Organizing Your Ride

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Imagine working on a residential project and having a neighbor pop over to make sure you know that you’ve left the door to your trailer open. They make a comment on how clean and organized everything is and then ask for a business card. You later end up doing a job for that neighbor. That’s exactly what happened to Brooke Cambridge, owner of BLC Painting in Boston. Your vehicle can say a lot about you, so it’s important that it projects the right image of your company.

Not only can a clean, organized vehicle say good things about your services, but it saves a lot of time. A survey released by Brother International Corporation a few years ago said that an estimated 76 working hours per person each year are lost as a result of disorganization in the work-place. That’s almost two workweeks! Now is a great time to take a look at your truck, van or fleet of vehicles and make sure they aren’t holding you back.

Getting Started

When outfitting your truck or van, you have plenty of choices. You can buy a vehicle ready-made for contracting purposes, you can take your truck or van to a professional outfitting company or you can go the DIY route. No matter which way you decide to go, as always, prep is the most important step. First thing is first – put together a list of items that you keep with you regularly and another list of things that will need to find their way into your ride occasionally. Make the list on paper and then organize it from items that must be most accessible to least accessible. This should give you a basic idea of what you need: shelving for Y number of paint cans; hooks for x number of brushes; space for sprayers, pressure washers or building materials. Once you have this information, you are ready to head to the pro out-fitter or to start shopping.

If you are going to a pro to have your truck outfitted, they’ll take measurements and work with you to come up with the perfect solution for your vehicle. Werner Co. also recently released an online tool called WEATHER GUARD Custom Van Configurator that helps you create a system from their products and then directs you to a pro installer.

Stuff You’ll Need

Partitions – One component many vanowning contractors seem to forget is the partition. “Partitions are a real safety feature,” says John Corman of Cottman Corp., an outfitting company in Pa. All it takes is some neighborhood dog chasing a squirrel across one of your vehicles’ paths – a quick slam on the brakes can lead to a flying wrench or putty knife that can cause a major injury or busted windshield. Can anyone say workers’ comp? Might be best to just spring for the partition.

Shelving – You can go either metal or aluminum for your shelving system. The aluminum is a bit more expensive, but will decrease the weight you’re carrying.

Storage Bins – Plastic storage bins are a staple in any organizational system. These bins in different shapes and sizes can go a long way to keep tools and supplies transportable, clean and organized. Make sure your bins are durable. “I use uncrushable organizers for all the smaller items on the job,” says Mario Guertin from Painting in Partnership in Chicago, Ill. Don’t forget to label each bin so you don’t find yourself searching through 15 bins just to find the one-inch tape or spray tip.

Misc. – B&K Painters in Idaho added magnetic strips to hold metal tools, quick-release push levers for extension poles, and simple cabinet handles for maskers to their shelving system to increase access to items not stored in bins. A simple peg board with hooks is also a great place to hold paintbrushes, roller cages, tape … well, you name it.

Expect a little trial and error. When working with a new system, make note of any items that seem to be “hiding” in your organizational system and take some time off-site to rethink their place.

Ladder Racks

I know bungee cords and rope can be a popular solution here, but that is not recommended. “Pro quick clamp racks are a much faster and safer option,” says Corman. When looking at ladder racks, go back to your list. How many ladders are you carrying? What size? Do you want a permanent or removable rack? How do you want to load and unload your ladders? How much do you want to spend, and how often do you want to replace? Keep in mind that your racks are going to see a broad range of weather conditions, so pick something that can take it.


While you’re working on organizing your ride, you might as well think about branding your ride. Steve Burnett, winner of the PDCA Paint Your Wagon contest this year, says less is more. “Do not list all your services on your vehicles. Nobody is going to read them, and it takes away from your brand.” He also recommends use of a vanity number. “Personally, I use 1-800-PAINTING and have no plans changing. There is also 1-800-PAINT JOB, 1-800-PRO PAINT, 1-800-WE PAINT. These numbers aren’t lead generators, but make it much easier to be referred because they are so easy to remember.”

Cambridge, who credits her snappy logo for frequent recognition around town (including catching the eye of a reality TV show she was a guest on), recommends the same. “The logos should be uncluttered and consistent with all your marketing material.”

Keep It Up

Finally, keep your vehicle clean. Make sure that all the tools make it back to their home so you can keep working efficiently, and make it a point to wash your vehicle every week to keep your brand looking clean and sharp. This is your mobile office, so make sure it works for you and not against you. APC

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