Automakers offer advice on purchasing urban delivery vehicles

by Anna Wiber
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Mercedes Vans
Delivery vehicles should be customized to fit the company’s and driver’s needs. Source: Mercede-Benz and Freightliner Vans

Whether it’s agonizing stop-and-go traffic or inefficient access points, making deliveries in an urban setting isn’t easy. However, clearing these hurdles is less painful with a vehicle that can contend with this challenging environment. A variety of options are available to bakers like never before, making it the right time to invest in and diversify their fleets, said Jan ten Haaf, department manager, product management, Mercedes-Benz and Freightliner Vans.


Overall reliability, driver safety and fuel economy remain the top issues purchasers need to consider. But for many buyers, the price tag seems to get in the way. Setting aside a vehicle’s functionality and solely focusing on cost is the most common mistake. The allure of saving money upfront is hard to resist, but it will probably end up costing more in the future.

“When businesses make a decision to purchase anything, they want to feel assured that they will have a positive return on investment,” said Brian Tabel, executive director of marketing, Isuzu Commercial Truck of America, Inc. “A delivery vehicle is no different. Businesses want vehicles that are durable, run efficiently, are easy to drive and have a low cost of ownership.” 

Must-have features
Due to the stop-and-start duty cycle, delivery vehicles are exposed to more wear and tear in urban environments than in their rural counterparts, said Mike Stark, product manager for commercial chassis, Freightliner Custom Chassis Corp. (FCCC).

“With that increased stop-and-start application, you’ve taxed certain systems such as brakes, alternators, starters and the ¬vehicle’s body,” he said.

Ongoing construction and packed streets also make mobility and maneuverability increasingly important. Vehicles should be able to make sharp turns and drive through alleys and tight parking spaces.

Brian Cotter, public relations specialist, Mercedes-Benz and Freightliner Vans, advised manufacturers to weigh out the costs of service intervals and routine maintenance before purchase.

“Time in the shop is time they can’t be using their van to make ¬money,” he noted. “You really want to maximize on-road time.”

Factoring these issues in, bakers need to consider the durability of each system within the automobile as well as how the driver interacts with it. Step vans and cargo vans are the most popular choices, and automakers have rolled out vehicles to meet their needs.

FCCC’s MT chassis offer bakeries a walk-in option that makes it easier for drivers to get into and out of, leading to faster deliveries. From fuel options to cockpit and safety features, each vehicle is customized and built to meet the manufacturer’s specifications. Responding to concerns about brake life, the company rolled out a new package in 2016. Its new four-piston brakes triple brake pad life, compared with the pin slide brakes it was using before.

The original producer of Euro-style delivery vans, Mercedes-Benz brings two options to bakers: Sprinter and Metris. Designed to thrive in large metropolitan areas, the Metris is a mid-sized van while the Sprinter is larger. Both provide maximum cargo capacity on a small footprint. In 2016, the brand unveiled MasterSolutions, which allows manufacturers to upfit their vans with specific features such as shelving or refrigeration.

Isuzu offers a range of N-Series low-cab forward vehicles that have been used around the world in older cities with narrower streets than seen in the United States. Built in a variety of sizes, these vehicles have a tight turning radius and high visibility that allows the driver to get closer to objects in front of them while easily navigating around the obstacles next to and behind the truck.

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