Building a Versatile Service Fleet to Serve Your Drain Cleaning Business

A well-designed box truck can haul bigger equipment and more tools

Building a Versatile Service Fleet to Serve Your Drain Cleaning Business

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Sometimes thinking inside the box is exactly what you want to do when you spend the day on the road carrying a large number of tools, equipment, parts and supplies.

Box trucks are a popular choice among drain cleaners and plumbers. There are plenty of different styles and variances in each model, but box trucks as a whole provide a great solution for taking your equipment on the road.

“I would say that finding the perfect truck is an endless search,” says Josh Shelton, owner of Shelton Plumbing in New Kensington, Pennsylvania. “There’s a different truck that suits every job, so it can be a challenge to find that perfect vehicle.”

When picking out a box truck, it’s important to evaluate what aspect of the business you plan on using the truck for most, or as Shelton says, “You have to really think about what’s your bread and butter, and design the truck around that.”

Shelton and his crew have multiple vehicles on the road, and they have found each one fits a different aspect of the business.

“If we are just using the truck for service and repairs, we really like the Ford Transit cutaway with an enclosed Reading service body,” Shelton says. “We have bins on the outside, there’s enough space on the inside and it’s not too heavy.” He adds that his other Transit with a Hackney unicell body attached offers more versatility for various storage options. “It’s definitely one we are going to utilize more in the future because we can pick and choose how to build the truck in a way.”

Roger Botto, owner of Botto Bros. Plumbing & Heating in Hicksville, New York, also relies on box trucks as part of his service fleet. When Botto and his team are looking to haul some weight, they rely on a Ford E-350 cutaway box truck. For hauling a heavy load Botto, says they prefer the 350s or bigger. “We don’t use anything small because when you load them up, you’re going to go through brakes and tires all the time. I’ll use my smaller cargo vans more for alteration work, like putting a boiler in or something.”

Larger trucks not only have the capability to hold more weight, but they will also come with added towing capacity, making them a popular choice for plumbers with a large service trailer or trailer jetters.

“We bought a trailer jetter from Spartan that we absolutely love, except I feel what we should have done is taken a box truck and actually put the skid jetter in the back,” says Shelton. And Shelton plans on doing just that within the next year. With a wide range of size options available, box trucks also offer a great opportunity to mount skid jetters directly inside the truck with adequate room around the jetter to pack other equipment, tools and supplies.

Form and function

Selecting the proper fit for your business goes back to Shelton’s advice of putting a lot of thought into what the vehicle is primarily going to be used for. Whatever the intended use, there is likely a make and model to perform the task.

Mercedes-Benz cab chassis are offered in a 144-inch or 170-inch wheelbase, and each comes standard with a 3.0L V6 turbo diesel engine. Mercedes also offers factory upfits to customize the vehicle specific to plumbing with multiple options for service bins and storage shelves. Each vehicle comes with technology like Active Brake Assist, rearview camera and Traffic Sign Assist to help your crew stay safe on the road. Mercedes-Benz Sprinter cabs come with box bodies from Knapheide and IVS Hydro designed specifically for that chassis.

Ford’s E-350 and E-450 cutaway series is powered by a 7.3L V8 engine with a six-speed automatic transmission. Like Mercedes-Benz, there is a list of options buyers can choose from like wheelbases ranging from 138 inches to 176 inches. Upgrades in towing packages and interior features are also an option to customize the vehicle specific to your needs.

Ford also sells its popular Transit model as a cutaway, offering another option for smaller box trucks. The Transit cutaway packs a 3.5L PFDi V6 engine and 10-speed automatic transmission. They come in multiple models that vary in length and width and like the E-Series, several packages are available from Ford so users can customize the build to their unique specifications.

Customize your fleet

Aftermarket unicell boxes and service bodies like the Hackney and Reading options that Shelton uses are made to fit multiple chassis, so there is flexibility in choosing a chassis manufacturer and box to fit the needs of what you are hauling. Whatever box you chose, the possibilities for custom storage within are almost endless. And that is one the biggest benefits box trucks can offer.

Both Shelton and Botto offer an additional piece of advice to anyone looking into box trucks for a main or supplemental work vehicle and advocate looking into adding an extra leaf spring or helper springs for carrying heavier loads. “We’ve added helper springs to ours, and in our next truck, we are considering a system with air bags that will help even more to stabilize the truck,” Shelton says.

Shop around and explore the benefits that investing in box trucks can bring your business and keep in mind your end goal throughout your search. With a lot of options to choose from, researching and talking to professionals with some miles already on the odometer can go a long way towards putting your investment in the right vehicle. 


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