Do you know what advertising is your most constant and visible? It is your trucks - definitely. Therefore, it is important to put the same amount of thought into the color, lettering, and design of your trucks as you would any other advertising.

Here are some suggestions I've picked up through the years. All of these suggestions are relatively simple, especially with the computer graphics-type signage available today.

Stand Out

First of all, your truck design should stand out from all of the other vehicles on the road. Most of the impressions your truck makes are for a very few seconds, so it's important to have something that immediately catches onlookers' attention.

Case in point: contractor Mac Coffin of Frank Millard & Co. in Burlington, Iowa. He has all of his vehicles painted a distinctive turquoise color. You can't go anywhere in Burlington without seeing a turquoise truck, and everyone in town knows from the color that it's a Frank Millard & Co. vehicle.

In our case, we use a unique set of "racing stripes" on all trucks, letterhead, etc. Bryan, our son who is now an aerospace engineer, created this design when he was in high school. The red, black, and red striping goes around all of our vehicles and identifies the vehicle as ours. We're in a fairly large metropolitan area with nearly 700 heating and air conditioning companies, but our trucks stand out enough that I am very frequently told, "We see your trucks everywhere."

Unlike most contractors, we also use 22-foot box vans for delivery. We can put really big striping and logos on a box van. In my opinion, they make an impression. The idea is to do something distinctive that will make your vehicles instantly noticeable.

In addition to being distinctive, you want to make sure that your name is readable on the truck. There are two contractors in our area who have an interesting and distinctive logo, but it's so intricate that you can't read the company name.

It's also worthwhile to put your name on the front of your truck. On a two-lane or subdivision road, you can see the front of the truck but it may be hard to see the side as you are passing the truck. Often your truck is at a stoplight behind someone who will look in the rear view mirror. Make sure they see your name. Some companies put their name backwards on the front so the person looking in the rear view mirror will be able to read the name.

What information should be included on a truck? Many contractors obviously do not agree on a common answer. In our case, besides our name and striping, we have the phone number in large lettering. In smaller lettering we state "24 Hour Service" and "Residential-Commercial." We have now added our Web site address on our trucks. We believe that having the Web site present translates that we are a modern, up-to-date company.

Some HVAC equipment manufacturers offer truck-lettering packages. I recommend against them because they are designed to identify with the manufacturer, not to provide unique identification for the contractor.

We have a company policy of no bumper or window stickers on our trucks. Those stickers can range from something for a good cause to something in very poor taste. Since good or bad taste is in the eye of the beholder, it is safer to just eliminate all stickers.

Location, Location

We like to have our service and replacement trucks park in the street in front of the home. Not only is the vehicle more visible, should it happen to leak any fluids, it won't get on the driveway. If we can't park on the street, our second choice is to pull into the driveway and stay near the street. This way, cars going in either direction can easily see the truck.

In summary, your trucks are your most visible form of advertising, so make sure that your trucks stand out from all of the other vehicles on the road. The amount you spend will be minimal compared to the number of impressions that your trucks make over the number of years they are on the road.

Guest columnist Butch Welsch operates Welsch Heating & Cooling in St. Louis. He can be reached by e-mail at

Publication date: 10/13/2003