Help on Choosing a Truck

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vilasman

Senior Member
I am just starting out, I have my time served letter and am going for my test soon. I need to get my first truck and I am trying to decide between a mini-van a Chevy Astro and a Full sized Chevy or Dodge. I will be working in a major metro area, and be working for a master and doing side work. My side work will include service calls, new houses and small to major renovations. I plan on keeping one or 2 small jobox's in my truck to keep my power tools and my hand tools, test equipment secure. I also plan on carrying a 6' and a 20 or 24' fiberglass ladder on the roof. I will also have all the fitting and other junk that we electricians tend to collect.
I want to hear some of your expierences or recommendations on using a full sized or a mini van.
 

bphgravity

Senior Member
Location
Florida
Re: Help on Choosing a Truck

In my opinion, work trucks are like boats and motorcycles. No matter how big you go originaly, you always want a larger one soon after.
When I first started, I thought I could get away with a smaller vehicle (Ford Explorer), but with the constant trips back and forth between jobs and the supply house, with the lack of total weight that I could carry, and the disorganization and cluter made every job more of a job.
After a year of this I purchased a Ford E-250 with complete cargo racks and storage. This inproved my overall efficency greatly, and allowed me to stock the items I use most.
The insurance and gas is a little more, but the nice large and attractive advertising on the side and the organized compartments makes for a real professional look.
Regardless of what manufacturer you favor, I would definitely go with the larger of the choices you are considering.
Good Luck! :)
 

sjaniga

Member
Re: Help on Choosing a Truck

I am with Bryan, I started out with a E-250 van fully equiped, but it was difficult to carry large quantities of conduit, so now I have an extended E-250 and tow a job trailer with it, when needed. GO BIG!
 

hurk27

Senior Member
Re: Help on Choosing a Truck

We too use G3500 GMC vans and it is nice to have the room but not be to cluttered at the same time the gas milage is not as good as a mini but not having to make extra trips makes up for it.
and if you need alittle more carrying space you can haul a trailer with no problems. we keep trailers at the shop preloaded for romex or pipe and when we are called out to a rough we just hookup and go.
 

iwire

Moderator
Staff member
Location
Massachusetts
Re: Help on Choosing a Truck

Originally posted by hurk27:
we keep trailers at the shop preloaded for romex or pipe and when we are called out to a rough we just hookup and go.
That sounds great, I spend a lot of time switching material in and out of the van, even with the full-size there is not enough space.
With tools, safety gear and shelving not much floor left.

The van I am provided with is a GMC 3500 and it has been a good truck, it came from the dealer with racks and shelving.

It has a GVWR of 10,000 lbs and I have used every bit of that, it drives great and is comfortable.
 

vilasman

Senior Member
Re: Help on Choosing a Truck

One think I am not understanding here, and it maybe because I've never really done commercial work. Why do you need a trailer? So far I have worked for 4 electricians in my short electrical life two worked out of a mini pickup, one had a van and a pickup and the least one was strictly pickup.
Granted Organization was non existent and given my general lack of expierence (about 10 years) but it seems to me...
I looking at it this way assume I get my journeymans this year, my master will pull permits for me now, and lets project I get my masters in 2-3 years.
As I look at things now, I really dont want employees. I've been an apprentice and a worker and I really dont want to mistreat and dog anyone who works for me. I may take 1 apprentice at a time or maybe 2 ounce the first one gets to where I can trust him/her to do stuff.
So if stuff gets tight and I am doing a commercial pipe job or a fire alarm I can see myself with maybe 50-100 sticks of 3/4 or 1 pipe and maybe 30 rolls of wire , benders, chop saw, bands saw , drills and hand tools. All of which should fit in the back of an extended 3500 van.
In my past expierence i have gone from like a fire alarm job to a new house in a day and everything fit in a van.
Are you all out fitting an army (5-6 journeymen) for a job.
Or do you just use trailers to stay organzed. I am skittish about a trailer cause where I come from they have been known to steal bulldozers and whole utility trucks.
 

vilasman

Senior Member
Re: Help on Choosing a Truck

Okay,if i had waited a minute, i would have gotten my trailer question answered. But how would you keep the thing from being stolen. Also I will probably be working in the Washington DC area, in the suburbs the trailer would be great, but in DC trying to manuver a trailer... In dc trying to manuver and park a extend van is no fun.
 

hurk27

Senior Member
Re: Help on Choosing a Truck

It for the most part is for keeping the van orginized with trim and service materal because working by yourself you might be called on to go on a service call in an instance. and it makes it nice to be able to just unhook the trailer and run. and there are many ways to secure a trailer to make it not worth while to steal. ball locks door bars and trailers made with heavy gauge walls that cant be broke open there are even 12v alarms that can be riged up to the trailer that will work just like on a car I use a home alarm panel from radio shack every thing runs on 12v dc and will page me up to 5 miles away and then just wire up a pendelum to it to stop any one from trying to move the trailer. but the convenance is the best as you are not unloading and reloading all the time from job to job. have one set up for pipe then have one set up for rope. and I have even made racks in them so I dont have to unload 1,000 ft. roles of wire I just back up to the house and pull off the trailer through a few rollers that I set up. when ever you make your job easer the more you can get done. and that is money.
 

roger

Moderator
Staff member
Location
Fl
Occupation
Electrician
Re: Help on Choosing a Truck

Vilasman, we are talking apples and oranges here. A couple of people in this thread are talking small contracting, some medium and some a little bigger.

If you are working the scale you are looking at, a 1 ton van or truck will suffice.

