Utilimaster Corp., a manufacturer of walk-in vans and commercial truck bodies for the delivery and service market, and medium-duty cab-over truck maker Isuzu Commercial Truck of America on Tuesday, Oct. 25, celebrated the launch of the Reach commercial van with a plant dedication at Utilimaster’s headquarters located in Wakarusa, Ind.
Introduced in March, the Reach – with a body designed by Utilimaster atop an Isuzu NPR Eco-Max chassis powered by Isuzu’s 3.0-liter diesel engine – is designed to offer the functionality of a custom-built work truck along with the styling and ergonomics of a walk-through cargo van, while achieving 35 percent better fuel economy than a standard walk-in cargo van. The Reach meets the latest U.S. Environmental Protection Agency emissions standards.
The Reach concept began five years ago with Utilimaster collecting input from its core customers, which include UPS, FedEx, Frito Lay and Verizon, to design a vehicle from the ground up that would improve the speed, efficiency and profitability of delivery operations, says John Marshall, senior vice president of sales and marketing for Utilimaster.
During a test drive on country roads near Wakarusa, Ind., this CCJ editor instantly noticed the unusually sharp turning radius and driver visibility. The Reach turns six feet sharper than a traditional walk-in van, Marshall says, with 10 feet of horizontal distance separating the driver’s line of sight from the ground. The Reach also comes standard with a backup camera.
During the test ride, Marshall explained how the Reach is designed to optimize a driver’s standard operating procedures. When stopping for a pickup or delivery, for instance, the driver shifts the automated transmission into park with his right hand. The shifter is located on the dash directly to the right of the steering column. Without bending over, the driver then pulls the safety parking brake with his left hand. The safety brake is on the dash to the left of the steering column. With a click, the driver releases the seat belt with his right hand, stands up, turns to the right and walks into the Reach’s cargo area.
Once the driver takes a package from shelves in the cargo area, he exits the vehicle from the passenger side down 34-inch wide steps through a sliding door. The bottom step on the passenger side is 15 inches from the ground. For safety, a cab handle is integrated into the dash and the steps are lined with a carbide epoxy composite.
“Every second counts for us,” Marshall says. “Overall we are very happy with the outcome of that vehicle.”
To manufacture the new Reach walk-through commercial van, Utilimaster turned a 90,000 square foot facility into a production line with 22 modular stations and 5 zones. The Reach plant is capable of rolling out 40 vehicles per day with two-shift operations, says Barry Simes, director of manufacturing for Utilimaster Corp.
Executive leadership from Utilimaster and its corporate owners Spartan Motors Inc., as well as from Isuzu Commercial Truck of America and Isuzu Manufacturing Services of America, commemorated the plant dedication and product launch with a ribbon-cutting ceremony and gift exchange. They were joined by customers, government officials, media and special guests for the occasion.
“The Reach represents a great opportunity to impact our customers’ businesses, significantly reducing both fuel consumption across their fleets as well as their carbon footprint,” says John Forbes, president of Utilimaster Corp. “Today is the culmination of a focused program that benefited from the global resources and powertrain capabilities of Isuzu and the market-specific knowledge and product development capabilities of Utilimaster.”
“The continued diligent work of everyone involved on this product has positioned us for further growth in the delivery and service market,” says John Sztykiel, president and chief executive officer of Spartan Motors. “Today we celebrate the success of this team and their ability to produce a sustainable product that meets the duty-cycle demands of our customers, improved safety performance and driver ergonomics, as well as an exceptionally low cost of ownership.”
Powering the Reach is Isuzu’s biodiesel fuel- compatible 4JJ1-TC 3.0-liter turbocharged engine mated to an Aisin medium-duty six-speed automatic transmission. Both the engine and transmission have B10 durability ratings of 310,000 miles, meaning that 90 percent of units will reach that mileage before requiring an overhaul.
Utilimaster guided the development of the Reach’s aerodynamic shape, along with its use of lightweight composite materials, which together help improve fuel efficiency and reduce interior noise. The Reach van also employs impact-resistant composite panels that are designed to reduce overall maintenance costs; in the event of a collision, the vehicle’s lower body cladding can be replaced easily and quickly, reducing costly downtime.
The Reach is offered in a 151-inch wheelbase and two body lengths, 12 and 14 feet. The cargo area offers 540 or 630 cubic feet of storage, depending on the body length selected. An array of modular vocational packages affords buyers a choice of factory- or field-installed options that are designed to take full advantage of the van’s expansive aisle width and headroom. In addition, the Reach offers either rear swing doors or an integrated composite roll-up door.
“The Reach is the ideal walk-in van for today’s market because its Isuzu powertrain offers incredible fuel efficiency and proven durability, and its frame, suspension, steering and braking systems are true commercial grade, not just beefed passenger van components,” says Shaun Skinner, executive vice president and general manager of Isuzu Commercial Truck of America. “Today’s fleet and vocational buyers are looking for low cost of ownership, and the Reach lives up to its name – it reaches a new standard in low cost of ownership that no other commercial van can match.”