skierd
skierd SuperDork
2/7/17 1:26 p.m.

I work for a small alcohol beverage distributor and as the only car person on the staff of 5 in town have been put in charge of our local vehicle fleet. That currently consists of a beat to hell but still running well 2005 Isuzu box truck and a falling apart 2004 Dodge Sprinter that everyone in the office hates. The van is on the chopping block first as the box truck, now that it's finally getting regular maintenance, should hopefully soldier on for a few more years (Plus we just replaced the steer tires, fuel tanks, and are having the rear door fixed/replaced). The van is our second vehicle used mostly for smaller deliveries but that can still include 10+ kegs of beer at time and/or upwards of 100 cases of beer/wine.

The Sprinter is a flaming pile of crap to drive in the winter, and that's being generous. I've seen it get stuck in our level and flat parking lot in 2" of snow despite being loaded and having brand new Blizzaks installed. Maintenance costs are silly expensive (being in Fairbanks doesn't help, and it's a diesel, not sure if they all were or not) too and the one dealer that services them is unreliable at best.

As I look at the current landscape of commercial vans, the only vehicle I recognize are the Chevy Express. Ford has the Transit, Dodge has the Pro-master, and Nissan has the NV Cargo. Anyone have experience running these as work vehicles? I have friends at a competitor that runs the Transit vans that say they're just about worthless in snow too, but that's the extent of what I've heard.

JohnRW1621
JohnRW1621 MegaDork
2/7/17 1:40 p.m.

That new big Dodge is fwd but I have no personal experience.

The ole Chevy Express is offered in awd.

rslifkin
rslifkin Dork
2/7/17 1:48 p.m.

IMO, being FWD makes the ProMaster a non-starter for moving anything heavy in snowy areas. It'll have better drive traction when it's empty, but in most of those vehicles, more of the load weight goes on the rear axle, not the front. That means drive traction will get worse as you load it up instead of better.

The RWD vans can be a bit light on the drive wheels when empty, but as you add weight, you're also adding weight to the drive wheels, so they'll tend to do better when loaded.

This effect is magnified if you point it up-hill where weight transfer also moves weight onto the rear axle (and that's also when you need the most drive traction, typically).

oldopelguy
oldopelguy UltraDork
2/7/17 1:49 p.m.

Sometime in the next year or so Ford has indicated that the transit will be available awd. If you are in more of a hurry, Quigley does conversions and can be ordered through the dealership for @$12k extra. That is a premium, but still gets you a gas 4wd Transit for pretty close to diesel Sprinter pricing.

My cutaway Transit is pretty worthless in the snow too, but the rest of the time it's pretty awesome.

nasaZach
nasaZach New Reader
2/7/17 3:40 p.m.

I have a crap ton (30k each) of miles in both the full size Nissan NV and the little FWD nv's Both are great. The little one is tougher and way better driving than you might think. The full size is a beast. RWD though. Not sure if that matters. Drove it in a couple virginia winters and it did fine.

Rufledt
Rufledt UberDork
2/7/17 4:15 p.m.

We have had a Chevy express box van. Drove quite nice, but broke down all the time. I mean all the time. More than once between every oil change, usually electrical, or suspension related. Also wheel bearings almost yearly. It just wasn't tough enough, though to be fair ours was overloaded. Engine (6.0) was flawless.

We generally use Econolines, haven't gotten anything from the new generation yet. If you score a couple year old Econoline expect it to drive like an old truck (it's a very old platform), but ours have always held up to a lot of abuse. From the early 80's ones to the 2013 I'm sitting in right now, never had a dud.

Karacticus
Karacticus GRM+ Memberand HalfDork
2/7/17 5:03 p.m.

One thing I can say having driven a (practically brand new) Promaster as a rental cargo van is that after dark at temperatures of 10-15F, the heater can barely keep up at max, though the heat I did have was cooking my hands. This might be important to you in Fairbanks.

This was with no partition to an uninsulated cargo compartment, where it was pretty much raining-- don't know if for your configuration you'd end up with a partition to the cargo compartment or not. By the time we'd arrived, the bag we tossed in the back was frozen to the floor!

Could be this is just a given for any cargo van in your location though.

Gearheadotaku
Gearheadotaku GRM+ Memberand PowerDork
2/7/17 6:36 p.m.

The GM vans are no longer available with AWD. It was limited to 1/2 ton models only but I think it could handle being a secondary delivery unit. They made AWD Astros too, but probably too small / old for your needs at this point.

mad_machine
mad_machine GRM+ Memberand MegaDork
2/7/17 7:58 p.m.

I would think that any RWD van would be tonnes better with an LSD. I have driven a couple different variations on the Ford E vans.. from 6 cylinder 150s to diesel E350 and 450s. All were pretty bad in snow when unloaded as just one wheel would spin and you would not go anywhere.

