All year we've seen a fluctuation in the price of gas, and for a service company with drivers on the road, that's an issue to take note of. With prices climbing over $2 a gallon in some areas, business owners are looking for vehicles with excellent fuel mileage, but enough proper storage for all a service call's needs.

This month's Truck Of The Month company believes it has found the solution. The 2003, 140-inch wheelbase, high roof Sprinter vans of Steve Huff Plumbing Co. Inc. not only stand out visually, they offer the company fuel economy, stock storage and a luxury ride.

This Sprinter was made in Europe and imported by Freightliner, but stock white Sprinters soon will be available at Dodge dealerships. It has great acceleration, says President Steve Huff, and you can't beat 22 miles to the gallon with a 5-cylinder Mercedes diesel engine (nearly 20 cents cheaper than regular gasoline, saving the company $150 a month per Sprinter in fuel costs).

Founded in 1975, Steve Huff Plumbing Co.'s first plumbing vehicle was a 1972 VW Super Beetle. Not much room for the tech, let alone service equipment.

Incorporated in 1990 and a member of Plumbers Success International since 1999, the company now has six service technicians and three full-time office staff. It also has a 2001 Isuzu box truck and three aging Ford E250 vans (all with close to 200,000 miles each). An E350 dump truck pulls the Kubota backhoe.

The unusual body shape of the Sprinters allow for customization for the cargo area.

"We used ordinary wire shelving and plastic bins from a home center," says Huff. "By turning the shelving upside down, it forms a lip to keep the bins in place."

Steve Huff Plumbing is able to put in 180 bins of various sizes to hold more than 1,000 individual parts, and still maintain a 26-inch walkway. The top shelf inside holds 10-ft. lengths of pipe and a stepladder. There is even room for a water heater and toilet as normal stock. An aluminum ramp, made by a local sheet metal shop, makes loading and unloading easier.

"To help control fuel costs, we try to send the Sprinters on calls 20 miles or more from the office because of the better fuel mileage and extra storage space afforded by the Sprinters," says Huff "Also, we try to schedule calls so that a tech will spend most of the day in one area. This avoids unnecessary trips back and forth across town."

Huff plans to replace the rest of his older, less efficient trucks with Sprinters over the next few years. Though the Sprinter cost the company a bit more initially, no longer having to bend over or crawl to reach parts, and its excellent fuel mileage make it worth the extra cost.

"The only change we will make in the specifications for the new trucks will be to go with the 158-inch wheelbase as opposed to the 140. This gives us 13 feet of space instead of 10 feet in the cargo area to work with."

Huff says the fully-stocked, efficient Sprinter is a great tool to show the public its company professionalism and dedication to that goal.