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‘Workhorse’ Truck Dealers Keep Their Buyers Busy

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio — The first snow of the year is (we can only hope) more than a month away, but it’s never far from Dom Mauro’s mind. A few months ago, the commercial account manager at Allstate Ford in Youngstown ordered the dealership’s first shipment of trucks that will be outfitted to plow snow and spread salt to de-ice roads.

The dealership has taken delivery of one and the rest should arrive soon. The red F-750 – the biggest pickup truck Ford makes – is going to a local township’s road department.

“They ordered it a couple months ago and it took about a month to put it together – the plow, the spreader, the central hydraulics, strobes,” Mauro says. “We do more things like that for contractors and landscapers.”

While their appearance differs little from the baseline trucks such as the F-150 or Silverado 1500 – maybe a bit bigger, but still the same look – these work trucks are designed to handle bigger loads, rougher terrain and more wear and tear.

The township plow truck, for example, has a maximum carry weight of 37,000 pounds, a double overdrive transmission and dual rear wheels. Options on the model also include a PowerStroke V8 diesel engine with 300 horsepower or a V10 gasoline engine with 330 horsepower. By comparison, the standard F-150 has a V6 engine and a maximum carry weight of between 9,500 and 17,000 pounds, depending on the axle.

The interiors are a bit more bare-bones as well, with rubber flooring instead of carpet and, in the case of the snowplow, controls for the hydraulics in place of a center console with a upholder.

While that plow is at the high end of work trucks, Scott Williamson of Fyda Freightliner, Austintown, notes that some of the trucks his dealership sells are pretty close to what a typical dealership stocks.

“They have a V6 or a four-cylinder diesel engine and are capable of hauling 9,990 or 11,000 GVW [gross vehicle weight, the maximum designed carrying capacity]. As far as the transmission and engines, they’re the same,” he says. “The suspensions are a bit beefier and the rear ends are a bit heavier. It’s almost the same body, just without a pickup bed on it.”

Most of the trucks at Allstate and Fyda have a simple cabin and chassis with no attachments, leaving the customization and purpose of the truck up to the customer. The possibilities, both salesmen say, are nearly endless. A recent truck sold by a Fyda dealership – the company has seven locations in Ohio, Pennsylvania and Kentucky – was designed so a morgue could carry up to six caskets at a time.

More typical attachments range from dumps to flatbeds and from roll offs to utility boxes. Attachments are put on the truck by “upfitters,” companies that specialize in such work and return the finished product to the dealership for customer delivery.

“The opportunities are virtually endless. You see new things everyday,” Williamson says.

But not every work truck has to be for heavy-duty projects such as dumping debris or plowing snow. Sometimes companies just need to get workers and their tools from point A to point B while handling the rougher aspects of a work site. It’s there that typical dealerships come in. Drive past almost any dealership in the Valley and you’ll see truck after truck lined up at the curb. Some are the base level models such as the Ram 1500 or the GMC Sierra 1500, but a few are the next step up.

“We probably sell four or five a month, easy. We sell more used than new, for sure,” says Mark Thomas Ford salesman Jason Banic of the F-250 and F-350. “Ninety percent of these trucks are going to be out in the road hauling and plowing. They aren’t going to rust. They’re workhorses.”

And helping the bottom line for dealerships like Mark Thomas Ford in Cortland is that buyers aren’t settling for the bottom-tier packages.

“They buy the expensive ones. They get the King Ranch, the Lariat, those kinds of specialty packages,” Banic says.

The King Ranch comes standard with a V8 engine, a six-speed transmission with tow and haul modes and all-season tires. Options include a 36-gallon fuel tank, all-wheel drive and an upgraded axle. The Lariat, meanwhile, has many of the same features, but a smaller standard V6.

When it comes to matching a customer with his truck, there’s less room for error than with an everyday car. Customers are buying trucks with prices as high as $85,000 and they expect a vehicle that will last years.

That snowplow Mauro sold is replacing one purchased in 2003. That’s 13 winters of some of the toughest weather northeastern Ohio has to offer. With that kind of money invested in a truck, along with it being a lifeline of the business, companies need to be absolutely certain that a truck fits their needs to a T.

“I try to find out what they’re going to do with the truck. Are they towing? Hauling? Are they hauling an excavator or a skid steer?” Mauro says of what he discusses with customers. “Everything’s a bit different and you don’t want them to come back three months later and tell you this truck isn’t working for them.”

There is, however, one question Mauro doesn’t frequently ask: What color?

“Something like 88% of commercial trucks are one color: white. If you look around our lot, you’ve pretty much got your choice of white or white,” he says with a laugh. “Cars are more about options and colors. That’s not a big deal with me.”

Pictured at top: Don Mauro says Allstate Ford has taken delivery of one F-750, the biggest pickup truck Ford makes, and more should arrive soon.

Published by The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.