Tops in Trucks 2010: They’ve Got The Look

Originally published
Originally published: 6/1/2010

HVACR Business’ 2010 Tops in Trucks winners communicate their marketing messages with purposeful, eye-catching designs.

This year’s Tops in Trucks contestants have a lot to say, and they say it with their fleets. From the four-truck fleet of Sun Services in the small town of Fountain, AZ, to the 275-vehicle fleet of Chicago’s Four Seasons Heating and Air Conditioning — these contractors have designs that turn heads and tell their story.

HVACR Business chose Sun Services, Four Seasons, and Frederick, MD-based Frederick Air as this year’s Tops In Trucks winners.

It was not an easy choice. Each year we choose from a large batch of entries from across the country for top winners and runners-up in Lettering, Manufacturer Sponsored, and Full Wrap. This year, coming off of one of the worst recessions in U.S. history, we had more entrants than ever, and they were some of the highest-quality entries we’ve ever seen.

Could it be that those contractors that invest time, money, and attention in fleet design and maintenance are naturally the top businesses in their communities? Judging by the winners’ comments on their entry forms, it’s for sure.

“We do business in a small town of about 25,000 people,” explains Drew Timm, owner of Sun Services. “I have people tell me all the time, ‘I see your trucks all over!’ They love the desert theme, and the Phoenix Suns’ colors are purple and orange, which are easily recognized here.”

The judges gave Sun Services high marks for a detailed and well-illustrated design, which Timm created himself. The design is such that a viewer can look at it again and again and still see new detail. Yet, the desert landscape is compact and contained to the lower portion of the van, which leaves ample room for a large phone number and a list of services. It’s a design that definitely sets Sun Services apart, says Timm. Surprisingly, none of his competitors incorporate the motif in their fleets.

Likewise, Frederick Air’s design “stands out in a crowd,” says President Steve Schmidt. The subtle background shows both a building and a house, a clever design device that conveys the company’s dual service offerings. The bright read and blue scheme also makes both the Frederick Air and Bryant logos pop against the subtle background, which provides depth. In the judges’ eyes, the combination said “sophistication” and “professionalism.”

Indeed, Schmidt said a benefit of the easily recognized design is that people tend to think his business is much bigger, although only 14 vehicles are in Frederick’s fleet.

“The design has such a lasting impression,” Schmidt says.

Both Timm and Schmidt said their fleet designs have definitely paid off as a marketing investment. While this is certainly true — and a common expression among successful HVACR contractors — this year’s winner in the Wraps category has a more quantifiable ROI.

When Four Seasons decided to redesign its massive fleet of cars, vans service trucks, box trucks, and pick-up trucks, it sent a staff designer to Dallas for training in wrap design and purchased materials and equipment to convert the vehicles in house. Three employees total were trained on wrapping technique. On average, the company wraps two vehicles a week with the new design, which is vibrant and informative. The wrap design is replacing a vinyl-lettering scheme.

“It has been cost effective to purchase our own supplies and equipment, and we have the flexibility to change or alter designs,” says Ricardo Matias, creative marketing director at the company. “We have also featured our vehicles in our Yellow Pages ads to increase exposure to the new design, and even our older trucks appear newer since they don’t show the typical wear and tear to the exterior.”

The judges liked how well the Four Season’s design incorporated lots of information without looking cluttered or tacky. On the vans, the design displays the company name logo and motto; information on the types of services offered; a prominent toll-free phone number; the company Web site; Lennox products; and a “24-hour emergency service” message.

According to Matias, two important goals of the redesign were to repeat the colors and style of existing marketing materials while leaving enough room to prominently display the Four Seasons name and logo and Lennox brand.

“The response the drivers receive from customers and pedestrians alike is that it is a great marketing tool, and that they now associate the colors with our company. In comparison to our competition, the readability and our color scheme makes our brand stand out from other vehicles.” 


Dawson Dodd Heating and Cooling St . Louis, MO

Judges’ comments: “Dawson Dodd creatively incorporated illustrations of the Mitsubishi products The Unico System and Mr. Slim ductless heating/ cooling into a clean and understated design. Since the products might be unknown to new customers, techs actually use the truck illustrations to explain how the systems work.”

Contractor‘s comments: “What makes us different is that we go after a lot of jobs that other contractors don’t pursue. We work in attics that are sometimes two or three feet in height. [So] we install a considerable number of Mitsubishi Mr. Slim ductless systems.”

Roscoe Brown Heating & Cooling Murfreesboro , TN

Judges’ comments: “Roscoe Brown Heating & Cooling successfully incorporates a well-known local brand with a top manufacturers’ brand. The Carrier logo and motto are given prominent treatment on the front of the van, and — appropriately — the trademarked Roscoe Brown name and image are given much b i g g e r play, along with the contractor phone number and Web site.”

Contractor’s comments: “The association with past and present ownership and the longevity of the company are the most important elements of the new design. Now customers can associate the name and the face.” 

Total Comfort Solutions Walla Walla, WA

Judges’ comments: “This is an eyecatching design that has an overall positive and pleasant look. The company is taking a risk by emphasizing “comfort” instead of listing “heating and cooling,” but it shows that they are ahead of the industry.”

Contractor’s comments: “The design really emphasizes our Web site. We are trying to be more proactive in gathering email addresses and making it easier for our customers to do business with us by using our Web site.”

Russell’s Heating & Cooling Chesapeake, VA

Judges’ comments: “Russell’s shows that full wraps can be simple and use a lot of white space. Sophisticated and informative, yet modern and eye-catching.”

Contractor’s comments: “It certainly ‘announces’ who we are when we pull up! We designed it so the eye goes immediately to the name of the company and phone number.”


AirMaxx Inc. El Cajon, CA

Judges’ comments: “Fabulous use of contrasting colors to make the design stand out, as well as white shadowing. AirMaxx gave attention to each side of its vehicle, even posting some copy backwards so that it would be readable in drivers’ mirrors.”

Contractor’s comments: “It’s a simple design, and the customers love our colors — the good old red, white, and blue!” 

J.D. Indoor Comfort Systems Sheffield, OH

Judges’ comments: “We liked the traditional look of this company’s fleet. In some communities, wild graphics and wacky type jut won’t work. J.D. Indoor Comfort Systems uses a traditional typeface and clean lines for this classic look.” C

ontractor’s comments: “We tried to keep the design simple and to the point.”

Howell Heating Forest Lake, MN

Judges’ comments: “Howell Heating shows that you don’t need to have a big budget to produce an effective fleet design. The company has one van, but its look is professional and conveys quality.”

Contractor’s comments: “Our opinion is that customers don’t necessarily make a mental note of all the products and services you offer just by watching you drive by.”


Anderson Service for Home & Business Venice, FL

Judges’ comments: “Anderson gives full attention to its truck in this design, displaying vital information on each side. Also, the company is able to refer to its online ‘energy-savings calculator,’ which draws attention to a topic that is top-of-mind for many customers.”

Contractor’s comments: “The logo at an angle has been a trademark of sorts since the early ’80s. The blue-andred ‘swoosh’ is a new element.”

Fast Clearwater, FL

Judges’ comments: “This design cuts right to the chase when it comes to the contractors’ strength — speed. Every element of design sends this message.”

Contractor’s comments: “After referrals, our largest number of new customers call us after seeing our trucks.” 

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