Sonic
Sonic SuperDork
2/7/17 8:15 p.m.

They make 4wd versions of Isuzu and Mitsubishi box trucks, one has worked well for you, how about another? How about a 1 ton pickup cab and chassis from the manufacturer of your choice with a box on the back? Should be tough and easy to service.

mad_machine
mad_machine GRM+ Memberand MegaDork
2/7/17 10:17 p.m.

good point.. what size is your Isuzu?

oldopelguy
oldopelguy UltraDork
2/7/17 10:31 p.m.

A van chassis is a clear foot lower load in height than anything pickup based. On top of that my Transit 350 has over 4000# of payload capacity and knocks down almost 20 mpg. Pickups should do that, but don't.

mad_machine
mad_machine GRM+ Memberand MegaDork
2/8/17 8:55 a.m.
oldopelguy wrote: A van chassis is a clear foot lower load in height than anything pickup based. On top of that my Transit 350 has over 4000# of payload capacity and knocks down almost 20 mpg. Pickups should do that, but don't.

I thought the older framed vans and pickups used the same frame? If so, I bet the height difference is in the springs and suspension because nobody (except us) wants a high framed Van. Most pickups (at least around here) are also 4wd, hence the need for more clearance

rslifkin
rslifkin Dork
2/8/17 10:43 a.m.
mad_machine wrote:
oldopelguy wrote: A van chassis is a clear foot lower load in height than anything pickup based. On top of that my Transit 350 has over 4000# of payload capacity and knocks down almost 20 mpg. Pickups should do that, but don't.
I thought the older framed vans and pickups used the same frame? If so, I bet the height difference is in the springs and suspension because nobody (except us) wants a high framed Van. Most pickups (at least around here) are also 4wd, hence the need for more clearance

They may have been the same in some cases, but they weren't all the same AFAIK. Certainly not for Dodge, considering their vans were unibody.

DirtyDiesel
DirtyDiesel New Reader
2/8/17 3:36 p.m.

There is a company that makes a 4WD conversion kit for Diesel Sprinters all years out of the drive-train from a Mercedes Benz ML series SUV, but I'm guessing that's more than you want to spend or wrench as they are in CA.

Toyman01
Toyman01 MegaDork
2/8/17 4:25 p.m.

I'm pretty sure MB is importing the 4WD Sprinter now. I've seen them at their Ladson SC factory.

https://www.mercedes-benz-vans.ca/en/sprinter-4x4/cargo-van

Seeing how badly they rust down here, I can't imagine they would hold up well in the great salt north.

skierd
skierd SuperDork
2/8/17 6:19 p.m.

We actually don't salt up here, it's too cold for it to work. 4x4 or not, we don't want another sprinter. The Isuzu is a 20ft box truck.

Rufledt
Rufledt UberDork
2/8/17 9:39 p.m.
Toyman01 wrote: Seeing how badly they rust down here, I can't imagine they would hold up well in the great salt north.

They become swiss cheese shockingly quick. The first one i saw with rust holes in the sides was about 3 years old. It had a plastic wrap so that probably exacerbated the problem, but it was SERIOUSLY rusted to death. 3 years. I know it was 3 years or newer, because it was only 3 years after they started selling in the US. I looked it up at the time because it seemed ridiculous.

mad_machine
mad_machine GRM+ Memberand MegaDork
2/8/17 9:59 p.m.
skierd wrote: We actually don't salt up here, it's too cold for it to work. 4x4 or not, we don't want another sprinter. The Isuzu is a 20ft box truck.

20 foot is a good size. You can pick up an NPR with a 12 foot box for all your small and medium loads. Isuzus seem to run forever.

As for Sprinters. I was quite shocked that anything rusts that fast in today's world. I bet they would have given fiat a run for their money back in the 70s

MacDubois
MacDubois New Reader
2/8/17 9:59 p.m.

I used to work for a fleet company. Promasters were generally hated by their drivers and tough to service. The Chevys are old school and you give up usability and mileage to the newer contenders, but are generally bulletproof. My buddy likes his work van. One of the companies that we handled went back to these after they tried the Promasters. I really liked the Transit we borrowed to moved. (Med roof, lwb, 6cyl, sra). It was huge, easy to drive, interior was well thought out. It would be my first choice. I have no personal experience with the big Nissan, but it sounds like it's a good option and mostly reliable. almost nobody in the fleet had them.

TIGMOTORSPORTS
TIGMOTORSPORTS HalfDork
2/9/17 5:00 a.m.

I have a friend with a 2000 Chevy Express Van with almost 400,000 miles he bought used a long time ago. He delivers newspapers 7 days a week with it. He is in WI, its reliable in the winter.

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