I know many teams have trailers, but how many teams have a team vehicle like a truck, van, or SUV? I’m not talking about a student’s parent who offers to use their daily-driven truck or van to take your stuff to events, I’m talking about a vehicle with the primary purpose of being used by your FIRST Robotics team. I would also be interested in hearing about vehicles your school district owns but lets the team use on occasion.
If your team has a team vehicle, I’d be interested in hearing about the following details:
What kind of vehicle is it? (year, make, model, miles, specs, etc)
Who owns it, as in who holds the title? (A 501c3 nonprofit, the school district, an individual mentor?)
How did you procure it in the first place?
How is it registered and insured?
How do you make use of it, and how frequently?
We looked at a vehicle for the church a few years ago, and the economics for an occasional-use vehicle just don’t make sense. Among registration, insurance, and maintenance, a pickup or van costs at least $2,000 per year in fixed recurring costs. That’s in addition to what you paid to buy it in the first place and margin costs (gasoline and extra oil changes, tires, and maintenance due to reaching mileage numbers before months). If we ever got in a bind and no mentors or parents or students had a vehicle to haul the trailer, we’d just go down to U-Haul and rent a pickup for about $20 per day. As I do the math, you’d have to rent the truck two days a week, every week, for rental to cost more than owning. Maybe if you do the CDW (collision damage waiver) it’d be an average of a day a week, but that’s more than we take the team on the road.
Edit: We also purchased a trailer last year, thanks to a donation of over $9,000* from Ingersoll Rand Foundation. We’ve wrapped it in some great graphics and added solar panels to power lights and charge batteries using “green energy”. IIRC, it’s the same size as Marshall describes below, and is at least 6’6" tall inside, which is great as Atlas (our 2015 robot), Perry (my son) and I all need within a couple inches of that to get around without crouching. (Oh, yes, a local company, Lewis Trailer Sales, also cut us at least $1000 off in the purchase and outfitting of the trailer!) We use the trailer for regionals as well as robot demos at city, middle school, and similar fairs. Sometimes, we haul it just to be a billboard. We may also take it out to be in a few Mardi Gras parades, though with carnival season falling almost completely within build season this year, that may not happen. (Carnival season is 6 Jan - Mardi Gras, aka Fat Tuesday, aka Shrove Tuesday, aka Pancake Day, which is 9 Feb in 2006.)
We got a trailer this year, followed by a 14 passenger bus. The bus is co-owned by the team and the engineering department. We have yet to take it for a spin. It’s insured through the school district. The trailer is fully owned by the team, I paid for the license myself. The trailer is definitely worth it, but I don’t think we would have bought a bus if we hadn’t been told they were buying it for us as part of a grant.
Our teams are part of the school district and the 2 coaches and 2 mentors are teachers . Therefore we use school fleet vehicles. One is a 2007 Chevy midbus 14 passenger ( you don’t need a bus endorsement to drive it in MN) and the other is a 2015 ford transit 9 passenger van ( the space shuttle ) both are equipped to pull our 12 ft aluma enclosed trailer. The district has 14 fleet non bus vehicles. I, one of the team coaches am the automotive and other tech ed classes teacher. Therefore get certain privileges I am great full for.
We’re getting a trailer this year thanks to a new sponsorship. It will be a 2015 model enclosed cargo trailer (I’m not sure of the size or make yet, as the purchase isn’t under my control), owned and maintained by the school district, and we will still rely on school district fleet vehicles for towing it and for carrying students.
It would be used ~1-2 times per year for regional tournaments, in addition to any offseason events we may choose to compete in.
The decision was made because we were stuck with the choice of unbagging and disassembling the robot or leaving a student behind on the Thursday morning of our regional because there wasn’t enough space in the school district SUV. We didn’t want this to happen again, so some shop budget was reallocated for the trailer.
I definitely share Marshall’s sentiment about putting some DECALS on it!
Torbots have some access to district vehicles. We’ve used a stakebed with a liftgate the last couple of years; for now the district has placed a small-ish box truck–also with a liftgate–that they weren’t using regularly at our service (with certain terms and conditions, as I recall).
As for the other, more technical items–I’m not in a position to be able to answer those.
Yes. Trailers are vehicles. They are taxed and tagged in many states the same way a car is.
Can you drive it without a truck or an SUV? No, but it’s still a team vehicle.
EDIT: Additionally, trailers have a lower cost and therefore a lower barrier to entry for many schools. It’s a great way to get the ball rolling and we’ve had a lot of luck with mentors and parents that have SUVs or trucks for towing them in the past (we’ve just been lacking in the trailer department). If you’re having a hard time convincing a school that a vehicle is a wise investment then try going the trailer route first.
Several years ago my team had a sponsorship deal with a local chevy dealer and we were cheaply leased a new suburban every year, the dealer then got tight in their budget and so the school district bought the one we had then and still use to pull the trailer. We share both truck and trailer with anyone in the district, in our case that is the county, but we have priority over anyone regardless of when we ask to use it. We do try to reserve them early so we are not pulling them out from under someone. Usually for students we load the suburban and rent additional vans for everyone else although the last time the whole team went somewhere we did use an activity bus because it was more economical.