The Box Truck Service Vehicle Project – Extreme Upfit Edition

Coppersmith

Senior Member
Location
Tampa, FL, USA
Occupation
Electrical Contractor
Summary (TL;DR): I built-out a small box truck to use a service vehicle because every other type of truck I have tried sucked in some major way. I may have created the ultimate residential service vehicle.


This is a continuation of this thread where I contemplate buying a box truck to use as a residential/light commercial service vehicle. A box truck is an unusual choice for a service truck. I’ve never seen a local electrician using one and a search of the internet finds few electricians using them. The high roof van seems to be a popular choice now. I looked hard at these, but ultimately decided I had to try the box truck idea. After months of looking I found a lightly used small box truck at a reasonable price. I’d like to show you how I renovated and upfitted it.

scale ticket2.png
This truck was manufactured by Ford in 2013 as a cutaway E350 van. The cargo box was added by Supreme. I was unable to determine the cargo capacity from either manufacturer so I took the empty vehicle to the truck scale. The GVWR for this truck is 11,900 LBS. The total weight of the truck including me and a full tank of fuel was 7100 LBS. A bit of calculating yields a cargo capacity of 4,800 LBS. I was relieved. I figured I needed a minimum of 2000 LBS.

Before work.jpg rotten deck 1.jpg rotten wall.jpg removed deck.jpg wood fixed.jpg rotten deck 2.jpg
The truck was in overall good shape, but some repairs were needed before upfitting could begin. There were a few rotted deck boards and a small amount of wall plywood that was delaminated due to some water leakage in the roof seams. I replaced the wood. Then for good measure, I brightened up the interior with a couple of coats of Kilz. I got up on the roof and resealed the seams using clear Flex-Seal spray. I hope it’s as good as the TV commercials make it out to be.

truck design.png
I’ve tried several service vehicle configurations in the past, but they never fully met my needs. Previous service vehicles (in order) were: 8’ open bed pickup with cargo boxes; van with standard height roof filled with 18” shelving; 8’ bed pickup with utility topper and bed slider. This last vehicle was not too bad convenience-wise. Everything was accessible from outside. No crawling in. It just didn’t have enough capacity. It only held about 2/3rds as much material as the van.

This is my fourth try to get it right. My major design goals are:
  • Vehicle has to be small enough to park in a residential driveway.
  • Stand up access with a wide clear aisle i.e. no climbing over stuff and no crawling.
  • Able to hold all necessary tools and materials without compromises.
  • All materials and tools inside the cargo box i.e. no roof storage.
  • Heavy or awkward stuff (ladders, conduit, and spooled wire) readily accessible without climbing into truck.
  • Reasonable amortized purchase cost and reasonable operating cost.
Here is the as-built plan for the interior. I have spent considerable time optimizing the configuration to meet my design goals.

Conduit and ladders.jpg
The biggest issue I had was with ladders. I need 6’, 8’, and 12’ step ladders and a 12’ extension ladder. The 12’ ladders didn’t want to fit nicely in a space only 11’ long. I didn’t like any of the options I thought of: build out a cab-over box; store the ladders on an upward angle; store the ladders on an across the deck angle; or pitch the 12’ ladders entirely. I did some ladder research and found they now make fiberglass multi-function ladders. So I will be replacing the three 8’, and 12’ ladders with this one. It doesn’t reach quite as far as I need, so I may occasionally have to stuff a bigger ladder in the box and have it hang out the open roll up door. I’d do the same if I rent a 16’ stepladder.

This is my temporary conduit/wood stud/wiremold/strut storage. I’ve never had enough conduit storage space. The last truck had one 6” PVC tube. There were times I could have used three. My future plan is to build a five tier conduit storage box. The top tier will be open on top for storing short pieces. I just haven’t decided the best material to use to build it yet. One built entirely out of plywood seems like it would burst open with all the weight even if I glued and screwed the joints.

<End of part 1. The story continues with part 2>
 
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Coppersmith

Senior Member
Location
Tampa, FL, USA
Occupation
Electrical Contractor
Part 2

Cable Rack.png spooled wire.jpg
Hey! Look at this cool rack I built for cables and rolled conduit. I’ve never seen my cables so organized. Speaking of wire, my #12 and #10 is very accessible from outside. The spool holders dismount easily if needed.

shovel storage.jpg toolbox parking.jpg
Having a seven foot tall roof makes it easy to store long tools vertically. I’ve always had to lay them down in the past. Here’s where I park my rolling hand tool box also.

bins galore.jpg
Here is my parts bin space. It’s four feet wide, six feet tall, and 24 inches deep. I transferred the 24” bins from the last truck (which got traded) and added more empty bins. The number of bins has doubled.

I’m in the process of re-organizing the bins. This is going to take a while. On the last truck, I had too few bins resulting in carrying less material and fewer sizes than I wanted. The bins were also overstuffed.

With this much space, I’m sure I’ll be tempted to overload with things I almost never use and that would be costly in terms of vehicle operation costs, space used, and shop wear. I will be looking careful at everything I am carrying to make sure I really need it for random service calls. (Planned jobs are different. I buy everything needed for those a day or two beforehand.)

The plan is to restock once a week, carry enough material for two weeks need, and carry at least one of any part used at least once a year. (Again, this is for random service calls. Every time I have an out-of-stock on the truck, and have to run to get an item, it’s making the job much more expensive. I’m shooting for 99% in-stock on this vehicle. The last {smaller} vehicle had a 95% goal.) I’m hoping to have a bunch of empty (or half-filled) bins when I’m done organizing. I can’t get a bigger truck and fit in driveways.

power tools.jpg
My larger tools and tool sets have always been scattered around the truck wherever they would fit. Now I’ve gathered them all together into this tool storage rack. All the power tools are at eye level with a wide space to make it easy to reach them all. (You can see that I’m a DeWalt fan.)

