A package deal on a Sprinter van

By: Jeff Jensen, Editor
Posted: Nov 16th 2004 6:01AM

It wasn't that long ago that when it came time to spec' out and outfit his truck, the prospective expediter might be on his own.

Of course, the expedited carriers had their requirements as far as truck specifications, but for additional equipment such as e-track and cargo securement equipment, van flooring and other items, the new owner-operator had to locate the supply company and find someone to install it or do it himself.

As the industry grew and it's specialty needs were recognized, truck and van dealers began to offer total expediting packages. Today, there are a number of experienced dealers who can provide the expediting owner-operator with turnkey solutions to his equipment needs.

A partnership

Express-1 of Buchanan, Michigan has been in the vanguard of acceptance of the Freightliner/Dodge Sprinter van. The company has welcomed Sprinter owner-operators and due to this van's increased cargo capacity, it offers those Sprinter drivers better rates for specific loads over those for the typical cargo van. Or, as Express-1 recruiter Scott Hancock states, "Our Sprinters live in a world between the B and C units."

To assist the new Express-1 owner-operator in finding and equipping a Sprinter van, the company contacted a Dodge dealer in Valparaiso, Indiana, a little over an hour away from the Express-1 headquarters.

Scott Hancock tells of the background of this association:

"We had a meeting with Brad Hallal, the expediting specialist at Grieger's Motor Sales in Valparaiso. The idea was to provide a service to our potential drivers. and work with a dealer who could provide the proper set-up for expediting."

"Brad wanted to know what the essentials were for expediting in a Sprinter, so a buyer could take the van over to Buchanan and start making money right out of the box."

He explains: "For example, if a prospective expediter based out of the south wants to sign on with Express-1 in a Sprinter (and with advance notice), he can pickup the van at Grieger and bring it to us. We'll put the Qualcomm Satellite equipment in the truck, put his decals on and he's ready to go to work."

The dealer

Brad Hallal of Grieger's Motor Sales picks up the story:

"I'm very pleased to work with Express-1 and our referral program has been very successful."

"The goal of the program is to have a Dodge Sprinter ready to hit the road when the customer is ready to pick it up."

"I can equip a Sprinter with anything the buyer needs and that can include e-track, 5/8" plywood flooring, pallet grabber, ratchet and tow straps, wheel chocks and many other accessories. We have what we call an Express-1 package that contains many of those features."

Hallal says that he fields requests for more elaborate sleeping arrangements for the Sprinter, but cautions against it:

"I've had many questions about Sprinter sleeper conversions, but I usually suggest that the buyer instead opt for our Bentz Transport Products fold-down bunk that's attached to the wall on the driver's side. A sleeper is, of course, very comfortable, but you're looking at taking 14' of floor space and cutting it down to 9 1/2'. It all comes down to profitability."

"Besides, we can offer a buyer many other amenities in the area of driver comfort like power inverters, auxiliary batteries, an insulation package and a rear heat - a/c package. We can also install an XM or Sirius satellite radio in the Sprinter as well as a GPS system. In addition, we make the truck DOT compliant with a road safety kit and fire extinguisher."

Hallal says that his dealership e has a very effective network that he uses to find the sometimes hard to find Sprinters.

"I am very aggressive when it comes to finding a van for a customer. I've gone to New Jersey, Florida, Missouri and Kentucky to find a Sprinter for a buyer."

He says, "We began to specialize in Sprinters for expediting and commercial work in October of 2003. I had an expediter come into our dealership and he told me about expediting and its needs. Little did I know that when we first started stocking the Sprinter that just a year later, we would be selling four or five every month!"

Grieger Motor Sales is centrally situated near South Bend, Ft. Wayne, Ohio and Chicago and is the only Sprinter dealer in Northwest Indiana, says Hallal. He adds that because he understands the expediters' needs, he can provide them with a profitable vehicle.

"We get this business because the customer will go to his local dealer and he's met with, 'expediting, what's that?' Or, the dealer will try to put him in a Sprinter 3500 with dual rear wheels, and we know you can't fit a pallet in that truck."

"I've had customers fly in from North and South Carolina, Missouri, Wisconsin. We discuss his purchase over the phone, fax or email. This way, the customer won't find any suprises when he buys from us because we know his needs in a Sprinter."

"If a customer comes in from, let's say Florida, we'll pick him up at O'Hare in Chicago and bring him back to the dealership in the morning. We'll take care of all the essentials and get them on the road to Express-1 and orientation."


"We run our business vehicle financing through Daimler Chrysler and they know commercial business financing," states Hallal.

"My business vehicle finance people try to structure the financing so that the customer wins in the end. If the customer has a van that they'd like to trade-in three years after purchase and they still have three years of payments left on it, that customer will really be upside down."

"Daimler Chrysler has been fairly liberal in extending credit on the Sprinter purchases. One example of this is the story I heard about is how a professional clown, fresh out of clown school (but with no real clown experience) was able to finance a Sprinter with a small down payment."

"I also have some in-house national banks that provide financing, so I can help most buyers that I talk to."

Hallal says that he understands that finding vehicle service while on the road can be frustrating at times, "We have a service department that stays open until 2:00 am, Monday through Thursday. And, we're failrly close to the major highways; we're right on Route 30, 12 miles east of I-65."

Express-1's Scott Hancock says, "We have a great relationship with Brad and his dealership.  It's all about helping our Sprinter van contractors find what they need and becoming profitable as quickly as possible." 

Grieger's Motor Sales

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