Ah, your truck. Feel the pride - and maybe a tear or two - as you think about what you've been through together.
Your truck is your constant companion on each service call. It houses your tools of the trade, your parts for the job. It may even be your office at times.
Whatever the make, model or year, your service vehicle can be your most important business tool.
In the plumbing service business, trucks must especially fit your needs in order to get the job done. Whether it's drain cleaning or water heater replacements, if your truck isn't customized to your business, you can kiss profits good-bye.
How long has it been since you reorganized your vehicle? Is it efficiently stocked? What about upgrades to make jobs go more smoothly? Have you thought about adding little comforts for yourself here and there?
Today's manufacturers are ready when you are to up-fit one truck at a time or an entire fleet. Here are some recent additions to the truck accessory market that perhaps you should be thinking about.
Shelving, Cabinets & BinsWhen a truck owner is ready to make a substantial investment to up-fit his vehicle, he tends to “want it his way.” And oftentimes this becomes “more functional than fancy,” according to Jim Moorehead, vice president, standard sales for Reading Equipment & Distribution Inc. He offered some insight into plumbers' buying habits when it comes to their service vehicles.
“Most of our walk-in customers are one- to two-truck owners. Many of these users do not plan a purchase in advance, but either have a need due to expansion, an equipment failure or windfall profits,” says Moorehead.
In terms of storage upgrades, standard shelving with dividers is not adequate for most customers. Moorehead advises roll-out shelving, which is very popular and allows the user to have access to the complete compartment.
Also, removable plastic bins with handles seem to better serve users' needs. “We have utilized products from System Ebstrom, a Swedish company, for some customers. They really have unique offerings,” Moorehead says.
Most users store items in the same compartment 99 percent of the time. But you can modify compartment sizes in order to accommodate odd-sized equipment or parts, which there are myriad in the plumbing industry.
Other service body compartment manufacturers, like Adrian Steel, feature trade-specific packages in their catalogs, and offer interior layouts with your service needs in mind. Their shelves, cabinets and drawer modules fit Chevy Express, GMC Savana, Ford Econoline and Dodge Ram vans; Chevy Astro and GMC Safari mini-vans; Sprinters; and step and cube vans.
Van shelving options you should give a chance:
- cubes for small storage
- drawer units for parts
- lockable cabinets
- wheel well units
- literature holders
- wire spool racks
- filing cabinets (with or without cup holders)
- hard hat racks
- extension cord brackets
- vise mounts that extend beyond the rear doors for working access.
Heavy LiftingMoorehead says small cranes that install inside the body load area are popular with plumbers. “Think about trying to lift an old water heater (full of rust and some water) into the bed of a truck. Either a crane or a liftgate saves a back injury.”
The Spitzlift is a useful tool for lifting heavy appliances and equipment from your vehicle when you don't have an extra pair of hands. This mini boom lift comes in a compact, preassembled package - weighing only 33 lbs. - and can lift up to 700 lbs.
Securing it to your truck, SUV or van is easy. You can either permanently attach a base to your truck by bolting the adjustable holster to the bed of your truck, or use a portable mounting system that is comprised of a hitch receiver adapter (which works with any standard 2-inch receiver) and a post base that slides into the receiver adapter. The 360-degree rotating crane then slides into the base and you are ready to work.
The Spitzlift winch features a load control disk brake that automatically locks and unlocks for safe one-man loading. You can let go of the handle, swing your equipment into place, and resume lifting or lowering.
This device has been featured in many auto and truck magazines, and was recently featured on the weekend television show “Trucks!”.
Speaking of heavy items, some truck owners are purchasing load boosters to allow the truck to remain level when “maxing” the load. “Trucks today have increased capacities, and plumbers tend to utilize every pound available,” Moorehead says.
Safety IssuesGetting in and out of the load area of your truck can be a dangerous experience. Reading offers spray liners with a “grit” base to make sure no one slips. They also offer oversized rear bumpers and access steps.
The VanRug™ by Wise Industries Inc. is a commercial van floor option ideal for carrying vibration-sensitive cargo. It also acts as a heat and noise insulator.
Manufactured from 3/4-inch foam bonded to a nonwoven fiber surface, it looks and feels like carpet, but is entirely plastic, making it easy to clean. VanRug is rugged, so you can vacuum, brush, broom, power wash or even clean it with compressed air.
Each is die-cut and molded for an exact fit to your service vehicle. The foam bottom fills the gaps between the factory floor ribs for a smooth and level knee-friendly surface.
Moorehead says one of the most requested items by his customers is a ladder rack installed on the service body and extending over the truck cab.
To retrieve roof-mounted ladders easily and safely, the EZ-GLIDE™ system from Weather Guard® Van Equipment offers an aluminum drop-down ladder rack with hydraulic action. With the flip of a lever, it can raise and lower your ladder equipment.
Interlocking ladder supports ensure ladders stay in place when stowed, and a ladder pad minimizes abrasion. Optional Velcro straps offer a quieter ride.
The modular aluminum design also eliminates the problem of unsightly rust that has been the norm with steel ladder racks. EZ-GLIDE fits most full-size vans, mini-vans, hi-cubes and Sprinters.
SecurityLike we said, your truck is an investment. And like all your major assets, you want it protected - from thieves and Mother Nature.
“Locking a door only keeps an honest person out,” says Moorehead. “Our Master Locking System (slide rod and pad lock) is the most secure device we offer.”
For more convenient security, Reading Truck Body's Latch-Matic® locking system is state-of-the-art and allows the user to simultaneously lock all of the service body compartments by use of a single key-chain-type transmitter. The key chain transmitter has a 25-ft. range, a high-performance receiver/control box with auxiliary cab lock connections, and can be easily user-programmed to “learn” up to four different key chain transmitters.
Electronic actuators are completely hidden within the door panels for a clean, professional look. It can also be programmed to work with Reading's compartment lighting option. This feature is ideal for after-dark calls. “No more fumbling around in the dark looking for a tool or using a flashlight trying to locate a part.”
The FutureMoorehead suggests reading trade magazines and visiting trade shows to stay up-to-date with options available to you. He admits that sometimes his customers are aware of offerings before he is. But take note, pricing of certain accessories (especially steel bins and racks) will be difficult to maintain due to material costs. “With that said, our customers are, and will be, more demanding when they are ready to spend their dollars.”
Now and again it's the smallest innovation to the service body industry that tends to get the greatest response from customers. “Any option or change that makes contractors' days easier or more profitable will be well received,” Moorehead concludes.