When you’re heading down the road, whether in your rig or your personal vehicle, nothing catches your eye quicker than a good paint job or a flashy billboard. In some cases, it may a combination of the two. Many companies use both their tractors and trailers to catch the attention of consumers, clients and drivers, who may be moved to look into possible employment opportunities.
“I would say somewhere close to 80% of our drivers are recruited by seeing our beautiful trucks and visiting with our drivers on the road,” says John Daniels, president and owner of Minnesota-based Long Haul Trucking. He added that hearing how much money drivers can make piloting a rig that is owner-operator spec’d and loaded with options definitely helps sway drivers.
While the company was founded in 1986 with only one truck and Daniels as its only driver, the vibrant paint schemes did not make their appearance until about 15 years ago, which the founder calls a huge part of the company’s growth and success in “attracting the best drivers in the industry.” The paint jobs, which include gunslingers, bulldogs, flames and a patriotic red, white and blue motif, have also helped on the business end.
“We gain clients all the time from them seeing our trucks, as well as the appearance of our drivers,” Daniels says.
Daniels employs an in-house designer who creates graphics for many of the company’s tractors and billboard trailers, while working with Top Gun Customs, which produces many of the custom-painted tractors. For designing his wrapped trucks, Daniels uses Transport Graphics, a local company in Rogers, Minn., which installs them and does some of the design work as well.
Long Haul also offers these creative services to other fleets at its Premier 94 Truck Service Center, located outside of Minneapolis. Premier 94 builds and converts new and used Peterbilts into customs tailored to a fleet’s specifications.
“We get calls, emails and social media comments almost daily on how sharp our fleet is,” says Daniels, who added that the look of Long Haul’s equipment attracts a high quality of drivers who live out the company motto: “Running on the power of promises kept.”
Internal and external rebranding
In 2012, during a late summer rebranding effort, the executives at Quest Global in Cartersville, Ga., decided to develop decal packages for the company’s trucks and trailers to tie all assets into the company’s new look.
“We updated our logo, website, social media, company image, and so on,” says Chris Champion, vice president of Quest Global. “We also realized that [our trucks] are, effectively, rolling billboards that we own, so why not utilize them as such? We want to have a clean, modern design that catches the eyes of prospective employees and customers.”
As intended, the new look has garnered a number of comments from customers, employees and the general public, greatly increasing Quest’s brand awareness.
“And, hopefully, it has helped contribute to a more positive image of the trucking industry as a whole,” adds Champion.
The new design was born from a collaboration between the company’s creative director and executive team to showcase its brand and create consistency between what customers and employees see virtually in ads, media and the company’s online presence, as well as what they see when the driver pulls up to their location or alongside them on the highway.
Like Long Haul, Quest’s updated look has improved the company’s driver recruitment efforts.
“Though we don’t advertise directly through our equipment, we know that they do get noticed and they make a statement all their own that gets potential employees contacting us,” says Champion.
The rebranded graphics have also helped the commercial carrier stand out in the sea of tractors and trailers on the highway, according to Champion.
“Our company is not one to always blend in or follow the crowd, so our equipment design reflects that as well,” he says.
Creating the ‘look’
Before a revamped rig ever gets on the road, it has to make it through the paint booth, something Dan Szczepanik, global product manager, fleet and manufacturing, at Sherwin-Williams Automotive Finishes, knows well.
“Once you have committed to create a brand-worthy paint job with eye-catching graphics, you have taken the positive step for brand promotion,” says Szczepanik. “But that is just the first step. It’s important to use high-quality coatings to provide years of protection against color fade and gloss loss. A few extra dollars spent up front can save thousands over the vehicle’s life.”
The next step, according to Szczepanik, is to ensure that the truck and trailer look is maintained, including repairing damage as soon as it is encountered and creating a regular cleaning schedule.
“You can view it as truck maintenance or brand maintenance, because they are one in the same,” he says.
There are a number of steps that need to taken after the look and paint colors are chosen. Companies need to decide whether or not decals will be used at any point, or if a single-stage paint process or basecoat/clearcoat paint system will be applied.
“If decals are used, discuss this with the paint manufacturer to determine the amount of time needed before decals can be affixed to a newly painted surface,” advises Szczepanik. “There is a lot of labor and time that goes into a good paint job — make sure you choose coatings that can lower labor costs as well as energy use.”
In the end, the graphic and artistic vision needs to match a company’s message, as companies use color as their foundation of a branding strategy, according to Szczepanik.
“Color can create emotions, expectations and a promise to the end user. It’s much more than picking your favorite color — different colors can elicit different feelings,” he explains. “When painting your fleet with your very specific color, it is extremely important that it is the correct color. It has the same strength as a trademark and must be identically matched with a paint that will retain that exact color for years to come.”