First impressions. You only have one chance to make one, and once that impression is formed, it’s very hard to change it. Although the advice about making a good first impression is typically used for situations such as job interviews and sales calls, it also applies to how potential customers, drivers, and the general public view your company when they see your equipment on the road.
Truck and trailer graphics can serve many purposes. Most broadly, they are the branding for your company, whether you’re a for-hire motor carrier or a private fleet promoting what you sell. But there are many other purposes, as well. Special paint jobs, truck wraps, and trailer graphics can be used to reward drivers, recruit drivers, or bring attention to a cause.
We asked fleets for some of their best examples of truck, tractor, and trailer graphics. You’ll find a selection below, and more within a photo gallery linked at the bottom of the article.
Standing Out from the Crowd
Hirschbach Motor Lines wanted people to know that it’s a different kind of company, and it wanted its tractor-trailer graphics to reflect that, says CEO Brad Pinchuk.
The Dubuque, Iowa-based fleet has graffiti-style artwork writ large in its facilities and now on its trucks. The graphics on the side of the truck flow into the graphics on the sides of the trailers. There is a lot of motion in the graphics that plays well in the transportation industry where we are always rolling.
As part of the branding, Hirschbach added more fleet colors with the new designs in mind.
“The biggest challenge was coming up with a design that would fit with the flow of the trailer, allow for easy replacement in case of needed repairs and leave enough room for drivers to add their award/recognition decals,” explains Marketing and Social Media Manager Bianca Sanchez.
The graphics are vinyl partial wraps. The design was created by Gigantic in Dubuque and the vinyl was produced by Graphic Impressions in Hutchinson, Kansas.
“Our trucks look great bobtail or hooked to our trailers,” Pinchuk says. “With the new roof faring graphic, you can see Hirschbach coming from the other side of the highway.”
A special wrapped truck played on the same graffiti theme but in different colors to bring attention to breast cancer and the importance of early detection practices. Gigantic designed it in collaboration with the driver. The result was a play on the graffiti branding with a pink color scheme, along with pink cancer awareness ribbons and the message of “tougher than cancer.”
And to show its support for the military and veterans of the U.S. Armed Forces, Hirschbach holds a Veteran’s Day custom military wrap giveaway open to drivers who are veterans. The winner works with the design agency on creating the custom design for the full truck wrap.
Promotion with a Zip
Columbia Distributing is a major beverage distributor in the Pacific Northwest. The company wanted to be able to drive brand awareness for the beverage suppliers it serves, and also identify marketing tactics that resonate with retailers and consumers.
The Mike’s Hard Lemonade design shown here was created for use on commercial fleet trailers. “The bright colors and straight-forward messaging are key components of a design that is built around drawing as much attention to the brand as possible in a relatively short time,” explains Jesse Holder, business development manager for Columbia.
They went with the Kwik Zip Graphics system from Epic Worldwide. This system puts a frame on the side of the truck or trailer, and the graphics are literally zipped into the frame. Installation is quick, meaning less interruption of operations, and they can easily be changed out as ad campaigns change.
“Because of the ease in swapping out graphics with Epic’s Kwik-Zip system, our supplier partners (like Mark Anthony Brands International) are able to be bold in their advertisements, and no longer have to worry about sticking to a design intended to last until the vinyl falls off the side of the trailer.”
The program has been so successful, he says, “We have more demand for advertising on our trailers, than we do trailers!”
Recognizing Everyday Heroes
CFI, a truckload carrier based in Joplin, Missouri, uses vinyl truck wraps to demonstrate its support for the community and its drivers.
For instance, a line-up of “True to the Troops” trucks feature white stars across a blue background across the hood, then different motifs on the side of the truck and sleeper. One has an eagle; another shows a silhouette of a saluting soldier. A matching trailer wrap features patriotic graphics and the words, “This We’ll Defend.” The company has priority recruiting programs to help transitioning servicemen and women, and veterans make up 12% of its workforce.
