Contractors have several choices of cab forward chasis in the Class 4 truck category. If you're in the vehicle-purchasing mode, this is a must read.

commercial truck

Isuzu's truck sales in the Class 3-8 range have increased about 25 percent since last year.

The advantages of large, cube-style boxes on light commercial truck chassis include the ability to carry a much larger inventory and to serve as rolling billboards.

Plumbing and HVAC contractors have an extensive array of cab-forward chassis in the Class 4 truck category (14,000 lbs. GVW) to choose from. In past articles, we've talked about the advantages of large, cube-style boxes on light commercial truck chassis, including the much larger inventory they can carry as well as their ability to serve as rolling billboards.

The most popular Class 4 cab-forward commercial truck chassis for contractors has been the Isuzu NPR. Isuzu currently enjoys dominant market share over other chassis manufacturers with an extensive dealer network and repair facilities in place. Isuzu's truck sales in the Class 3 to 8 range have increased by about 25 percent since last year. Initially, Isuzu first offered a Class 3 cab forward truck in the 11,500 lbs. GVW range. Over time this GVW increased from 12,500 to 13,500 and to its current 14,500 lbs. rating. (With the higher GVW rating, we've heard repeated reports about how the rear leaf springs are wearing out much quicker.)

Isuzu now offers the NPR HD and the new NQR, with a rating of 17,950 lbs. GVW, although it is the same size and looks identical to the NPR. Its newest vehicle is the NPR HD. It features four full doors and provides ample room to carry four or more employees to a job site. The titling cab feature, however, is missing from the newer vehicle.

All 2002 model year NPR trucks now come with the fuel tank mounted between the frame rails. This location provides more space along the frame rails, to allow for more compartment-type storage boxes. I would've preferred to see a combination of a side diesel fuel tank and a center-mounted rear tank as doubling the fuel capacity would decrease the frequency of refueling.


Nissan produces a diesel cab-forward truck series under the UD name. I've spoken to several Class 4 UD truck owners who have driven more than 350,000 miles without experiencing any problems. Now that is my idea of vehicle reliability and life. Nissan's Class 4 cab-forward truck model is the UD 1400, which comes equipped with a 175 hp diesel engine and the Aisin transmission.



commercial truck

Mitsubishi has come on strong in the last two years.

Mitsubishi has come on strong in the last two years, especially after receiving an endorsement from well-established Los Angeles-based plumbing contractor Mike Diamond. Diamond has purchased approximately 75 of the FE-SP model (a 14,500 GVW rated truck). The manual transmission model comes with a 145 hp engine, but the automatic transmission version comes with a bigger 175 hp engine. Diamond says he's been happy with them, although none of the trucks have a significant number of miles on them yet. One great feature is a dash-mounted button (and light) that-when pressed-tells the driver whether the oil level is correct and determines the condition of the oil, with a green light indicating approval. It also has four-wheel ABS disc brakes, front and rear, with a built-in electronic wear sensor and warning light on the instrument panel, which allows the owner to schedule maintenance long before the rotors need to be replaced.

Although it's not available in California, Mitsubishi is the only Class 4 cab-forward truck manufacturer that produces a four-wheel drive truck. For contractors based in other parts of the West or in very rural locations, Mitsubishi's FG truck is an ideal choice, especially with the optional limited-slip differential, which gives the FG excellent grip and control in mud, snow or slippery conditions.




Hino's cab is somewhat bigger and more upright than the other truck models.

Hino is another truck manufacturer that has been around for many years, although it is not as well known among plumbing and HVAC contractors. Hino trucks are probably the most expensive, but it's because of the their quality. The cab is somewhat bigger and more upright than the others and comes with a really nice shelf located above the flip down sun visors. The common model is the FB1517, rated at 15,000 GVW. The FB1817 comes with air brakes just like the big rigs. Hino believes more strongly in drum brakes. Although disc brakes on Class 4 trucks are really easy to service yourself, I hear a lot of anecdotal evidence that drum brake shoes hold up for many more miles.

Hino doesn't have quite the dealer infrastructure that Isuzu does, but Hino counters this by allowing purchasers to select their own local truck repair facility and that operation becomes the designated warranty center.

Final Analysis

duty 5-speed automatic truck transmission for these types of commercial trucks, but none of the manufacturers (mentioned here) specify them with Allison's 5-speed automatic transmission. Compared to the current 4-speed automatics, 5-speed shifts would appear to be smoother and the engines would rev in a more appropriate rpm window and realize more increased fuel economy.

With so many choices, it pays to fully research all the different truck offerings, and don't forget to talk to your colleagues and find out what their experiences have been.


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