over-engine vehicles are being used,” Bloom continues. A narrow product line with individual reps requires the use of small vehicles to get product visibility.
Beverage companies recognize that distribution patterns require some specialty vehicles for targeted distribution and replenishment, Bloom explains. He also notes that small vehicles allow guerrilla marketing for drivers managing facings and small distribution within larger operations, to help products get the exposure they are seeking. “The cabovers fill-in gaps that larger beverage vehicles are not able to fulfill.”
Cabovers offer greater maneuverability in the tight spaces of an urban en vironment and greater visibility—both are assets to drivers with less experience. Automatic or automated manual transmissions also make learning to drive the modern cabovers easier.
Mitsubishi Fuso’s Canter FE 125, FE 160 and FE 180 cabovers cover classes 3 to 5 (the categories for gross vehicle weight ratings from 10,001 to 19,500 pounds), and fit the beverage segment, Bloom says.
“We have taken a lot of weight out of the chassis by using lighter materials so payloads can come up,” Bloom notes. The company also focused on improved fuel economy by using smaller-displacement (3-liter, 4-cylinder turbo-diesel) engines.
Maneuverability for Urban Markets
Glen Ellis, vice president of marketing and dealer operations for Hino Trucks, a Toyota group company, of Novi, Mich., notes that the general reason for increased interest in cabovers is that population growth in the United States is occurring in urban markets. “There’s a need for lighter, smaller, more maneuverable trucks to operate in the city, so the cabover market should continue to grow,” he says.
Another reason for renewed interest is better products. “One of the knocks on cabovers was ride, but that’s no longer the case,” Ellis says. Manufacturers have added comfort features for the U.S. market. An air-suspension seat is an option for the Class 5 Hino 195 and 195h cabover models.
The Hino 195h is a diesel-electric hybrid that offers as much as 20 to 30 percent better fuel economy in stop-and-go driving than non-hybrid models, and the beverage application is approved for the Caifornia hybrid and zero-emission truck and bus voucher incentive program (HVIP) for a rebate of up to $25,000, Ellis adds.
Brian Tabel, director of marketing for Isuzu Commercial Truck of America, of Anaheim, Calif., notes his company has experienced about a 27 percent increase in business for vehicles in classes 3 to 5 from 2011 to 2012 across all vocations, with sales numbers for the beverage delivery market included with those for food distribution.
“Business is up for a number of reasons,” Tabel says, “with the biggest being that a number of customers put off buying new vehicles during the 2008 to 2011 time period.”
He also is seeing companies moving down or up in the class of the truck they drive. “Customers are changing the route they used in the past for distributing products. They want a more fuel-efficient truck with great maneuverability for the tight locations that they have to drive now.”
Isuzu’s N-series Class 3 trucks, in wheelbases from 109 to 212 inches, can accommodate bodies ranging from 10 to 24 feet in length, and can be ordered with high-pressure common-rail direct injection diesel or 6.0-liter V-8 small-block gas engines. The Isuzu N-Series gas truck also is available with an optional CNG/LPG-capable engine.
Larger Cabovers Also Available
Cabovers are not just growing in popularity in Classes 3 to 5, but also in straight trucks in classes 6 and 7.
“The higher gross vehicle weight ranges of the Peterbilt cabover product at 26,000 pounds [Class 6] and 33,000 pounds [Class 7] are in line with the demands of the beverage segment’s higher payload requirements,” says Shay DeReamer, national medium duty sales director, Peterbilt Motors Co. of Denton, Texas.
“The attributes that the customers have found most beneficial are the excellent turning radius and visibility, which cannot be matched with a conventional cab,” DeReamer adds.
The Peterbilt Model 210 is available as a Class 6 straight truck and is recommended for bodies between 18 to 26 feet in length and can be configured for a non-CDL operation. As a Class 7 vehicle, the Peterbilt Model 220 is recommended for bodies between 20 and 26 feet in length. An air-suspension driver’s seat is standard on both models.
Kenworth Truck Co. of Kirkland, Wash., launched its cabover entries last spring, the Class 6 K270 and Class 7 K370. Already, the company is seeing an influx of orders in the pick-up-and-delivery and beverage segments, according to Doug Powell, Kenworth’s medium-duty marketing manager.
Weight and length restrictions in big-city markets are driving companies to get into cabovers, Powell explains. “Our front bumper-to-back-of-cab length of 64 inches is 40 to 45 inches shorter than a conventional truck, allowing customers to get an extra two to four feet on the box, so that’s a huge factor,” he says.
Both Kenworth cabovers can be specified with either a 19.5-inch or 22.5-inch tire and wheel package, Powell notes. The 22.5-inch package enables the K270 and K370 to match up to standard dock heights.