Below the power tools are batteries and expendables (bits, tips, and wheels). There’s also hardware (screws, nuts, and bolts) and wirenuts overflow from the parts section. Further down are tool sets like knockouts, ratchets and torque, and infrequently used hand tools.

At the bottom of both shelf units are a bunch of five gallon buckets to store large and heavy items like junction boxes, arc flash safety gear, wire scrap, and ceiling fan brackets. I used Home Depot buckets because (a) I like Home Depot, and (b) the buckets are sold at a discount. The one lone blue Lowes bucket is my trash can. This is my passive-aggressive way of saying a hate Lowes.

overview.jpg
Here's the view from outside. You'll have to imagine a taller conduit rack and another ladder. I think I did a good job of meeting all my goals. I really like the nice clear aisle. And if I need to haul a large pile of conduit or a gang box, it can go right there.

Well, that’s all. Is this the ultimate residential/light commercial service vehicle? Time will tell. I’ll keep you informed.
 

brantmacga

Señor Member
Location
Georgia
Occupation
Electrical Monke
You put a lot of thought and effort in; very cool!

Man there are days I just want to get a truck like this and go back to doing service work by myself.


Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
 

Coppersmith

Senior Member
Location
Tampa, FL, USA
Occupation
Electrical Contractor
How high off the ground is the deck?
how do you get into the box?
truck back.jpg
The deck is 36.5" off the ground. There is a wide step bumper that is 21" off the ground and two grab rails. I've been placing one of these next to the bumper to make it easier to access. I was thinking about having some steps welded to the bumper. For now, I'm keeping the step platform inside the truck.
 

brantmacga

Señor Member
Location
Georgia
Occupation
Electrical Monke
Sometimes when I hear you tell a story about what happening at your place, I get a little jealous. I don't get to work on the big jobs anymore.

Don’t be. Unless you just want to be stressed out all the time


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Fred B

Senior Member
Location
Upstate, NY
Occupation
Electrician
Nice space. I like your NM/MC cable rack, kind of a take-off of the tire racks I've seen.
You get to a scale after loading everything? I have one of those big promaster vans high top, can carry my 20ft extension overhead inside, but by time you get materials put into it besides the tools it is tipping the scales and it still has room in it. No matter how much I have loaded into it, I will still get to a service call and what I need to replace isn't loaded. Because of this, considering for my next van a small box truck but with a service body, it gives access to shelf items from outside so it limits how often I got to climb in/out of the back.
But even my current van's height drive thru window most time not doable like @Little Bill says. That was a pain during the last year where inside service closed, drive thru only at most fast food and banks. Ever try walking up to a drive thru? Not fun, almost got run over.
 

GoldDigger

Moderator
Staff member
Location
Placerville, CA, USA
Occupation
Retired PV System Designer
...
... Ever try walking up to a drive thru? Not fun, almost got run over.
Most drive thrus will not accept walk-up orders for that very reason. They will, however, take bicycles (required by law in many states). Keep a small folding bicycle in the truck. :)
 

Fred B

Senior Member
Location
Upstate, NY
Occupation
Electrician
Most drive thrus will not accept walk-up orders for that very reason. They will, however, take bicycles (required by law in many states). Keep a small folding bicycle in the truck. :)
But during the past year some were allowing it as inside service was closed. Tried it only once for banking, never again. Fast food had to pull up out of range of their overhead cover then get out truck to pay.
 

sw_ross

Senior Member
Location
NoDak
The ladder link above got messed up. Here it is.
I have this ladder..., we have a love/hate relationship with each other!
It’s super versatile and covers a lot of functions that would take 3-4 other ladders to cover. But it weighs as much as 3 or 4 ladders!
I would rather carry a 4’, 6, and 8’ ladders in my enclosed trailer for my daily use, and then throw the taller ladders in when I know that I need them rather than lug that thing around on a regular basis.
But if I get a quick service call to look at an issue ands it’s maybe down a long dirt road that I don’t want to pull my trailer on I’ll usually throw that in the back of the truck because it’s versatile and takes up little space.
 

Fred B

Senior Member
Location
Upstate, NY
Occupation
Electrician
I have this ladder..., we have a love/hate relationship with each other!
It’s super versatile and covers a lot of functions that would take 3-4 other ladders to cover. But it weighs as much as 3 or 4 ladders!
I would rather carry a 4’, 6, and 8’ ladders in my enclosed trailer for my daily use, and then throw the taller ladders in when I know that I need them rather than lug that thing around on a regular basis.
But if I get a quick service call to look at an issue ands it’s maybe down a long dirt road that I don’t want to pull my trailer on I’ll usually throw that in the back of the truck because it’s versatile and takes up little space.
Little Giant has their equivalent with casters on the one side that allows it to be rolled while bringing it into the house. Easier than carrying.
 

Coppersmith

Senior Member
Location
Tampa, FL, USA
Occupation
Electrical Contractor
Little Giant has their equivalent with casters on the one side that allows it to be rolled while bringing it into the house. Easier than carrying.
I saw that and I liked that feature except that I would be concerned about tracking dirt into the house. I have that same concern with my rolling toolbox and if I see the homeowner has rugs or carpet I will carry it in rather than roll it. For some reason the Little Giant version is much more expensive.
 
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