How to keep your service vehicles stocked efficiently.

One Tidy Truck
A.C.M. Appliance Repair Service, Binghampton, N.Y.

Our Truck Of The Month features focus mainly on exterior appearance - a catchy slogan, an attractive graphic, an unusual color combo. But beauty is more than skin-deep for a contractor's truck, and everyone knows that the business end gets done from the inside.

Take a look at the neat-as-a-pin interior of Anthony C. Milkovich's truck. “This is my only truck so it's my rolling shop,” Milkovich says. He runs A.C.M. Appliance Repair Service, Binghampton, N.Y. The name's a bit of a misnomer since his main line of business is plumbing, HVAC and electrical work. “I did try to change it to better reflect what I do now, but my customers howled,” he says.

Since he chooses not to do any Yellow Pages advertising, he kept the name since everyone knows it. “I have to keep more than 2,200 customers happy,” he says.

Instead of buying a truck and then figuring out how to use the space inside, Milkovich speced a box size to fit his needs and installed it on a cab-and-chassis truck.

“The clear bins on the left allow me to instantly see what I am looking for as well as perform a one-minute visual inventory when it's time to restock,” he says. Each tool chest drawer is also labeled so anyone else can quickly get what is needed. What readers won't easily see is lights for night work, a ramp for easy access and room for large equipment such as water heaters. Plus, check out the white board to one side to help draw plans and discuss what needs to be done.

“Other contractors I work with love the truck,” Milkovich says. The clean design even helps get business. “I've been loading up supply and have had homeowners hire me to do work solely on the basis of its organization.”

Prompt Customer Care
Emergency Response Plumbing Services, Matthews, N.C.

David Parker, eight-year owner of Parker Plumbing Inc., learned from Plumbers' Success International that you “build your business to sell.”

In order to turn his company into one that could be sold, franchised or operated anywhere, he made a slow transition toward a new name and a specialty of emergency response plumbing service. Changing his seven vehicles to resemble ambulances has been the key to his recent success, and the reason we chose the company's vehicles as a Truck-of-the-Month.

“People don't relate to a person's name, but they can relate to an ambulance,” says Parker of the company's moniker. He repainted the vehicles and trademarked “Emergency Response Plumbing Services,” as well as the logos that tie it all together, in 2003. Since that time he has seen huge results: 46.6 percent increase in sales; 42 percent increase in calls due to his trucks; 300 percent increase in equity.

The fleet includes seven Hackney box trucks and vans. The Hackneys are vital for Parker: they come prebinned and just need to be loaded up. They can carry thousands of parts, as well as water heaters, camera and cable machines, and any other equipment needed for emergency calls.

“I thought, 'What can I do to capitalize on my image as an emergency response service plumber?'” Parker recalls. “Everyone offers 24-hour service. How can we be different?” For a more realistic touch, Parker checked with his municipalities and found he could run amber lights on the vehicles - like a tow truck - to really stand out.

They're so realistic, neighbors of the customers he services come out of their houses to ask if there's anything wrong. “Once they realize it's a plumbing service truck, they have a laugh. But they don't forget us.”

Parker admits he has had to take a leap of faith when redesigning his company. As a specialist in emergency calls, he had to be sure his team of seven service technicians would want to work the sometimes-late schedules that emergency calls require. The staff rotates the schedule for equality.

Another important part of committing to emergency response plumbing service is the capability to respond promptly to a customer call. “When somebody calls a real ambulance, they rely on its ability to get there right away. Same thing with us.”

His technicians are trained how to handle customers going through a plumbing emergency. Parker holds weekly training meetings at the office, and takes part in PSI's Millennium Academy.

The response to the ambulance design has been phenomenal in such a short period of time, according to Parker. “I never would've fathomed the results to be so great, so fast.”

The Hackney trucks have played an important part. “You can't afford to say, 'Wow, I don't have this,' while on an emergency call.” The massive storage capacity of the trucks eliminates the problem of running to get supplies.

Initially, it was an expensive undertaking to get the vehicles ready for the road, Parker admits, but they've paid for themselves in the positive results and sales they've produced.

Adrian Steel Co. offers a comprehensive factory installation program for service vehicles. Its trade-specific packages are designed to fit vans with various interior layouts of Adrian's high-quality shelves, cabinets, drawers and partitions. Maximizes space, efficiency and organization. www.adriansteel.com

Supreme Corp.'s Spartan Service Van has numerous compartments and shelves for transporting tools and other cargo. The durable, single-wall construction adds 22 percent more total space, and features a redesigned rear-access ladder to allow back doors to open more fully. www.supremecorp.com

A.R.E. Inc. offers its Deluxe Commercial Units with rugged, fully-welded aluminum frame construction. Features more than 200 options of door and window configurations, colors, toolboxes, side panels, overall cap heights, and custom ladder racks. www.4are.com

The new Gorilla Slide from Highway Products Inc. makes loading and unloading heavy items from work vehicles faster and easier. Made of heavy gauge 1/8-inch aluminum, it glides on sealed roller bearings and is rated to handle 1,200 lbs. www.800toolbox.com