Service trucks are having a moment.
The more we look around our industry, the more service trucks we see. From quickly outfitted vans that serve as mobile oil and lube rigs to bigger vehicles designed to make big emergency repairs on the road, it’s become clear that having the ability to go to your customer is just as important as having enough bays to accommodate them.
But what goes into a proper service truck? What things should you invest in?
To learn more about this rapidly expanding service, we spoke to some experts:
Both of these companies have years of experience building trucks for various types of customers—yes, including a lot of service trucks.
Before we get started, we want to point out that your ideal service truck is going to come down to your specific situation. There is no one-size-fits-all answer. With that said, we’re going to lay out the kind of high-level guidance that will be useful to anyone trying to build up a service truck. Whether you want to become a mobile tech or you’re a shop owner who wants to expand your mobile fleet, you’ll find something useful here!
1) Do I Need a Service Truck?
Before you start speccing the service truck of your dreams, make sure you actually need a service truck. It’s not a cheap investment. Yes, it can end up doing a lot for your business, but it’s also going to require some capital and a plan to actually use it.
In short: while the mobile tech industry is growing, the fact is not every existing shop needs a mobile arm. You might be doing just fine staying in one place. “If you’re an individual, it comes down to whether you want to make the transition to offer on-road service,” Jason says. “If the business is asking for it, if there’s a call for it, and a need that you feel you can add to your business—that’s what to look at.”
Adding a mobile arm can open up some lucrative options for your business. It lets you quickly respond to roadside emergencies and can even make you more attractive to your fleet clients, particularly if you can drive out to their yard and complete things like oil changes and PM work during their scheduled downtime.
2) Do I Need a New Truck?
Everyone wants to save money. Believe us, we get why you’re considering just refurbishing that old van that’s been sitting in your garage since George Lucas released the Star Wars Special Edition.
That van might suffice nicely if mobile oil changes are your jam. But you’re going to want something more customizable for any other services. “A service truck allows you to be more organized and have the compartments to organize your tools and supplies,” Jason says. “If you’re driving a pickup truck or a van, your things are all kind of thrown into one area and you hope it’s all there when you get there.”
A service truck will give you a lot more space, organization, and potential than a van. If you want to go beyond the oil business, and carry heavy equipment like cranes, you’ll need a proper truck.
3) How Should I Spec Out My Truck?
Here’s where it gets a little fuzzy. Exactly what you end up doing—and how you outfit your truck—is going to depend on where you’re located. The easiest example of this is Arizona versus, say, North Dakota; an Arizona service truck won’t need the heavy winterizing gear that the North Dakota truck would.
But almost every service truck will benefit from the following equipment:
- Air compressor
- Jumpstart system
- Drawer packs
- Extra lights/emergency lighting
You’ll likely get more specific based on what your clientele; a field tech who works on big rigs, for example, might have different gear than someone tackling big ag machinery. Some companies that build out service trucks have spec sets that you choose from; you say “I want Truck B” and you get all the equipment that vehicle comes with. Others will build out your service truck to your specifications.
4) How Much Do I Want to Spend?
If you’re just getting prepped to spec a service truck now, you have an additional roadblock: the current parts shortage. “Every week, every month, it’s something different we’re trying to find a replacement for,” Dustin reports. “Right now, it’s chassis.”
Like everything else, scarcity means an uptick in prices. In 2019 or early 2020 (in other words, prior to the pandemic), you could get yourself a very nice truck starting at about $130,000. Today, that very nice truck will run you closer to $155,000. If you’re looking to go larger, you might be closer to $190,000 or even $200,000.
5) Do I Have Budget to Maintain This Truck?
Who services the service trucks? Well, who watches the Watchmen?
We’re kidding. Most mobile service techs will perform whatever work they need on their truck, whether that’s an oil change or something bigger. If you have a crane, you’ll want to rotate the bearing and grease it every three months to keep it moving smoothly.
“Other than that,” David says, “there’s not much service on service trucks.”
Just remember that you’ll need to maintain your truck—however minimal that maintenance might be—the same way you maintain equipment in your shop. You may be able to write off large portions of it during tax time, but make sure you have the budget to buy it and keep it in fighting shape.
6) Do I Have Shop Management Software?
You know what can make life as a mobile tech infinitely easier? Besides a good truck, that is.
A shop management software that hits the road with you and lets you track all the repairs and PM work you’re doing around the region. No need to set a reminder to invoice a customer when you get home or back to the shop; instead, you can invoice them right on the side of the road, often receiving payment before heading off into the sunset like the glorious lifesaver you are.
You can request our free demo here to see how much easier we can make your mobile life. And if you’re interested in expanding your shop to include mobile service, or you’re considering starting up a mobile tech business on your own, you can’t go wrong asking the guys from Summit or Maintainer to help you get the perfect vehicle.