Trailer Body Builders: Lightweight Bodies Fully Integrated With Chassis

The need to develop lighter-weight, more fuel-efficient delivery vehicles is spurring the use of more composite materials in truck body construction. In addition, such new lightweight body designs are being more fully integrated with chassis than ever.

That’s the case with the “Reach” delivery vehicle, which combines a composite body from Utilimaster Corp., a subsidiary of Spartan Motors, with a 2011 Eco-Max chassis from Isuzu Commerical Truck of North America. 

A version of it dubbed the CV-23 prototype is now being put through an extensive seven-month long field test by United Parcel Service in five different locations across the U.S.

UPS said the first pilot test area is in Flint, MI, on a long urban route near Isuzu headquarters. The second is in Albany, NY, to gauge how it handles tough winter conditions. The third is in Tucson, AZ, to see how it handles severe desert heat. The fourth will travel rough country roads outside Lincoln, NE, while the fifth will ply urban routes near the UPS automotive group headquarters outside Roswell, GA.

“In this segment, that chassis and body can no longer be designed separately to give customers the best possible fuel economy,” Brian Tabel, Isuzu retail marketing manager, told Fleet Owner. “We need to provide fleets with a truck that’s been designed as a single, complete unit.”

He added that work started on this composite body/truck prototype over a year ago, with the vehicle now in the pre-production phase. “We expect to start full assembly in the third quarter this year, with sales to follow in the fourth quarter,” Tabel noted.

Officially unveiled at the 2011 National Truck Equipment Association (NTEA) Work Truck Show in March, the Reach is touted to get over 35% better fuel efficiency than comparable models due to its lightweight corrosion-resistant composite body that saves 600 lbs. per vehicle. And the truck is powered by a fuel-sipping 150-hp, 4-liter diesel engine.

UPS hopes to achieve a 40% fuel efficiency gain over its traditional P70 parcel delivery van design, though the “Reach” offers slightly less internal storage space, offering 630 cu ft vs.s the P70’s 700 cu ft.

Those types of fuel savings are why UPS is so intimately involved in testing the Reach. As the package-delivery giant noted in its 2009 sustainability report, it wants to improve the fuel economy of its 60,000- vehicle fleet by 20% by 2020.

“Our comprehensive approach to fuel economy has gotten results,” UPS noted in its report. “Over the ten-year period that ended in 2009, we increased the miles per gallon (MPG) of the delivery vehicles in our U.S. Domestic Package segment by 10%. [But] we’re still not satisfied. Now we’ve set a new goal for our U.S. Domestic Package segment: we intend to push fuel economy up an additional 9% from 2009, which will equate to a 20% improvement by 2020 from the 2000 baseline.” 

-Trailer Body Builders