DUTY CYCLE MATTERS
The Model 220 Class 7 cabover’s low chassis weight, tight turning radius, and wraparound windshield makes it best suited for high volume payloads and is recommended for bodies between 20 and 26 ft. in length.
“That’s why we’re still going to see the cabover as the dominant model for in-city operations in the future,” Frost & Sullivan’s Kar stresses, noting that cabovers are not only more maneuverable, but they also reduce the amount of material used to build the truck in the first place. This helps to improve fuel economy and payload capacity.
In suburban and rural areas, where a Class 4-7 truck will travel at higher speeds over longer distances, however, the conventional model gains the edge in terms of aerodynamic performance and fuel efficiency, notes Kar.
In fact, for U.S. fleets using medium-duty models, the subject of whether to favor a conventional or cabover model rarely crops up, according to Ken Gillies, manager of truck ordering & engineering at GE Capital Fleet Services.
“We rarely talk model type with customers,” he explains.
“Most of our discussion centers on base model cost, the job the truck is expected to perform, and how regulations impact vehicle specifications. Seldom does model type enter the discussion.”
The conventional model of medium-duty trucks is also heavily favored by GE Capital’s customers for another reason: attractiveness to drivers.
“For a lot of our customers, it really boils down to getting drivers behind the wheel,” Gillies says. “With a cabover, entry and egress is a little more difficult, especially for the 98th percentile male who’s 6 ft. tall and 220 lbs. Also, you can’t get an air ride suspension seat in a cabover—and driver comfort is a big vehicle specification factor today.”
That being said, a cabover becomes a no-brainer if a particular fleet’s duty cycle involves travel on narrow and congested urban roadways, such as those found in the boroughs of New York City.
“A cabover becomes a no-brainer if a fleet’s duty cycle involves travel on narrow and congested urban roadways, such as those found in the boroughs of New York City.”
By the same token, though, a Midwestern urban locale such as Kansas City may feature wider roadways and less congestion compared to the Big Apple, potentially making a conventional model more attractive.
“For us, it’s all about the job the truck is expected to perform and the location where it will operate,” Gillies stresses. “Our task is to strike the right balance between application, base cost, lifecycle cost, and driver needs. Once we achieve that balance, then we look at what type of truck makes the most sense.”
Yet Scott Perry, vice president-supply management for Ryder System, stresses that the cabover is often the truck model that makes the most sense for a large slice of his company’s customer base. “The choice between conventional and cabover designs is really duty-cycle dependent, but when you are talking operating in metropolitan markets with heavy traffic congestion, the cabover best fits that duty cycle,” he explains.