One Stop Worktruck Shopping

Sept. 28, 2010

At the opposite extreme of special ordering a custom-built Class 8 severe service chassis and fitting it with a highly specialized truck body is the nearly off-the-shelf availability of many popular worktruck configurations in the Class 2-5 range.

At the opposite extreme of special ordering a custom-built Class 8 severe service chassis and fitting it with a highly specialized truck body is the nearly off-the-shelf availability of many popular worktruck configurations in the Class 2-5 range.

While some worktruck OEMs go as far as maintaining an inventory of already upfitted units that can be delivered within a few days at the most, all of the Class 2-5 OEMs keep a supply of unfinished units on-hand at upfitter locations around the country, providing the ability to configure and deliver a semi-custom worktruck in a few weeks or less.

This way, if your jobsite needs aren't terribly specialized or extreme, you have the flexibility to order a truck after winning the bid for the job, and having it ready for work when the job begins.

Six-wheel dump trucks are a popular configuration for quick upfits, as are flatbed/stakebed units and field-service trucks. Once the exclusive domain of towing and recovery operators, roll-back tow bodies are appearing in more construction fleets for moving smaller equipment from job to job. Any of these body configurations can be quickly mated up to your preferred brand of chassis, as long as you're willing to work within common body dimensions and the basic "vanilla" trim level on the truck chassis.

To be certain, the same dealers and upfitters can help you spec a truck and body that's customized from the grille to the backup alarm, but delivery time on such a unit is more typically in the range of months rather than weeks, so if your need is speed, talk to your dealer and upfitter about using a standard body and chassis model.

The Dodge Boys Go Big

After a decades long absence from anything bigger than Class 3 (1-ton) trucks, the Dodge brand has put its "horns" back into the Class 4-5 ring with the 2008 Ram 4500 and 5500 chassis cab models.

Recently, we had a chance to check out the Ram 5500 version, equipped with an 11-foot Crysteel 3-yard to 4-yard dump box and Crysteel Lo-Boy LB510 electric-hydraulic hoist system.

While this configuration isn't up to handling large-scale sitework, it's more than capable of supporting smaller projects like trench shading, driveway paving or landscaping work. A unit like this is also far more practical than a big production material truck for dealing with site-related punchlist work.

Entering A Growing Neighborhood

The Ram 4500 and 5500 Chassis Cabs will compete within the Class 4 and 5 segments with a Gross Vehicle Weight (GVW) range of 14,000 pounds to 19,500 pounds, and a Gross Combined Weight Rating (GCWR) of 26,000 pounds. Forecasts for this range of chassis cab vehicles project growth to 156,000 units by 2012, up from 140,000 units in 2006. The Class 4-5 chassis cab segment is expecting further growth of 18 percent by 2015.

Clean Foundation

Industry-standard 34-inch frame rail spacing and flat, clean frame rails on a one-piece C-channel rear-frame rail (50,000-psi steel), with all chassis components mounted below the frame surface, assure easy adaptability and versatility for virtually any upfit application. Four cab-axle lengths (60 inches, 84 inches, 108 inches, and 120 inches) are available.

Bolt-on and riveted-on exhaust brackets provide increased upfit flexibility, and riveted cross-members behind the cab allow for easier modification. The fuel filler is routed through the frame and an optional mid-ship fuel tank frees up more space behind the rear axle for special upfit applications. Fuel and brake lines are routed together on the frame's left side to make better use of space along the frame, which also has clearance for rear-exhaust routing. Electrical connections are user-friendly thanks to three-fused battery feeds routed into the cab and on to the rear of the chassis.

Strong Support

Two-wheel-drive and four-wheel-drive models feature a recirculating ball system that provides precise response and an on-center steering feel through lower internal friction. Featuring solid-beam front and rear axles, and a five-link, coil-spring front suspension with beam axle, a front and rear link-type sway bar and heavy-duty tubular shock absorbers are standard. The rear suspension is equipped with standard two-stage leaf springs for greater load-carrying capability.

Commercial-Grade Power ...

The Ram 4500 and 5500 Chassis Cabs come standard with a 6.7-liter Cummins High Output Turbo Diesel that produces 305 horsepower and 610 foot-pounds of torque. The legendary Cummins engine also delivers superior fuel economy while ensuring durability and low cost of ownership.

