Light vs. Medium Duty
Deliberate Your Next Purchase By Brian J. Riker
Brian J. Riker is a third-generation towman, with 26 years of experience in the ditch as a tow operator, and president of Fleet Compliance Solutions. He specializes in helping navigate the complex world of federal and state transportation regulatory compliance. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
llow me to dive into the topic with a comparison between light and medium duty trucks for your next purchase. In this article I will assume you can only purchase one or the other. Bigger is better, right? Not always! While I dislike turning down calls, as do most of the towers I know, we can’t be everything for everybody. At least most towers can’t, their areas just don’t support the revenue required to have a completely diverse fleet at their disposal. So how do you balance the right most of the time truck against the truck that could do it all? Perhaps the most important question to start: what mix of work do you have, or intend to have, in your service area? This is critical to selecting not only the right size truck but also the correct type of body. If you deal with mostly cars and light trucks that breakdown on the highway or in tight spaces then perhaps a self-loading light duty wheel lift wrecker is the best fit. If you are in an area where dually pickup trucks out number basic sedans then maybe a 12ton body with traditional L-arms on a class 6 chassis is the better choice. Or maybe a carrier is the right fit for your mix of work, especially if you do very little winching, recovery or police work. Equally as critical are specifications or equipment requirements that may be imposed upon your company by law enforcement contracts, existing customer commitments or planned growth. Be sure to review the details of any contracts you have, or plan to have, before deciding on your next truck purchase so that you buy the right spec’d truck the first time. Once the workload mix has been determined the next question is who is going to drive the truck? It doesn’t do you any good to have a true medium duty wrecker (gross weight rating over
12 • June 2021 | Towman.com
26,000 pounds) if you don’t have any CDL-A drivers available. True, even a light duty truck can accidentally wander into CDL-A territory although it is rare and can be avoided unlike with a truck that is a CDL required vehicle even unloaded. Another consideration is the skill level of the available driver pool. Can you find the right driver that can be trained to operate a larger truck, or do you need to stay with smaller trucks for the comfort level of the available workforce?
Keep in mind that every truck and tow body has a design limit and
safe working load rating for a reason. Keep in mind that every truck and tow body has a design limit and safe working load rating for a reason. A great example of this is a typical light duty tow truck with a gross vehicle weight rating of 19,500 pounds. This is the perhaps the most common tow truck in the industry today, yet it is also the most often overloaded truck in the industry. Why? Simple, empty this truck is going to weigh in around 15,000 pounds (more if it is a 4x4, extended cab or long wheel base) leaving about 4,500 pounds of payload. Sounds good given the average car is about 4,000 pounds, right?