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Image Is Everything: Rolling Billboards Push Corporate ID

TORONTO, Ont. - When it comes to truck graphics, image is everything.


FLASHY: Mile Baric from Turbo Images works on installing graphics for Labatt Breweries' fleet of trailers. Photo by Katy de Vries
FLASHY: Mile Baric from Turbo Images works on installing graphics for Labatt Breweries' fleet of trailers. Photo by Katy de Vries

TORONTO, Ont. – When it comes to truck graphics, image is everything.

One over-the-road truck averages 10 million viewer impressions per year, according to an American Trucking Associations study. That number increases to 14 million when a truck uses reflective graphics, the study says.

According to the study, 91 per cent of respondents noticed truck graphics, 75 per cent developed an impression of the company and its products based on the graphics and 29 per cent would make a buying decision based on that impression. And another study, conducted by RY&P, the largest U.S. advertising agency for the leisure and travel industry, found that 96 per cent of those surveyed considered fleet graphics to have more impact than regular billboards.

With so much at stake, carriers have to ensure their first impression is a good one.

“Branding is such an important thing to consider,” says Simon Bois, director of sales for Ontario for Turbo Images, a graphics company based in Mississauga, Ont. “All the major corporations have invested in their image in a smart way. That doesn’t mean you have to invest all of your savings in your image, but you have to work with people who can help provide you with a unique identity, If we’re working with a carrier with no corporate image, the first thing we have to do is work with them to create one.”

There are many benefits for private carriers as well, says Bruce Richards, president of the Private Motor Truck Council. PMTC has been a leader in recognizing the importance of truck graphics. This year, the council will hold its 19th annual PMTC – 3M Canada Vehicle Graphics Design Competition.

“I think if you talk to any marketing expert, they’ll say branding is what it’s all about. You’ve got to get your brand out there and it has to be recognizable and truck graphics are certainly a cost effective way to do that,” says Richards. “Truck graphics are like a stationary billboard except the consumer doesn’t have to go to the billboard; the billboard goes to the consumer and it is rolling all the time.”

If a company has consumer goods, trucks are a great way to bring people’s attention to them, and if they don’t, it still is a great way to get their name and message out to the public, says Richards.

(For more information on the 2004 PMTC-3M Canada Vehicle Graphics Design Competition, visit www.pmtc.ca.)

According to Bois, about 90 per cent of fleets have switched to vinyl graphics. Paint is considered an outdated way to apply graphics because of the down time involved in waiting for the paint to dry and incompatibility with the tougher new environmental legislation.

There are several methods for applying vinyl graphics. Die-cutting the vinyl is the most common method. Screen-printing is the oldest method. Having digital images printed directly on the vinyl is the newest and most cost-effective method.

Bois says the digital method’s growing popularity with carriers is creating serious competition for both the die-cutting and screen printing methods.

Reflective vinyl, which improves the night visibility of trucks, is also gaining in popularity.

“We have a product called Neon Graphik with the reflective power of over 2,000 candle lights, which means a driver can begin to see the reflection over 2,000 feet away in darkness,” says Bois. “The common driver needs about 700 to 1,200 feet of distance for a safe reaction time and to stop the vehicle. The regular reflective strips only give approximately 500 feet of reflective power.”

Using a strong reflective vinyl could help reduce carrier costs, Bois adds.

“With insurance rates going through the roof for carriers, there is an opportunity for anybody with good negotiating skills to negotiate with their insurance provider under the betterment of the fleet clause. It could be said that their insurance rates should not rise simply because they have now invested in the safety of the fleet.”

Fleet identity and truck graphics cal also help attract and retain drivers, says Ted Lawson, senior account representative for 3M Canada. The company that co-sponsors the PMTC’s annual graphics competition manufactures vinyl and works with graphics companies and fleets. Lawson says a fleet with a solid image and nice-looking equipment attracts and retains drivers more easily than one without these assets.

The ATA study appears to back him up. It found 98 per cent of drivers care about the look of their equipment.

“It’s kind of eye opening,” says Lawson. “We forget about that aspect of it sometimes but it is so crucial. Clean, sharp equipment makes a driver feel better as en employee and probably encourages him to be safer.”

Bois agrees driver attraction and retention is an important aspect of truck graphics.

“We live in such a visual world,” Bois says. “So when you have a good looking fleet, it definitely helps to attract drivers. We had a client that invested in 30 brand new Peterbilt tractors and in a corporate identity that worked for them and he was able to easily fill the driver seats – something he had had problems with in the past.”

Lawson says changes in production technology over the past five years have changed the way suppliers look at the graphics industry.

“There is so much more that can be done with printing systems today. We have the ability to do much more specialized things. It’s easy to accomplish a cost-effective way to install truck graphics, so that has forced us as suppliers to make sure we’ve got products compatible with these systems and their needs,” says Lawson. People are recognizing the advertising value of their fleets more and are being more selective in the ways they use their vehicles for advertising and so this has broadened the market for the materials that go into it too, says Lawson.

A&P Canada’s fleet consists of 451 trucks with A&P logos only and 12 trucks with full vinyl wraps and are now looking into acquiring 25 trucks with Neon Graphik.

“Graphics and decalling is an important vehicle for us to create awareness of our fleet on the road,” said Tammy Smitham, communications manager for A&P Canada.


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