Providing superior trailer towing, acceleration, throttle response and drivability, the 6.7-liter engine complies with the 50-state 2007 heavy-duty emission standards. Both durable and powerful, the engine also has life-to-major overhaul intervals of 350,000 miles.

Completing the powertrain package, the Ram 4500 and 5500 Chassis Cabs offer a six-speed automatic transmission with Power Take Off (PTO) capability or a six-speed manual transmission with PTO capability. An available electronic-shift transfer case is offered and a factory-installed exhaust brake contributes to both safety and superior brake life.

... And Stopping To Match

The standard diesel exhaust brake system provides extended brake life and increased driver control while contributing to enhanced safety performance. Standard four-wheel disc brakes with anti-lock braking system (ABS) ensure superior safety and crash-avoidance capability.

Convenient Interiors

The Ram 4500 and 5500 Chassis Cabs blend interior comfort with commercial convenience.

Quad Cab models provide seating for six passengers and are equipped with four standard doors and 60/40 folding rear seats. For additional interior functionality and capability, the rear seat cushions fold up to create a tall storage area from floor to ceiling. An optional floor section under the rear seat folds open to form a flat-load floor with additional storage in each of the foot wells.

Delivering just as much flexibility, regular cab models provide generous storage behind the seat and allow for ease in reclining both driver and passenger seats.

Safe And Secure

The Ram 4500 and 5500 Chassis Cabs provide a high level of safety and security technology, including many systems commonly found on premium passenger cars. The extensive list of features includes:

  • Belt Alert. Enhanced seatbelt reminder system.
  • Enhanced Accident Response Sytem (EARS). In the event of an impact, this system makes it easier for emergency personnel to see and reach occupants by turning on the interior lighting and unloing doors after air bag deployment.
  • Four-wheel Anti-Lock Brake System (ABS). Senses and prevents wheel lockup, offering improved steering control under extreme braking and/or slippery conditions.
  • Integrated Remote Keyless Entry Transmiter and Ignition Key. The remote keyless entry locks and unlocks doors and turns on interior lamps. If the vehicle is equipped with a vehicle-theft security alarm, the remote also arms and disarms that system.
  • Knee Bolsters. The steering column lower instrument panel and the glove-box door are reinforced to further protect occupants during frontal impacts.
  • Multi-Stage Air Bag System. The system is designed to deploy based on the severity of an impact.
  • Security Alarm. Arms and disarms through remote control, flashes lights and sounds horn upon unauthorized entry.
  • Sentry Key Engine Immobilizer Theft Deterrent System. This utilizes an engine key that has an embedded transponder with a pre-programmed security key code. If the correct key is not used, the engine will shut off after only a few seconds.
  • Three-point Seat Belts. Front outboard seating positions and all rear seating positions have lap and shoulder belts.
Worktruck-Savvy Dealers

To address the unique needs of commercial truck buyers, Dodge BusinessLink was launched in 1999 with a select network of Dodge dealers who know and understand the commercial market.

BusinessLink dealers offer assistance including dedicated commercial account managers and sales teams, dealer inventories representing a higher mix of work-truck and other commercial vehicles, next-day service, extended hours to minimize downtime, free loaner vehicles, and more.

BusinessLink also includes an "On The Job" program which offers discounts on upfits, as well as direct cash incentives and savings on most Dodge commercial vehicles.

Driving Impressions

In a market where some Class 4-5 trucks are nothing more than an overrated version of lighter models, and other offerings are cartoonish adaptations of a light-duty body on a heavy-duty chassis, the Ram 5500 is a welcome respite, bringing the positive attributes of light-duty comfort and convenience into a cab and chassis that are purpose built for Class 4-5 applications.

Our test truck had yet to have its entry steps installed, yet with strategically placed grab handles built into the windshield pillar as standard equipment, getting in and out of the truck was surprisingly easy. Once inside, our fleet-trimmed model was more comparable to mid-level trim from some competitive manufacturers, yet still jobsite friendly with easy-to-clean flooring and upholstery. Engine-mount tuning and improved insulation allowed us to carry on a conversation at normal voice levels, even when the engine brake had the Cummins diesel at its loudest.

Speaking of the Cummins engine, in spite of the EPA's best efforts to choke the bejabbers out of diesel engine performance and airflow, the 6.7-liter turbo powerplant still delivers sporty throttle response, especially when you consider the size of the truck.

Apart from the missing entry steps, our only other complaint was that we couldn't keep the truck a few weeks longer.