The truck is a staple of the landscape industry. With its versatility, it’s easy to load tools and equipment onto the bed, pack things up and send your guys on their way. Despite those facts, some companies prefer to add service vehicles and vans to the mix.
Lawn Doctor in Holmdel, New Jersey, has used vans since the company formed almost 50 years ago. Dave Newman, vice president of operations, says the reasoning behind this is for safety and security.
“Number one, we’re carrying around both our application equipment and all our materials,” he says. “They need to be secured. They need to be locked up so nobody can get in there and take them.”
Mark Palmer, CEO of Webb Landscape, says the vehicles help his company be efficient. “At night we can just park the vehicle and not have to unload for security reasons,” he says. “The next morning it’s right there where we need it.”
The company, located in Bellevue, Idaho, uses a mixture of trucks and service vehicles like Toyota Priuses The company’s mow teams use vans and it’s transitioning from trucks to vans for its irrigation repair technicians as well.
While it may sound like a good idea to purchase a van or other enclosed service vehicle, it’s important to consider safety from a different side.
Scott Carlson, vice president of Landscape Maintenance Professionals in Seffner, Florida, says his company only uses trucks because keeping fuel or other chemicals in an enclosed vehicle poses too much of a hazard.
“Should there be some sort of a spill of any kind, I don’t know how we’d deal with that,” he says. But, Newman says the vehicles are great for the services Lawn Doctor provides.
“Vans are great with the lawn care model,” Newman says. “Your material covers a lot of square footage. You don’t have a lot of material.”
All about image.
When it comes to enclosed vans, it’s not just the inside that’s important. Companies can benefit just as much from the outside.
“Having a van gives you a wonderful billboard platform for advertising,” Palmer says. “It’s very clean, and you have a billboard driving around town.” When Webb Landscape purchased its trucks, it was also going through a rebranding process, updating the company website and logo. Because of this, the company worked with wrap specialists to create custom wraps for the vans, to promote the new rebranding.
The result is a clean-looking vehicle – all the dirty tools and equipment are hidden inside – and it gives your company unlimited free advertising.
“It’s a hidden advantage you don’t think about initially,” Palmer says.
“Image is probably just as important to us (as safety and security),” Newman says. His company uses the larger Dodge Ram ProMaster.
“It’s a higher-profile van that gives us a lot of space with our logo,” he says. “It looks good and keeps everything nice and neat inside. People just see a great branded message.”
Fit to your model.
Switching to service vehicles isn’t the best fit for every company, and it’s something you need to think about – especially when it comes to your business model.
Palmer says his company’s switch to Ford Transit vans for irrigation crews still has some bumps in the road.
“They’re still a little unsure,” Palmer says. “It’s a little tight.”
His crews want a full-size van, but Palmer says the current model has the same fuel economy as a Ford Ranger.
“They have better fuel economy than a full-sized van has,” he says. “(Fuel economy) is about the same as the trucks. When you put the trailer on the back of a pickup truck, the fuel economy’s about the same. Not a big difference.”
Carrying your crew.
Another factor is crew size. Most of the larger box vans only fit two people, which is fine for companies like Lawn Doctor that typically have one or two people to a vehicle. But, if you need more people, it gets tricky.
“Most of our work crews are six-person crews,” Carlson says. Because of that, his company had looked into the option of a minivan to accommodate the size of the crews. If you have managers, estimators or other staff who do site visits and meet with clients, you also have the option of even smaller vehicles.
“We use Toyota Priuses,” Palmer says. “We wanted to make a statement about our environmental position.”
Newman says his company has bigger vehicles that can carry more materials, but all of Lawn Doctor’s vehicles are enclosed. “Typically for a lawn care business, a van is perfect,” he says.