Experts’ Tips: Maximizing irrigation truck efficiency

Irrigation truck (Photo: The Yard Barbours)
Irrigation truck (Photo: The Yard Barbours)
Irrigation truck (Photo: The Yard Barbours)
Organize it Shelves that open out from the vehicle help techs keep track of inventory needs. (Photo: The Yard Barbours)

Nothing kills job site productivity like a crew that forgets something back at the shop. That’s why truck setup is so important.

“As a contractor, you often find a way to get by with what you have until you can afford what you actually need to do things more efficiently,” says Matthew Barbour, co-owner of The Yard Barbours in Elizabethtown, Ind. “I know some successful irrigation contractors who still work out of totes in the truck bed. I’d even done that myself not too long ago. But now I really like the setup we use.”

That setup is a 1-ton pickup with a utility body. Bedside-accessible storage compartments have helped improve job site efficiency.

“Not all utility bodies are the same,” Barbour points out. “What I like about ours is that you can open one of the storage compartment doors and a set of shelves runs the entire width of the truck. We can keep all kinds of supplies in there — and you can pull the shelves out to easily see what’s in there.”

Not having to climb into the truck bed to dig around in totes or toolboxes saves time on the job site. It has also spared Barbour the burden of having to travel back to the shop to grab certain items he’d inadvertently left behind.

“I make a list of what we’re going to need on a job and make sure everything is accounted for in those rollout shelves on the truck,” Barbour says. “For example, we might keep 30 misters and 20 rotors at a given time, along with all sorts of 1-inch PVC parts like elbows, Ts and reducers. We also keep up to 200 different types of barb fittings, as well as 200 to 300 feet of flexible black pipe.”

Barbour has recently made one more time-saving addition to his irrigation truck. One of the front storage compartments on the utility body now contains a power inverter that’s hooked up to the truck.

“We have several battery-powered drills, grinders, saws and shears that we use all of the time on irrigation jobs,” Barbour says. “With the power inverter, we can recharge batteries in the field. I wasn’t sure how much we’d use it, but now we know how convenient it is and wouldn’t do without it.”

When organizing an irrigation truck for peak efficiency, it largely comes down to those little things learned over time that help save a few minutes here and a few minutes there.

Experts from four truck and accessory manufacturers offer some additional insights on how landscape contractors can maximize the efficiency of their irrigation trucks.

Jennifer Pusateri (Photo: Buyers Products)
Jennifer Pusateri

Buyers Products

Jennifer Pusateri
Truck tool box product manager

When you’re on a job, time spent looking for tools is time wasted. That’s why it’s key that your toolbox helps keep your equipment organized and accessible. Built-in drawers, tool trays and removable dividers are all great features that let your crew work at peak efficiency. A box that’s easy to open and reach into from the ground is also better than one that requires climbing in and out of the bed of the truck. It all comes down to time management. Aside from that, look for a box built with durable materials and the latest technology. Aluminum and powder-coated steel are popular options because they’re sturdy, corrosion-resistant metals. Robotic welds are extremely precise and produce consistent, high-quality boxes.

Dave Sowers (Photo: Ram Commercial Truck)
Dave Sowers

Ram Commercial Truck

Dave Sowers
Head of Ram Commercial

A reliable truck or van is the backbone of any successful irrigation business. Look for vehicles with a durable powertrain, robust chassis, new technology and features that further enhance capabilities while delivering low total cost of ownership. Going in, know your payload weights and your people-carrying requirements. Then think outside the traditional box. For instance, Ram light-duty trucks now tow up to 12,750 pounds, heavy-duties tow up to 35,100 pounds and the Ram ProMaster full-size van offers up to a 4,680-pound payload while towing up to 6,800 pounds with higher security for your equipment. The truck and van product offerings today are more capable and more advanced than ever before, so do your research. All of these things factor into doing effective and efficient business.

Brian Tabel (Photo: Isuzu Commercial Truck of America)
Brian Tabel

Isuzu Commercial Truck of America

Brian Tabel
Executive director of marketing

When spec’ing an irrigation truck, the most important thing to determine with your truck dealer, body company and equipment company is the total load of everything fully loaded to decide on the proper chassis. After that is determined, figure out the route the truck will run to see if you should have a gas or diesel powertrain. After that, you will need to decide on a regular cab or a crew cab based on the crew size for the truck and the routes the truck will run. From there, you can get into the fun stuff, like a backup camera, lane departure, chrome grill and many other important features.

Eric McNally (Photo: Reading Truck Group)
Eric McNally

Reading Truck Group

Eric McNally
Vice president

While irrigation trucks can be configured many ways, there are some features that will make a crew’s day much more productive. Two popular Reading irrigation trucks look very different, yet each has two important characteristics: PVC pipe storage and secured organization for tools, sprinkler heads and control panels. A 9-foot service body with an over-the-cab pipe rack allows for pipes of up to 20-foot lengths to be carried while providing plenty of secured storage for tools and parts. This truck is equipped with a towing hitch for a trencher. The dovetail flatbed incorporates a pipe rack for transporting PVC pipe and a large toolbox for secure storage. The dovetailed unit allows for trenching equipment to be transported directly on the truck and eliminates the need for a trailer.

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Gregg Wartgow

Gregg Wartgow is a 20-year landscape industry reporter.

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