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Tops in Trucks 2013: Keep it Simple

Originally published
Originally published: 6/1/2013

2013 Tops-in-Trucks contest winners utilize professional graphic designers for clean, effective branding


From among the hundreds of entries to our popular Tops-in-Trucks Fleet Design Contest, here are this year’s winners, featuring all of the best aspects of good, effective fleet vehicle graphic design. Quality logos. Vibrant colors. Appealing graphics. Clean designs. Clear lettering. And not TMI…Too Much Info.

2013 Tops-in-Trucks Winners:

Air Control Corporation
Springdale, Arkansas • 13 vehicles
Owner/President Ron Farris

AirExperts Heating & Air Conditioning
San Antonio, Texas • 2 vehicles
Owner Miguel Cervantes

Pacific Air Systems
Lakewood, Washington • 35 vehicles
Owner/President Peter Hungate

Each year, HVACR Business receives several hundred entries to our Tops-in-Trucks Fleet Design Contest. Some are eliminated in the first round of judging because they don’t feature one or more of the basic information elements. Others are cluttered with too much information, a no-no when it comes to effective vehicle graphic design. Some have lettering that is hard to read. Some overuse graphics. In the end, only several dozen make it to the final cut.

The first thing that stands out about this year’s winning crop is their clean, uncluttered appearances. They all followed a key guideline of effective fleet design graphics: Keep It Simple.

Another common theme among this year’s Tops-in-Trucks Fleet Design Contest winners is they all understand the first commandment of fleet graphics design: Use a professional vehicle graphic design company to design and install your fleet graphics.

A lot of business owners like to tinker with the design of their signage. Most don’t do a good job. The best of the best understand their limitations, as well as their time and energy constraints, and utilize a professional graphic design company. Just as you educate your customers on the advantages of hiring a professional HVACR expert, you should stick to what you do best, and let the professional design experts – people who understand what good fleet graphics design involves – handle the design work for you.

Congratulations to all our winners! Is it just me, or do these vehicles make you want to schedule a service call just to see one of these trucks up close and personal? They’re that good. And that’s the whole point. They grab your attention; they certainly grabbed ours.


Air Control Corporation
Springdale, Arkansas • 13 vehicles

After 20 years in business with no company identity beyond a name with an all too-commonplace “Air” in it, Ron Farris, president of Springdale, AR-based Air Control Corporation, decided it was time for a change.

“There are a thousand different “air” companies out there,” Farris told us. “Air-this and air-that. A lot of times people call the wrong company. We get called all the time and we tell them we’re not that company, but we’d be glad to work with them. You need to separate yourself and have a logo people will see and say, ‘Wow. That’s special.’ We felt it was time for us to step up. Time to get some kind of logo.”

In other words, Farris realized he needed a strong brand. He hired Graphic D-Signs to create a logo that kept his blue and yellow company colors and incorporated a memorable character into the design.

“We wanted a bolder design. We wanted to look like the established, professional company we are. We love the results.”

The character Graphic D-Signs came up with is a simple line-drawn serviceman wearing a baseball cap and holding a screwdriver in one hand and a wrench in the other.

Once Farris approved his new logo, he incorporated it into all of his marketing materials: business cards, letterhead, invoices, billboards, TV, as well as his fleet.

Graphic D-Signs completed the vehicle design, while a couple of local sign companies printed and applied the full vehicle wraps. In fact, Air Control is still in the process of wrapping all 13 fleet vehicles.

“We’re still getting them done. We have five more scheduled,” Farris said. “We wanted to take our time. We wanted to let them run a little bit to make sure they were right. When you’re spending $3,200 per vehicle, you want to make sure it’s the right thing. You can undo one, but you’re not going to undo 13 or 14 of them!”

The first newly wrapped Air Control service van hit the streets in mid-March. While Farris doesn’t expect to have any concrete facts on leads from his vehicles for another few months, he says he has gotten nothing but positive feedback.

“For 20 years, we operated with just plain lettering that we had quickly done when we were starting up our business.  We now have a brand that shows the company we are today. We have a lot of moving billboards out there. I’m happy with what we’ve done and I know this will help increase our business,” Farris said.


