Dan Doucette is a rare breed in the work-truck industry. He's spent 27 years as a vehicle design engineer working for fleets, equipment manufacturers and, currently, a leasing company.

As an applications engineer for Mike Albert Leasing in Cincinnati, Doucette is convinced that getting the maximum value out of today's work trucks requires closer cooperation between fleets and suppliers.

"What we need most of all in this industry is what I call ease of business," Doucette explains. "When we're talking work trucks, we're usually talking about them in relation to companies whose primary business is not operating a fleet of vehicles. They're plumbing contractors, construction firms, or electric and gas utility companies. They use a truck as a tool to get a particular job done."

Many of them are looking to the industry for help in getting vehicles that are easy to use and easy to retire at the end of their life cycle.

"Standardization is a key topic in this industry," he says. Standard work trucks are easier to integrate into a fleet and easier to build; in addition, leasing companies say that customers find them appealing.

Doucette takes something as simple as a vehicle's base coat or paint as an example. A plain white coat for a work truck illustrates that "ease of business" concept. Fleets can apply and remove company logos to a white background easily, and it's one of the cheaper paint options for manufacturers. It is also an easier vehicle to sell as a used truck.

"That's only a small example of why we need to work closer together as an industry," Doucette says. "The way we've done business over the last 27 years has, by contrast, been way out of concert; we have not worked together to understand each other's needs."

"That's why forums such as the National Truck Equipment Assn.'s Work Truck Show are so important. They allow all the parties involved in using, building and selling work trucks to understand each other's needs and make work trucks easier to build and use."

Doucette says this is especially true with respect to the leasing business. Mike Albert Leasing, for example, is an automotive leasing and fleet management specialist that recently started leasing medium-duty work trucks.

"You can make good money in the truck leasing business if you know what you are doing," he explains. "The key to that, of course, is making the process of acquiring the properly spec'd work trucks easier for fleets, leasing companies and manufacturers. That is why communications between those three groups is such an absolute necessity."

"This industry needs to take a second look at how to put together and use work trucks," says Doucette. "We need to be able to sit down with those fleet managers and give them a good, standard truck that fits their needs--but that also fits our needs in terms of manufacturing and resale."

RELATED ARTICLE: Work Truck Show 2002

Mark your calendars for March 5-8. The Work Truck Show 2002 will be held at the Orange County Convention Center in Orlando FL, in conjunction with the 38th Annual NTEA (National Truck Equipment Assn.) Convention Hundreds of industry suppliers including major chassis manufacturers of work trucks and equipment form class 1-8, will exhibi their products. It's a one-stop marketplace for commercial fleets with a variety of needs.

Immediately preceding the show, NTEA has scheduled a 2002 Economic Update from 9:00 a.m. to 12:00 noon on March 5 that will offer attendees insight on the economic outlook for the work truck industry both from the supplier's and the user's side.

To register for the show and conference, call NTEA's fax-on-demand service at 800-700-2099 and request document #1110, or visit the company's web site at www.ntea.com. Those interested in attending the Economic Update can register by calling 800-441-NTEA or sending an e-mail request to dawn@ntea.com. The fee for this hall-day conference is $75 for members, $125 for non-members.

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