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Truck be nimble, truck be quick

November 02, 2011

Smaller mechanics trucks can efficiently service compact equipment in tight jobsite environments

Written by: Troy Johnson, Two Rivers Marketing

NMC, Inc., Nebraska’s Caterpillar dealer, has been providing equipment solutions to meet the ever-changing needs of its customers since 1938.
Through locations in Nebraska, Iowa and now Utah, NMC offers a comprehensive line of equipment, parts and services essential to such industries as construction, material handling, on-highway trucks and rental.

As vital as it is venerable, NMC takes pride in the quality and responsiveness of its field service department. The equipment dealer and rental house pledges full maintenance and repair support to fleet owners and rental customers, minimizing downtime with prompt, efficient attention to service needs. 
“If we keep them going, they’ll keep calling us,” says Dwight McDermott, director of parts and service for the CAT Machine Group at NMC. “It’s all about taking care of the customer in the quickest and most efficient way.” 
Guided by that philosophy, NMC recently expanded its field service capabilities with the acquisition of two smaller mechanics trucks — vehicles that are designed to nimbly negotiate tight jobsites and efficiently service the compact machinery that has grown increasingly popular in the construction segment. 
“The building construction industry has gone into a lot more of the compact equipment,” says Josh Willis, general service manager at NMC. “So as we continued to grow, we recognized there was a void there for field service work for compact customers. 
“I think it was just a culture change. We went from thinking that every time a guy breaks down, you just bring him something else and take the equipment back to the shop; to realizing that there’s going to be some downtime to save if we were able to fix some of those items right there on the jobsite.” 
NMC’s story illustrates the value of lighter-duty mechanics trucks to any business that responds when compact-equipment breakdowns bring productivity to a screeching halt. 
Seeking a smaller solution

NMC began noticing a need for smaller service trucks a couple of years ago. The field service department was too frequently asking fleet owners to haul their broken-down compact equipment — skid-steer loaders, mini-excavators, etc. — into the shop for repair. Technicians were forced to swap out rental customers’ compact machinery more than seemed necessary. Cramped jobsites and weight restrictions posed challenges. 
“And when a guy that owns a couple of skid steers sees (a full-size mechanics truck) pull up to service his equipment, he sees a large price tag associated with that,” Willis said. “So part of (the issue) was sizing the service equipment correctly.” 
NMC explored multiple options before adding two smaller mechanics trucks from Iowa Mold Tooling Co. Inc. (IMT) to its 150-vehicle service fleet. Last year, NMC placed into service an IMT DSC12 to support rental customers. More recently, the company introduced an IMT DSC20 for providing field service to fleet owners. 
At only 1,700 pounds, the DSC12 is the most compact of all the trucks in the IMT Dominator® series. Built on a 10,500 gross vehicle weight (GVW) Ford F-350 chassis and equipped with an IMT 3203i electric telescopic crane, NMC’s DSC12 has given the company a compact, fuel-efficient model with significant service capabilities. The integrated crane offers 3,200 pounds of maximum lift capacity and a maximum 15 feet of horizontal reach. 
“The biggest thing with (the DSC12) was the mobility — being able to move quickly from jobsite to jobsite and having enough crane capacity,” Willis says. “With the single wheels, we’re able to keep the gross vehicle weight down so there’s not as many restrictions when you’re going from state to state, crossing between Iowa and Nebraska.” 
The DSC20 is designed for small to midsize equipment maintenance applications and can utilize IMT telescopic cranes with lifting capacities from 2,000 to 5,000 pounds. Like the DSC12, NMC’s DSC20 is built on a Ford F-350 and integrated with an IMT 3203i electric telescopic crane. 
“Our larger service trucks for servicing heavy equipment usually go to a jobsite and stay there for the better part of a day,” Willis said. “We needed something that could get in and out in a couple hours; something more nimble that could service the smaller line of equipment.” 
Lighter-duty trucks prove mutually beneficial 
Willis says the IMT trucks have had a significant impact on the NMC service department’s efficiency, customer service and bottom line. At the same time, customers are enjoying reduced profit-sapping downtime and increased satisfaction. 
“We’re able to do more work in the field than we were able to do previously,” Willis said. “We can send a smaller truck out there and still pull a hydraulic pump or an engine. We can still pick up and install a track on a skid steer or pull the drive motor out of a skid steer. We don’t have to have those machines hauled in for work like we may have in the past. On the rental side, we don’t have to swap out as many machines as we used to. 
“I think our fuel costs are less; our maintenance costs are less,” Willis adds. “I think there’s been a lot of cost savings there, for what we’re using it for. Plus, I think we’re just able to get to more jobs in one day, which obviously is more revenue.” 
Maneuvering in tight environments has become easier, too. Willis lists backyards, basements, apartment complexes and parking garages as examples of space-challenged jobsites that are more accessible thanks to the smaller mechanics trucks. 
“We’ve had a couple ballparks built out here recently, too,” Willis says. “Those places, they’re not necessarily a small jobsite, but once they got all the equipment inside there, there’s not a lot of room to move around. A lot of times, the places those things work aren’t real easy to get out of, so if you’ve got some kind of major problem with the machine, it’s quite the chore to get it out of there and into a shop. To be able to go out there and repair those machines right where they sit is a big asset to those customers.” 
As NMC has grown even more efficient since acquiring the IMT trucks, customers have reaped the benefits. Willis and McDermott say customer feedback on the company’s increased service capabilities has been promising. 
“I think they feel more comfortable with the size of the truck to the size of their equipment,” Willis said. “They don’t feel like it’s overkill and they’re paying for a service that they didn’t necessarily need. And they’re getting faster response times from it.” 
“It ultimately relates to more uptime for our customers,” McDermott adds, “and that’s why we actually expect these trucks to drive more field business.” 

Factors to consider when selecting a truck 

Smaller mechanics trucks are strong options for servicing compact to mid-range equipment, but they are not for every operation. Businesses that service heavy equipment are still going to need larger mechanics trucks, says Tim Worman, product manager for commercial vehicles at IMT. NMC owns many full-sized mechanics trucks, including some IMT Dominator IIs, for the service and repair of heavy equipment.

Every mechanics-truck selection process starts with understanding crane capacity and available payload, Worman says. Determining how much weight you are going to lift, how often you plan to use the crane and payload needs is the initial step in properly sizing the truck. Worman says buyers should also make sure they understand potential fuel economy savings with smaller trucks compared to the potential impact on the cost of operations. 
“Buyers who ensure that lighter-duty mechanics trucks meet their lifting and payload needs see great benefits with smaller trucks,” Worman says. “But if this size does not meet the needs of their application, then the unit will probably be under-utilized and will not benefit the fleet. I would also caution buyers against purchasing a smaller mechanics truck based solely on economy. Of course, economy is and should be an important consideration in any equipment purchase, but it should not be the main deciding factor. 
“The most important consideration when buying a mechanics truck is making sure that the truck satisfies the needs of the job so that it can be a revenue generator for your business. My best advice is for the customer to utilize the IMT distributor network. Our experts can help you spec your crane and truck appropriately for your job.”