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TORONTO, Ont. - When you've got a 53-ft. tractor-trailer combo roaring down the highway at 100 km/hr, it's bound to get seen. In fact, according to a recent study by the Traffic Audit Bureau, fleets c...


I GET AROUND: Graphics like this winning entry in the 2005 Vehicle Graphics Design competition by Turbo Images are seen by thousands and thousands of eyes each day.

I GET AROUND: Graphics like this winning entry in the 2005 Vehicle Graphics Design competition by Turbo Images are seen by thousands and thousands of eyes each day.


TORONTO, Ont. – When you’ve got a 53-ft. tractor-trailer combo roaring down the highway at 100 km/hr, it’s bound to get seen. In fact, according to a recent study by the Traffic Audit Bureau, fleets can have up to and over 40,000 eyes on their trailers daily depending on what city they’re in. Since that means your fleet has potential to get almost as much exposure as your average metropolitan billboard, you’d better make sure you’ve got the best graphic possible to put on your trailer.

That’s where companies like Twin City Graphics, Turbo Graphics and Supergraphics come in.

These three companies, all award winners at the recent 2005 Vehicle Graphics Design competition, sponsored by the Private Motor Truck Council of Canada (PMTC) and 3M Canada, design, produce and install graphic designs for both private fleets and company carriers.

But of the two, it’s private fleets which tend to have the most freedom with trailer graphic design.

“The company carrier stuff is generally just an extension of their corporate identity. They don’t really push the limits that much,” said Tony Dew, prepress and IT supervisor at Surrey, B.C.-based Supergraphics. “Whereas with private fleets, they’ll tend to pull out all the stops and do anything they can to get attention from people on the street.”

So while for-hire carriers usually focus on creating a memorable logo that encapsulates their identities, private fleets have the liberty to use their trailers for anything – from product placement to special events promotions.

But first you have to come up with a design.

According to Simon Bois, international business development manager for Turbo Image’s fleet division in Toronto, there are basically two possible scenarios when getting started on design.

“In some instances the corporation already has their image and they already know what they want. So all that’s left for us to do essentially is produce and install,” he said.

“The second scenario is a lot of fun, when we get involved in the creative. This means we have to sit down with the client and really ask the right questions, find out what they like and what they don’t like. Once we put together all the elements that they like and we come up with a creative for them, 9.9 times out of 10 the companies say, ‘Go ahead. You’re right on the mark here.'”

When coming up with the actual design, Linda Miller, operations manager for Twin City Graphics in Kitchener, Ont., says it’s important to keep up with trends in marketing since the public tends to get bored in a hurry.

“Things are constantly changing. It’s always something new because once people see something over and over and over, it eventually doesn’t catch their attention anymore,” said Miller, whose company dominated the Nighttime Safety category at the PMTC awards.

She also said that when catching their attention, not to have to many words on the trailer, since having a cluttered advertisement that’s moving can lead to disaster for drivers.

“Because it’s moving you can’t have too many words. A picture really speaks a thousand words. You don’t want people rear-ending the trailer trying to read it. The fewer words, the better,” she said.

Dew says that those designers that simple, yet eye-catching ability is one of the things that separates the good designs from the best.

“The ability to catch people’s eyes, and once you’ve got them, to just very quickly get your information across is essential,” he said. “They can see you, see who you are, what you do, what you’re all about and then continue on driving once you’ve gotten that impression on them. The most important part is probably the ability to get someone’s attention and to get your idea across quickly and accurately. Those who can do that part well are usually the most successful.”

Bois, whose company had the highest number of placings at the awards with six, agrees with Dew, and said he uses the old K.I.S.S. rule when designing for fleets.

“Keep It Simple – and I’ll spare you the last word,” he said. “Send your message clearly. Don’t make it too busy. Use five to seven words maximum and have the maximum impact. And just trust your graphics designer/supplier. If you have any doubt in your mind, just voice that.”

Because of the ads’ tremendous influence, Bois noted that there is an incredible pressure placed on design teams to create the best image possible.

“I have statistics that say 91 per cent of drivers notice trailer graphics, 75 per cent make a lasting impression based on graphics and 29 per cent make a buying decision based on that impression,” Bois said.

“So there’s a lot of pressure on us.”

But design aside, Bois said customers also need to be wary when selecting their design house.

In addition to ensuring the designers are properly certified, he also suggests fleets find one that specializes in vehicles.

“We specialize in vehicles and nobody actually specializes in that. Because of that, we have a much more in-depth knowledge of what the clients will go through logistically to get their fleets done and that’s a huge competitive advantage,” he said.

And when it comes down to it, good old-fashioned customer service can make the whole process go a lot smoother.

“We apply ourselves on every phase of any given project with a total commitment to quality. Are we perfect? No. But Turbo Images is comprised of people that are very dedicated in every respect in terms of quality of process, quality of product, quality of communication – the whole nine yards,” Bois said.


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