While fleet managers understand the importance of spending a little more to get the best quality, it's not an easy sell for management who might think all truck bodies are equal.
Two fleet managers from sister Midwest dairies knew that an initial investment in quality could save tens of thousands of dollars in the long run. Now they are proving it through a remounting program that puts refurbished Johnson refrigerated truck bodies on new chassis at a cost of less than one-third the purchase price of a brand new body.
Jim Zarda, transportation dir. at Roberts Dairy in Omaha, Neb. and John Aldred, fleet mgr. at Hiland Dairy in Springfield, Mo., have both purchased Johnson Refrigerated Truck Bodies equipment for 15 years. They found that the fiberglass construction yielded durability and quality superior to steel bodies.
"The elements were just taking too much of a toll on our steel bodies," said Zarda. "We were having to do too much repair to keep them useable, and they were just rusting out too quickly. We switched to fiberglass bodies because we wanted to get 30 years of service out of a body and we couldn't do it with any brand, other than Johnson."
At Hiland, John Aldred maintains a fleet of 300 medium duty trucks, and typically replaces truck chassis after about 15 years of service. This year, the 1990 trucks due for retirement were the first to carry Johnson refrigerated truck bodies. Upon examining the Johnson bodies, he realized they were in good enough condition to hopefully last another 15 years.
To ensure the bodies last through a second chassis, both Aldred and Zarda invest in a little refurbishing. Hinges, hardware and door seals are replaced with new parts from Johnson. With a new coat of paint, new graphics and patching of any dings in the fiberglass, the truck bodies look almost new.
According to Aldred, the key to remounting a truck body is a strong floor. For this reason, both fleets switched from steel diamond plate floors to aluminum. In addition, Aldred specs his truck bodies with no wood to eliminate any deterioration from moisture, an option Johnson makes available whenever possible. Standard low-cost bodies are built with a false wood floor on top of cross members. Over time they can leak, rot and weaken.
Zarda has attempted to remount steel bodies on the 70 straight trucks in his fleet, but it was not cost effective, as they rarely went another five years. Aldred never attempted to remount other bodies because of rust.
"In competitive boxes, the rust factor makes it too risky to remount to a new chassis," he said. "The weak points would not withstand the pressure of lifting and resetting it on a new chassis."
Combined, Zarda and Aldred have remounted 21 Johnson bodies 15 years or older to brand new chassis.
Aldred points out that fiberglass is also easier to repair, and its reflective interior surface offers better visibility.
According to both Zarda and Aldred, the deciding factor when specing refrigerated truck bodies should be total cost of ownership, not initial cost.
"Sometimes it is hard to convince management to spend extra money on truck bodies," said Zarda. "But we've proven that the little extra we spend on Johnson bodies more than pays for itself. And the savings isn't just realized today or this year, it's going to pay off for the next 15 years."
Johnson Refrigerated Truck Bodies, Rice Lake, Wis., is a leading supplier of refrigerated bodies for dairy fleets. For more information call 800/922-8360 or visit johnsontruckbodies.com.