These days there are specialist trucks for just about every application and industry. Box vans, Lutons, tractors, fridge lorries, dropsides and flatbeds are all a common sight on our roads. Curtainsiders and loading specialists such as tippers and crane loaders are also plentiful. All have their own advantages and uses but one truck underpins them all: the chassis cab.
Truck manufacturers are clearly in the business of making money and it is in their interest to sell you as much as possible. This means that it can be more profitable for them to sell trucks with finished bodies. Certainly this is the case with common body types, such as the box van, where demand is such that large numbers can be manufactured profitably at the factory. For more specialist operations, the demand is usually not big enough to justify altering a volume production line to suit. This is where the chassis cab and aftermarket conversions come into their own.
The chassis cab is aptly named. Instead of a factory-fitted body, the truck comes as simply a cab attached to a bare chassis. All of the mechanical elements of the truck are supplied, such as engine, transmission, suspension and brakes and so on, leaving the purchaser with the task of attaching a body of his choice to this basic set-up. That is not to say there are not decisions to be made before building the body. In selecting the chassis cab truck you will have to decide on the sort of engine and gearbox you require. The cab can also be specified, with either day or sleeper cabs available depending upon the requirement. Although similar in appearance, the chassis cab truck is not a tractor unit and instead will be attached to a rigid body.
Other choices to be made when buying the chassis cab will directly impact the type of body being attached. The length of the wheelbase is obviously a key decision. So too is the choice of driven and steering axles. Once these decisions have been made, the operator then has the ultimate freedom in designing and attaching the ideal body. This approach is used by many specialist operators in areas such as refuse lorries and horseboxes, where the smaller demand means that such body configurations are unlikely to be supplied pre-built.
For the used buyer, the chassis cab offers specific advantages. In many industries the actual mechanicals and chassis of a truck can withstand a long life of wear and tear but the bodies may not fare so well. With a chassis cab, buying a used truck does not need to mean buying a used body. Instead, the operator can select the ideal chassis for his needs and then add a brand new body to complete the truck. It is easy to see why, for many operators, this could be an ideal scenario. Chassis cabs can also be easier to buy. The absence of a body means that this sometimes complex area need not be checked. Instead the purchaser can focus on the core elements of the truck — the ones that are most likely to fail and lead to expensive repairs. On a chassis cab, these are exposed and easy to get to. The purchaser can therefore make a thorough visual inspection to ensure that all is well. For many specialist operators, buying a used chassis cab and specifying their own body is an intelligent way to go.