Purple Service Vans Propel Cleaning Business

Eye-catching paint jobs do more than attract new customers — they contribute directly to a Colorado drain cleaner’s bottom line.
Purple Service Vans Propel Cleaning Business
Larry Wieker’s purple B&L Plumbing Isuzu work vans stand out in a sea of white service vehicles.

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In a saturated market filled with dozens of plumbing and drain cleaning companies, Larry Wieker knew the service trucks owned by his company, B & L Plumbing Inc., had to stand out from the crowd in Colorado Springs, Colorado. And his vivid-purple-colored vehicles do just that, looking as conspicuous as a technician in a clown suit — but the business advantages they offer are no joke.

“There are about 500 plumbing companies in Colorado Springs alone, including one-man shops, and about 60 or 70 that do just service work,” says Wieker, who picked the color purple for four of his newer Isuzu, cab-over-style box trucks — a nod to his days growing up in Minnesota as a Vikings fan. Jenkins Diesel Power Inc. in Springfield, Missouri, built the vehicles, which it markets as fully customizable plumbers’ super trucks. “So we decided to start branding ourselves with purple trucks. People definitely notice them — we get comments all the time about our ‘big, purple trucks.’ They definitely separate us from all the white service trucks.

“People see our purple trucks running around town and say that’s why they called,” adds Wieker, who believes in the value of good marketing campaigns; his company spends about $100,000 a year on television, print and direct-mail advertising. “It’s pretty cool to hear people talk about the equipment you have. Most everyone in this town has little vans or has converted U-Haul trucks into plumbing trucks.

“We decided that having good-looking trucks was a must,” he concludes. “If your trucks look good, people will figure you do good work. All our guys wear uniforms, too. So we stand out by doing things like that.”

Thanks to the cab-over design, the trucks are also agile enough to easily handle driving and parking. “They are great to work with. … They turn on a dime,” he says.

But marketing and maneuverability aren’t the only reasons the company invests about $65,000 to $75,000 per vehicle, says Wieker, a master plumber who started his business in 1996. He also wanted to increase the productivity of his seven service technicians (the company also employs 16 plumbers who do new construction work). And the seven Isuzu trucks (model years 2010 through 2014), outfitted with 12- and 14-foot box bodies made by VT Hackney, proved to be the right vehicles for achieving that goal.

“We started doing service work full time in 2010, when the region’s new housing market came to a stop,” Wieker recalls. “So we needed to diversify our business by doing service work. I was attracted by the overall interior layout inside the box, featuring lots of aluminum trays and bins. We can customize them — move things where we want to put them. For example, we wanted shelving arranged so we could store water heaters toward the back of our truck and put our drain cleaning equipment closer to the back, so there’s less moving it around and less strain on our technicians.”

What little service work the company did before 2010 was done with smaller trucks with less storage capacity. As a result, technicians spent too much time making supply house runs during service calls because the trucks couldn’t carry a large inventory of repair parts. “We now carry about $10,000 worth of plumbing parts,” Wieker notes. “Even if we get an emergency call at 1 a.m., we have the capability to fix just about anything.”

Each truck also carries hand-held, medium and large drain cleaning machines made by General Pipe Cleaners (a division of General Wire Spring Co.) and a power drill and Sawzall made by Milwaukee Electric Tool Corp. The company also relies on drain cleaning machines and pipeline inspection camera systems made by Spartan Tool, as well as four inspection cameras made by General Pipe Cleaners.

Thanks to the additional storage capacity for tools and repair parts, Wieker estimates that the trucks have made his company 8 to 10 percent more profitable by saving time and reducing fuel and labor costs associated with repeated supply house runs. That capability is especially important because B & L Plumbing serves customers throughout the state, with roughly 25 percent of them living in remote rural areas, he points out.

“Even closer to home, if you’re driving 35 miles out to a job, then driving 35 miles back to a supply house, then 35 more miles out and back … well, in that time, we’re now already finished with a job and moving on to the next one,” Wieker says. “I’ve never put a pencil and paper to it, but all I know is it saves us a lot of time and money. We probably do 440 to 460 service calls a month, and if we were doing more back-and-forth driving, that number probably would decrease to roughly 300 calls a month. That’s a pretty big drop.”

Overall, Wieker says he can’t say enough good things about the durable Isuzus and how they help his company foster a strong brand identity. “These trucks changed our business.”


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