We are a medium size contractor and have around 120 vehicles in our fleet covering just about everything, line trucks, bucket trucks, pickups, vans, SUV's, and cars. We are mainly commercial and industrial. (probably run less than 50,000' of NM a year and most of this is for temporary)

As far as trailers, if security (although as Wayne said there are measures you can take) and manuvering in trafic is a problem, you would have to take this in to consideration over say a gang box or storage trailer on the job site, although gang boxes are hot targets for thieves too.

Becarefull not to over extend yourself buying your first vehicle.

Roger

[ May 02, 2003, 10:42 PM: Message edited by: roger ]
 

jxofaltrds

Senior Member
Location
Mike P. Columbus Ohio
Occupation
ESI
Re: Help on Choosing a Truck

I can not find the ad. Cheve has a nice setup for a work truck. I was serious looking earlier this year. Have your local Cheve dealer and have them contact Bobby Layman in Columbus Ohio. This is not a box truck. I wish I could describe it better. It look like a very good deal.

Mike P.
 

bennie

Esteemed Member
Re: Help on Choosing a Truck

Roger has good advice. I would not want an electrician, pulling up to my house, in a Cadillac Escalade EXT, with a pipe rack on the top. :(
 

vilasman

Senior Member
Re: Help on Choosing a Truck

Your comment about the caddilac ext is quaint. I knew a brick layer who would show up in a corvette to lay bricks. The vette wasnt his only transportation and I think one of his crew would drive a small pick-up. But it was cool to see him roar up in his vette.
By the by, you could do light service calls, fix switches, light fixtures and some trouble shooting in a vette. Or an EXT.
 

charlie tuna

Senior Member
Location
Florida
Re: Help on Choosing a Truck

the size of the truck means nothing--- i see these guys doing service and the only materials in their service truck is what was left over on the last call! to properly maintain a service vehicle the minumum is a 3/4 ton full size van and better yet an extended size van with a one ton rating. the actual cost difference is less than $1500. and take a look at what you get for that money. more room, heavy dute radiator, heavy duty shocks, heavy duty tires, rear axile and gear box is built up. chevy gives you a shelving package if you have a business address. the weight an electrician usually accumulates will load a one ton van - you have the room to put stuff away and re-use it on other jobs. today's electricians need to have the capabilities to do data/phone and power. that requires room! your customer will profit from the correct selection since you will have the proper materials to do the job without running to a supply house and billing him for this time! but you'll keep your customers!! i'm on my fifth one ton van - all the others had 350 gasoline engines--this one has a diesel-gets 16 miles to the gallon weather it's full or empty! the best i ever got on gas was 8 mpg! it doesn't take long to pay for that diesel engine with today's fuel prices!!! and then don't forget re-sale value when you get your next truck!!!!!!!!!!!
 

cm

Member
Location
Pennsylvania
Re: Help on Choosing a Truck

We ran 1ton vans for years, my business is 50% service work and 50% contruction commercial the problems, with vans were as follows,breaking springs, front brakes ,roters, calipers and tires vans stress front ends the way us electricians load them up and due to the design the engine hangin over the front wheels, also ladder racks the dealer claims this is why we could never hold a seal on a windshield ,you pack up a job and get a service call you are putting material on the street to get somepthing,you are always on your hands and knees to get somepthing.The solution to the problem we had was f super dutys550 with a 11 ft utility body that you can stand up in, everything for service calls is in the side compartments,and you can pack jobs in the back windshield and front ends havent been problem, you can stand up in it and lay down a stick of conduit in it. Try to find a good used one the bodies are good for the life of two cabs and chassis.
 

jxofaltrds

Senior Member
Location
Mike P. Columbus Ohio
Occupation
ESI
Re: Help on Choosing a Truck

I think you were asking practicality. However image is everything. Your truck could be xx years old, if it is clean it makes a better impression than having a new dirty truck. My 97 looks 6 months old. Even if you have very little money look clean and speak well.

My mother grew up post WW2 in Germany. They had nothing. Her mother said even we are poor we can be clean.

Your person image is the most important marketing tool you have. We all had nothing at one time.

Even if you lose hours, schedule yourself so you are always on time. Just extented your work day.

Not to brag, I have only been late (to a scheduled appointment) once. If it is a same day call I will say noon. Then I will show at 11:15. This will knox their socks off.

With-in time you will never have to advertise.

GOOD LUCK

Mike P.
 

roger

Moderator
Staff member
Location
Fl
Occupation
Electrician
Re: Help on Choosing a Truck

Mike, very good post and points.

Roger
 

jxofaltrds

Senior Member
Location
Mike P. Columbus Ohio
Occupation
ESI
Re: Help on Choosing a Truck

Roger

Thank you for the compliment.

I can not take credit for the information passed on to me.

I will take credit for the moronic statements that I make.

Mike P.
 

dacreman

Member
Location
Florida
Re: Help on Choosing a Truck

Which vehicle has been the most reliable? I need one that will suit the florida heat and rain. Vans, trucks, Chevys, Fords, or Dodge. Please give your opinion on the best vehicle for light to medium contracting and service.
 

jasons

Member
Location
Arkansas
Re: Help on Choosing a Truck

We had been using Ford trucks until recently. My father and I were running GMC and the seemed to last longer. We bought two 2500 HD single cab and love them. They both have around 200,000 miles and have never had more than an oil and tire change. They are used daily, they are constantly hauling 16' tandem axel trailers loaded with plenty of power to spare. The Fords that we were buying would only go about 120,000 miles before major repair work started to be needed.

[ May 14, 2003, 05:02 PM: Message edited by: jasons ]
 
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