The graphics program is accompanied by community service. CFI has been a National Transportation Sponsor for Holy Joe’s Café since 2015, providing free transportation of coffee donated by Green Mountain / Keurig to military bases throughout America, where it is distributed to troops through the chaplain network. The company also participates each year in Wreaths Across America, transporting donated wreaths to be placed on military graves.
CFI also has wrapped trucks devoted to its women truck drivers (the fleet has 14% female professional drivers, double the industry average) and first responders (it donated $100,000 to purchase emergency equipment for first responders in four states.)
CFI has been happy with the vinyl wraps, but notes there has been some fading, and it’s hard to maintain the look around the front of the hood and grille due to rock chips from the road. Lately, due to manufacturing shortages, it has been difficult to plan wrap vendors around equipment arrivals.
Note: This article has been updated to correct CFI's location.
Love, Above All
After 18 months of stress and uncertainty, the leaders of Illinois-based truckload carrier Nussbaum Transportation embarked on a project to help people remember to love one another. Its “Love, Above All” trailer idea came from two Bible verses: Peter 4:8 – “Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins,” and Colossians 3:14 – “And above all these things put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.”
“Likely each one of us is faced with areas where we struggle to love,” explains Marketing Manager Ryan Jamison. “Maybe it’s strong opinions, shattered expectations, or fear of the unknown. Our sincere hope is that this trailer and the message it conveys will be a reminder. In the day-to-day mundane of life, in the face of difficult circumstances, amidst questions and a short supply of answers, may we learn to Love, above all.”
The whole company got involved. It asked employees, including drivers, to consider something in their lives that they needed to pause and remember to put Love above. They were invited to write their word on a giant, trailer-shaped chalkboard below the words “Love above …” then cross it out. The board was soon filled with words such as self-pity, anger, greed, fear of rejection, prejudice, greed, self-righteousness, and racism, in many colors of chalk.
Once everyone had a chance to participate and the board was filled in, high-resolution pictures of it were stitched together to make the artwork for the trailer. The artwork was printed by Graphic Impressions on 3M vinyl wrap material.
Jamison says the fleet was happy with the results. “The high-quality print work from Graphic Impressions helps the image stand out nicely, whether you see it from a distance on the road or are standing by the trailer inspecting the close-up detail. Additionally, we are already hearing stories from people about how this message and graphic are impacting people in a positive way.”
Graphics Help Business Grow
Petitti Garden Centers is a regional chain of nine gardening stores serving Northeast Ohio. The company’s fleet ranges from vans to tractor-trailers, and graphic wraps put the company’s identity out on the road.
Visual Marking Systems VMS began working in partnership with Petitti nearly two decades ago, when it was engaged to help brand the company’s trucks using cut-vinyl graphics. As VMS moved into digital graphics, Petitti Garden Centers saw the capabilities and moved to a more graphically rich approach. Today, VMS regularly fulfills the company’s needs for vehicle and wall graphics, using film provided by Avery Dennison.
Petitti President A.J. Petitti says VMS is “always thinking of ways to take it outside the box… We want graphics that will connect this family and the company to the customers and show the progression of the business. For instance, our fleet graphics show our products and facilities, and really sell beauty and lifestyle.”
“The graphics are changed out pretty frequently,” says Tim Fontana, director of national fleet graphics sales for VMS, “and we’re running two different designs for their delivery trucks. Some of the graphics have been out there for about eight years, and they’re still looking good.”
Honoring a Legacy of Fuel Transport
Pilot Company recently recognized one of its longtime drivers with a custom-painted Peterbilt truck. In 1971, Jim Abshire was the second driver ever hired by Pilot. He became the company’s first lead driver and drove for Pilot for 42 years. His son Daniel joined Pilot in 1980 at the age of 21, and eventually assumed the role of lead driver when his dad retired from the position in 2013. Daniel has now driven for Pilot more than 40 years, so Pilot and Peterbilt surprised him with a custom Peterbilt truck reminiscent of the rig his father drove. Inspired by a photo of Jim from the 1970s with his Pilot truck, Peterbilt designed the truck Daniel will drive as a throwback to the 389 model with updated red-and-yellow Pilot Flying J graphics.
This article first appeared in the October 2021 issue of Heavy Duty Trucking.