Having a bit of recent personal experience in the work truck category I have a few thoughts on the Ford Work Solution.
Background: Although I operated big yellow things, my primary duty for the past twenty-two months was that of an HDR; Heavy Duty Repairman. I have been responsible for the maintenance, parts ordering, and repair of everything from big scrapers, bulldozers, motor graders, all-terrain equipment handlers, ten and eighteen-wheelers, diesel powered light plants, the owner’s Tahoe, a fleet of sixteen pickup trucks, eight “utility” trucks, six water trucks, two crane trucks (all of various marque and engine type), a bunch of Honda generators, walk-behind vibratory compactors, the list is seemingly endless.
If Work Solutions is primarily aimed at individual small contractors, or supervisory personal with larger companies it may be successful. However, if Ford is looking for a niche in the much larger “fleet” category I do not believe they are going to do too well.
The difference in usage, and the way the two conduct work is vastly different.
â€¢ An in-dash computer developed with Magneti Marelli and powered by Microsoft Auto that provides full high-speed Internet access via the Sprint Mobile Broadband Network and navigation by Garmin. It’s the first broadband-capable in-dash computer in production. This system allows customers to print invoices, check inventories and access documents stored on their home or office computer networks â€“ right on the job site.
As the company’s primary mechanic, I can say that an on-board computer would have made it easier to order spares; most equipment requires that the serial number and/or VIN be supplied; electronic access to the part numbers of hundreds of “consumable” components would have sped up ordering. Internet access would have been useful for sourcing as well. GPS would have been helpful on the few road trips we took, but on a daily basis not so much. A laptop would have been sufficient but my employer could not, or would not, rationalize the expense and would not supply one when requested (management theory vs. field experience) . For the average crew truck this would be useless.
â€¢ Tool Link, a Radio-Frequency Identification (RFID) asset tracking system developed in partnership with DEWALT, the industry leader in professional power tools, and ThingMagic, the industry expert on embedded RFID technology. This enables customers to maintain a detailed real-time inventory of the tools or equipment stored in the pickup box.
On any given ten-hour shift, I’ve had so many different pieces of equipment on my work truck that I do not see how it could, on a practical basis, all be electronically inventoried; nor do I see a reason that it should be. Practically speaking, there is simply not enough time in the day to worry about it; a tool, or piece of equipment, is either there, or it isn’t. If is not on the truck, where is it? Who used it last? Where do I look to find it, or another to replace it? The on-board is not going to be able to tell you that. On a large crew the “Lead” supervises the collection of necessary tools for a given project based on the nature of the work, and his experience.
â€¢ Crew Chief, a fleet telematics and diagnostics system, which allows small fleet owners to efficiently manage their vehicles, quickly dispatch workers to job sites and keep detailed vehicle maintenance records.
A partially useful concept. I was issued a Nextel radio for communications. It worked well, was rugged, and fit into my safety vest pocket. All of the “Lead” personnel were equipped with one as well, much to my unending misery.
The abuse that most construction company equipment is subjected to is incredible. “Laborers” are the main users of these pickup and utility trucks, and to be frank, usually could not care less about what they are assigned to drive. Most do not drive the same vehicle every day and personal accountability for reporting equipment problems is hit and miss; e.g. driving off without checking oil, tire pressures, turn signals, etc. is the norm.
An on-board computer would be of assistance in maintaining some form of schedule for oil changes, oil, fuel, and air filter part numbers and such, and other routine maintenance. But from a daily maintenance point of view, the truck either has enough oil and coolant, or it doesn’t. A tire is flat or it isn’t. Hard to believe, but leaving the yard with a partially flat tire happened on a daily basis, and running out of fuel happened at less once a week. Nothing a computer is going to notify you of.
â€¢ Cable Lock security system developed in partnership with Master LockÂ®, the industry-leading lock manufacturer, to discourage theft of expensive tools too large to fit in the cab.
Most small contractors that I know would not leave their equipment exposed on the truck to begin with. In large companies having equipment “locked up” in any given truck, or place, prevents it from being used by anyone, at any time; I’ve been called many times to cut a padlock off of a box truck so that a piece of equipment could be retrieved; a cable hahahhaha… . . if “they” want it, they are going to take it.
From a practical standpoint, large companies are looking for basics;
Common fuel usage; preferably diesel (it’s is less hazardous to store and handle, and therefore reduces insurance liability; one fuel type for all equipment (on or off road) is readily available). Given the California Air Resource Board requirements this will become prohibitively expensive.
Heavy Duty suspension; a Half-Ton pickup is essentially worthless; 10 bags of concrete mix, plus the weight of the mixer on the bumper hitch and it’s bottomed out. The pickup trucks the company purchased were either 3/4 or 1 ton models. The ability to pull a trailer is essential.
Minimal equipment; it is a work truck and on large jobs is generally not used for much highway driving; it sits in the yard when not in use, or is driven to the work site and parked all day. AM-FM radio, no A/C, vinyl upholstery, removable rubber floor mats, and crank up windows are more durable, reduce cost and ease maintenance.
My brief of a “Professional Grade” truck would be a single model of 15,000# GVW, powered by either gasoline or bio-fuel-capable diesel of one common displacement per engine type; automatic transmission (eliminates clutch abuse, and gearbox wear); 2 or 4 wheel drive; have a basic interior as outlined above; and be available with, or without the bed (there are hundreds of custom fabricators that supply utility-boxes, flatbeds, and van boxes; they are much better equipped to supply these items than GM is.)
One-size fits all? You bet. The user can make it into what is needed, not what Ford thinks is needed.