Q&A: Everything you need to know about truck body building
After 30 years in the industry, Mike Lawson has worked behind the wheel, on the dealership floor and now builds custom bodies for All Truck Bodies in Victoria.
Mike sat down with Isuzu Australia to tell us everything you need to know before heading to the bodybuilder.
How did you get into truck body building and how long have you been involved in the business?
I’ve been around trucks for as long as I can remember. I spent some time as a driver taking general freight up and down the east coast, after which I moved onto selling trucks, and then progressed to truck bodies.
With body building I was indirectly involved for about four years before I was asked to join All Truck Bodies 18 months ago. It was quite a jump, but I saw a new challenge and went for it.
What skills do you think are crucial to being an effective truck body builder?
I think you have to have a full understanding of the customers’ requirements and be able to interpret what they want.
You also need a fairly solid understanding of the legal requirements when building a truck. You’ll have clients who want a particular body and chassis that’s unsuitable for legal reasons – being able to recognise that is important.
What do you need to consider as a customer before getting started?
Consider what you’re looking to carry and how it needs to be carted. Factors like if it will be affected by weather or temperature, or whether you’ll be using a forklift for loading and unloading.
Knowing your licensing requirements is important too. We often get asked to build bodies to carry four tonnes on a car licence, which you can’t legally do.
What are the most common customer mistakes you see in body building?
We often have customers who buy a chassis that’s the wrong choice for what they’re trying to do or carry.
What would be your best piece of advice for someone considering using a body builder?
There’s a multitude of body builders around – so go for quality, not the cheapest you can find. And be sure to check their warranty and backup services, good body builders will usually offer full warranty and repairs on all bodies.
Make sure they have a good industry knowledge and longevity, check how long have they been in the industry.
Another thing to look out for is the willingness to have you involved as a customer in the build process. The thing we find with specialised bodies is having the customer present at various stages of the build saves so much heartache at the end. Some body builders don’t allow that opportunity, but we encourage it – people should be able to check they’re getting exactly what they have asked for.
Tell us about the most specialised build you’ve been involved in?
I recently worked on a build for an energy battery recycling and sales business, which had specification requirements for dangerous goods.
They also needed a work station on the body to produce invoices on the go, along with specialised shelving and work spaces.
We’ve also built a truck for a road line marking company that requires a lot of specialised equipment. They have board height requirements and their workers need ready access to various parts of the body, so that was quite a challenge.
Do you have any tips on buying the right truck?
Knowing your application is key. You need to know exactly what the requirements are, which licence you’ll need, and if there are any restrictions involved with that licence.
Be aware if you have to deliver into underground car parks, which throw up height restrictions. Small things like that make a huge difference when deciding on the truck.
Are there any particular applications, i.e. pump/refuse/concrete/food trucks you enjoy doing more than others?
I enjoy jobs that are not your standard builds. When a customer comes in with a concept in mind and we throw ideas around to turn that idea into a reality – that’s a real highlight of the job.