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Posted: June 20, 2014

Aluminum Truck Bodies Break Some Myths

Finding lightweight solutions for fleets and work-trucks

By Ashley Swinehart

Many truck upfitters and restylers build trucks with steel truck bodies for fleets, construction and other industries. But with fuel prices rising, companies are looking for a lightweight alternative. Truck body manufacturers like JOMAC, began constructing service bodies from aluminum nearly 30 years ago, breaking the idea that aluminum truck bodies can't hold up to rugged use, when compared to steel. "An aluminum truck body is approximately one-third the weight of its steel counterpart," says Rich Jones, founder of JOMAC. "Less weight translates directly to fuel-savings and more miles per gallon. We consider that a win-win situation for the service truck operator and the environment." 

According to Jones, one of the biggest benefits of aluminum construction is its strength-to-weight ratio (also known as specific strength). A lightweight truck body allows you to carry a heavier load without raising the vehicle’s Gross Vehicle Weight Rating (GVWR). This has made products like JOMAC’s aluminum body a very popular choice for the propane and gas service industry. "The last benefit is a fairly obvious one; aluminum does not rust," says Jones.

The material itself isn’t the only reason JOMAC’s truck bodies provide long-term profitability to their owners.  When looking more closely at the structural intricacies and fabrication, it is easy to see why the company offers a 10-Year Return-to-Factory Warranty.

According to Jones, the company utilizes a high-strength steel sub-frame that is mounted directly to the truck’s chassis.  The sub-frame is strong enough to integrate heavy-duty tools such as a crane, outriggers, and work bench that are anchored to this solid platform. But it also isolates and protects the service body from forces generated during operation of those tools.

An aluminum full-floor assembly (or substructure), is then mounted to the sub-frame to add more rigidity and tie the entire system together. The substructure is constructed of 2” x 3” cross members on 8” centers that are all fully gusseted and welded.  From there, the substructure is covered with 3/16” aluminum diamond plate and a full cab protector is built into the front of the structure.  This extra attention to detail exponentially increases the truck body's overall rigidity and strength.  "The fully-framed JOMAC truck body is built to last and is cheaper to fix than a unibody which is mounted directly to the truck’s chassis," explains Jones.  "At the end of the day, JOMAC’s high-strength frame and substructure provides more shock-absorbing protection than the typical standard truck body."

While lightweight aluminum truck bodies are one of many solutions that can help fleet and work truck owners save money, it's important for restylers and upfitters to know what's available and investigate the options that best fit their customer's needs. 

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