Storage Options Keep Service Vehicles Productive

Shelving units and other options help keep your service vehicles looking nice and make jobs easier

Storage Options Keep Service Vehicles Productive

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How your service vehicles are organized is a big deal. Not only does a tidy work truck or van mean more efficient and safer workflow, it is also a representation of your technicians and business to every customer who sees it.

Plumbing and drain cleaning requires an abundance of tools, fittings, valves and other equipment to be transported daily, and there seems to be an endless amount of options for storage and organization inside cargo vans and box trucks. The great thing about the multitude of vehicles and storage options is that they allow complete customization.

“The box truck we have now has Hackney shelves in it. We had a lot of fun building it our way,” says Josh Shelton, owner of Shelton Plumbing in New Kensington, Pennsylvania. “We made one side with skinnier shelves and one side with deeper shelves with space in the back for drain cleaning equipment.”

Designing each vehicle’s storage arrangement specific to a branch of your business is a great way to tackle the setup. For the truck Shelton mentions, it was designed exclusively to do things related to drain cleaning. Truck storage designed to house equipment and tools needed for drain cleaning and similar services will be set up quite differently from a vehicle used mostly for plumbing installs. Take a close look at the service the vehicle will be used for and choose the shelving accordingly.

Let your employees help, too. If you have a team member who will be the primary driver of the truck, letting them have a say is a wise choice. Chances are they will have a good idea of how they would like the flow of the vehicle to be and where things should go for how they work. Just like a mechanic organizing their tools, every technician will have an arrangement that feels comfortable to them.

With the last truck Shelton and his crew designed, they did just that. They worked together to customize the shelving as a team. “It was a great. It was kind of a morale boost because the guy that it was going to be his truck was part of the planning and part of the build. He had a vision of what he wanted, and we said alright, let’s put it together,” Shelton says.

No matter what route you choose, there are a few things to remember as a template for proper storage. Start with good shelving, distribute the weight properly and leave plenty of space on the floor.

If you choose to go the homemade route for shelving, choose materials wisely. Take weight capacity, longevity and added weight of material into consideration. Aluminum is a popular choice to reduce weight while providing great strength and it will last. However, wooden shelving can be a great option as well if built correctly and will save money compared to metal.

When building shelves, think ahead to when the shelves are full and keep in mind weight distribution throughout the vehicle. “We try to spread the weight out evenly,” says Roger Botto, owner of Botto Bros. Plumbing and Heating in Hicksville, New York. “We try to keep the heavy stuff up front and not on the rear end of the trucks because if you do, they’ll be dragging.”

There are numerous options for premade shelving and bins available that offer plumbers different options, so it pays to do some research and find one that best fits the vehicle you are outfitting. Milwaukee Tools PACKOUT systems are made to provide versatile options. PACKOUT systems use a mounting plate that can be installed anywhere on a vehicle's wall or floor and allows users to lock in the matching PACKOUT racking kits. This provides flexibility, allowing users to switch out the complete bins for different tools or equipment depending on the specific job.

The CRAFTSMAN VersaStack line of storage solutions offers a variety of modules for inside a work truck with certain storage units manufactured with wheels for maneuverability when at the job. The toolboxes come in multiple sizes for customized storage within a vehicle.

Other options are companies like American Van Equipment, which is what Botto and his team use. They offer everything from ladder racks and shelving, to partitions and bin storage systems specific to the make and models of your particular vehicle.

No matter what you choose, keeping the option open for quick bin exchange can be quite handy. Pre-set bins can be stored in the shop and interchanged quickly for various jobs. “We’ll buy a set of premade bins and we’ll go ahead and customize some stuff as far as tools and parts go. Being plumbers, we’re jacks of all trades, so we will make up some bins for different jobs,” Botto says.

Always keep in mind the space left after installing shelves and bins. The more room left on the floor, the better. Open floor space comes in handy for hauling large items to jobs. More importantly, it keeps you and your workers safe because a clean, open area to walk through means fewer trips and falls. And don’t forget to save room for a garbage can. A small trash receptacle keeps the vehicle tidy as it’s being used and saves time at the end of the day in cleanup.

Vehicle setup boils down to you and your unique situation. But keep in mind what a well-organized vehicle can mean for your company and always remember that your service trucks are a direct representation of your company. When customers see an organized space that is clean and tidy, their impressions of you, your employees and your business go up. 


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