Pacific Air Systems
Lakewood, Washington • 35 vehicles

Serving the Tacoma, WA, area, Pacific Air Systems has been in business nearly 30 years. They recently re-designed their fleet of 35 vehicles with all-new graphics they feel are “tasteful and not too overpowering.” The fleet design was part of a complete new company look.

“Our logo was 20 years old,” Pacific Owner & President Peter Hungate explained. “The company was going through an evolution, and we felt a new look should be part of that evolution. I’d seen Timo’s, one of last year’s winners, and liked their design. So I called Graphic D-Signs and we hired them. They worked quickly and we liked what they came up with.”

Hungate said the original concept from Graphic D-Signs called for full vehicle wraps with a gray background. He felt the Tacoma area is gray enough and opted for partial wraps on the company’s white vehicles. “We thought the graphics would pop more. And the partial wraps were less expensive,” Hungate said.

One challenge Pacific faced was working with a design company 3,000 miles and four time zones away. All communication between Hungate and Graphic D-Signs was conducted via email, and Pacific used a local sign company for printing and application.

“Once the first concept was approved for our service vans, Larson Sign Company of Lakewood, WA, worked with Graphic D-Signs to precisely layout versions for each of the five different types of vehicles in our fleet,” Hungate elaborated. “They also removed the existing graphics and applied the new graphics to all 35 vehicles. We’ve worked with them for over twenty years on hundreds of vehicles. They did a fantastic job.”

Pacific’s fleet consists of a combination of Chevy vans for service and maintenance, Nissan Versas for sales, Chevy pickups for field managers, Chevy box vans for installation and a Chevy C4500 for duct cleaning. Total cost for the project was about $30,000: less than $1,000 per vehicle.

The result? A 380 percent increase in leads generated by the new design. “We got four leads in just one day,” Hungate said. “We use a unique phone number on our vehicles and a marketing service tracks the leads. We got 111 leads with the new logo in just six months versus 23 in the previous nine months with the old logo.” 

Hungate added that his company has converted 100 percent to the new graphic look.  “Every form of marketing has the new logo: the trucks, our website, monthly postcards, literature our service technicians hand out, everything.“

In closing, Hungate had two pieces of advice to pass along to other owners: 1) Vehicle graphics is all about branding, so have a good logo; and 2) Leave it to the professionals!


AirExperts Heating & Air Conditioning
San Antonio, Texas • 2 vehicles

AirExperts Owner Miguel Cervantes recently changed the name of his company and needed a new look to go with the new name. “I changed the name of my company from Southern Comfort, which was too popular and used by a lot of other guys, and just thought it was the right time to make a big change,” Cervantes told HVACR Business. “I knew if I didn’t do something, I would stay a one-man show.”

“I always wanted a more professional look,” Cervantes said. “My old trucks just had a bunch of decals on them. Making the investment was a concern, but now I’m glad I did it.”

Cervantes picked the company colors – red, white and blue – but hired a professional graphic design company to handle the design. “Red, white and blue are big in Texas,” he said. “Plus, I like the red for heating and blue for air conditioning.”

The AirExperts vehicles – one service van and one pickup – both feature full vehicle wraps. The logo is a bold letter “A” with triangular elements that give it motion. Other components include the company name, phone number and website. Cervantes intentionally opted for a simple design with only basic components.

“I wanted my trucks to look professional and instill confidence in our customers that we are a stable, professional business. Because I do commercial work, I didn’t want to look too residential.”

It took two weeks to approve the design and another two weeks to wrap the trucks. The total investment was about $10,000. Cervantes is also utilizing his new design for business cards and company letterhead and will incorporate it into a new website design as well.

AirExperts’ trucks have just hit the streets, so the ROI hasn’t been measured, but Cervantes said people have approached him and asked for his business card. “One gentleman walked up to me and said he didn’t know whether to shake my hand or salute my truck,” Cervantes said.

Whether or not it is directly related to his new company name, his new vehicle graphics, an improved economy, or just plain luck, Cervantes says his business is up 20 percent this year. “I’m busier. I’m working while a lot of guys aren’t.”

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Tops in Trucks 2013: Keep it Simple

From among the hundreds of entries to our popular Tops-in-Trucks Fleet Design Contest, here are this year’s winners, featuring all of the best aspects of good, effective fleet vehicle graphic …