For most of the past decade, new features in half-ton pickups were aimed primarily at casual truck buyers. Now those buyers are fleeing big trucks for smaller vehicles. Core truck buyers are making up ever-larger percentages of half-ton purchasers.
Ford hasn't forgotten commercial customers' needs. The company is introducing a game-changing suite of work productivity applications called Ford Work Solutions that includes an in-dash computer with high-speed wireless internet and a printer; "Crew Chief," which monitors and helps route fleets of trucks in real time; and "Tool Link," which uses radio frequency tag readers in the truck to keep track of tools so they aren’t left behind at home or a jobsite. But these new apps don't come for free.
There are two costs associated with Ford Work Solutions: a one-time hardware cost and a monthly connection fee. The hardware costs can be rolled into the truck's purchase price and financed as part of the vehicle.
The connection costs will be a monthly bill to pay. Just like your cell phone plan, the amount you pay each month will depend on the services you select, how often you use it and how much data you send and download, plus applicable taxes and fees.
Cable Lock, developed by Master Lock, is a $120 option. It's a stand-alone, bolt-in feature for the cargo box that doesn't require use of the computer or internet connection. It functions as a flexible mechanical locking system for valuables inside the bed, preventing casual theft.
The Ford In-Dash Computer with wireless keyboard is a $1,195 option that runs on a special version of Microsoft Windows for Automotive. As a stand-alone device it has software to create spreadsheets and update forms. Data can also be uploaded or backed up through its USB port. The computer also enables access to other Work Solution features, including Tool Link and Crew Chief.
Tool Link, priced at $1,120, adds functionality to the in-dash computer. Developed by industrial tool maker DeWalt, it’s a computerized radio frequency identification tagging system that tracks tools or other valuable items in the truck. Because Tool Link requires the in-dash computer, total costs would be $2,315. For the money, you get 50 RFID tags to mark tools or valuable inventory in the truck. When the tags are scanned at the beginning and/or end of each day, a list appears on the computer screen so missing items can be easily identified.
Crew Chief provides 24x7 monitoring and location tracking of driver and vehicle through the In-Dash Computer or any computer with web access. It is priced at $380 for pickups and $425 on the E-Series van. Supply chain and mobile workforce solutions provider Microlise runs the service on behalf of Ford. It manages the storage and archiving of necessary documents and certifications related to a fleet's usage, maintenance and inspection histories, and it bills each fleet according to its chosen service package. Cost will vary based on the frequency of data transmissions and services purchased, such as route optimization or job allocation. A standard Crew Chief Data Package with web support is $19.95 per month per truck. A Data Only package is available starting at $15.95 per month. In either case, a three-year contract is required.
Other Monthly Costs
The Ford In-Dash Computer can also be connected to the internet via Sprint's wireless broadband network. Monthly charges will vary, but there are two basic price levels: $49.99 a month gets up to 5GB of total data transfer, and $25 a month gets up to 25MB of total data transfer. According to the fine print, taxes aren’t included in those prices, and additional surcharges — like the government’s Universal Service Fund (used to subsidize other telecom services) charge of up to 11.4 percent, an administrative charge of up to $1.99 per line per month, and a regulatory charge of 20 cents per line, per month — may also appear on your bill.
Overage rates on the $25 per month plan are calculated at 0.001 cents per KB (1,024 KB equals 1 MB). Signing up for an internet connection requires a 12-month agreement, with an early termination fee of $200 per line.
LogMeIn remote PC access, which allows the in-dash computer to share files with a desktop computer via the internet, is priced at $50 per year.