Of all the equipment, tools and other gear a landscaping professional needs, nothing is more important than their truck. That’s why it is so important for landscapers to understand the following commercial truck trends that are impacting their ability to operate legally, safely and profitably.
- Regulations are ratcheting up
Government regulations, inspections and commercial vehicle requirements continue to become more stringent. That means landscape contractors could be facing additional hurdles—and costs—to operate their businesses.
For example, requirements to reduce vehicle emissions could likely lead to big price increases over the next several years. Just look at what happened in years past when stricter emissions requirements were kicked into gear. Commercial truck prices jumped roughly 10% in both 2007 and 2010.
On the vehicle inspections front, more states are looking to increase enforcement of contracting businesses, which will help satisfy their need for additional revenue sources. Truck inspections and DOT physical requirements are two areas many states will likely focus on.
For someone driving a commercial vehicle in excess of 10,000 lbs., a medical examiner certificate is required. If that driver is using a truck/trailer combination over 10,000 lbs., a DOT physical is required. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing for landscaping businesses. Requiring an employee to undergo this scrutiny could help identify the unemployable.
For example: I hired a person to be a driver in my landscaping company. The job offer was contingent on him passing the DOT physical. He drove up to the doctor’s office for his physical.
Turned out, this person was unable to pass the physical. His blood pressure was borderline stroke levels. We were unable to hire him. But he discovered a serious health problem while applying for our job. I think this was a win-win situation.
Furthermore, because you’ll be registered with the DOT, you won’t have to worry as much about inspections and possible citations. So just be aware that these requirements exist so you’re not caught off guard.
- Asset security
Sadly, trailer theft has become an industry-wide epidemic. Landscaping trailers parked at jobsites, gas stations, etc. are having tools and equipment stolen on a regular basis.
Consider this: The average landscape company loses two power tools per year per crew. That’s an average of $800 in losses. Ouch! And what would happen if a thief took off with one of your mowers? That is happening on a regular basis, too.
Why has landscaping trailer theft become such a common occurrence? Thieves see these trailers as an easy target. The trailers are often left unattended without adequate security measures in place, i.e. locks, cameras or GPS tracking devices. Tools, equipment and cans full of gasoline are sitting right there, begging to be stolen.
Landscape contractors need a cost-effective way to quickly secure equipment and supplies—and keep the bandits at bay. Experts from the insurance industry say contractors should keep their unattended tools out of plain site—and lock them up. Also, keep serial numbers of each tool and piece of equipment on file. Add company identification to your equipment, such as a decal with company name, address and maybe even your logo. This all helps deter would-be thieves due to fear of being tracked down after making off with your equipment.
Many contractors have implemented GPS tracking devices for not only their trucks and trailers, but even some of their higher-dollar equipment like mowers and skid loaders. If a thief drives off with any of those assets, and an embedded GPS tracking device leads police right to their doorstep, the joke’s on them.
Thus far, the joke’s been on landscape contractors—thousands of them—because they have failed to put an asset security system in place. Get your plan in place NOW before the growing season is upon you.
- Improved fuel economy
New truck models have much better fuel economy than the dinosaurs of the early to mid-2000s. Modern-day trucks also include more alternative-fuel options such as CNG (compressed natural gas), which is roughly half the price of gasoline or diesel. LPG (liquid propane gas) is even cheaper than that.
Even if the sticker price of an alternative-fuel vehicle is higher, it could prove to be a better investment in the long-run. Operating costs (i.e. fuel, maintenance) will be significantly lower. Crunch the numbers and see how much you could save over the course of a year. It could very well be that an alternative-fuel truck could be the right choice for your landscaping company.
The real key to making more money in landscaping
Fuel savings and reduced theft aside, the biggest cost in landscaping continues to be labor. More and more successful landscape contractors will tell you that trailers are dragging down productivity. Considers these drags on a landscaping business:
- Time spent hooking up trailers
- Time spent training drivers how to back up
- Time and money spent maintaining trailer lights
- Trailer tire repairs
- Parking and space issues
- Poor company image with no differentiation
Speaking of image, what happens to a company’s credibility when a trailer comes loose and causes a major accident? Is that a risk you’re willing to take? Maybe not when you consider how many state DOTs have their eyes peeled for truck/trailer combos out on the road.
Landscape companies can benefit from a truck option that eliminates the trailer, while also providing for better tool organization and security. An enclosed truck of the right size and capacity—and with the right storage and safety features—can help accomplish this.
A side benefit of an enclosed landscape truck is that it becomes a rolling billboard to help promote your company at no extra cost. Stand out from competitors and gain thousands of dollars’ worth of free advertising simply by driving an enclosed truck. You’ll also stand out from all of those competitors who continue to operate the traditional truck/trailer configuration.
But again, the biggest issue is labor. An enclosed truck can be loaded up and parked overnight with no fear of anything being stolen. That will save your crews time the next morning when getting ready to head out to jobs.
Consider this: 7 employees saving just 6 minutes per day equates to nearly $4,000 in recovered unbillable time. What if you could save that much time and money? What if you could save even more? With the right landscaping truck, it’s entirely possible.
Super Lawn Trucks has six truck options that help landscaping and lawn care companies save time, stand out from the competition, reduce costs and make more money. Learn which is right for your company