Inside a Plumber’s Van: Maintenance Tips and Best Practices for Plumbing Van Setup

Stephanie FigyAugust 28th, 2020
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Keeping a plumbing van properly organized can prove difficult. Between a busy schedule and a stockpile of tools, plumbing van organization creates a major pain point that may disrupt productivity and safety. We interviewed industry leaders about their best plumbing van storage ideas. From the top-rated trucks to the tools every plumber must possess, we compiled it all into a best practice manual for any plumber to keep in their back pocket.

How to Achieve the Proper Plumbing Van Setup

Many plumbers find it difficult to maintain the ideal plumbing box truck setup. But if not regularly addressed, this poses serious issues. In fact George Efird from Blue Planet Plumbing goes so far as to say: “A dirty truck is like a disease. The longer you let it go, the longer it will stay dirty.” 

Avoid work van mayhem with these plumber pro tips.

(To the right, a Blue Planet Plumbing truck organized after a long day of installs)

Top Plumbing Van Ideas from Industry Peers

Streamline your business practices with the following plumbing van ideas:

  • Start with a good plumbing van shelving system.

  • Place stock items in order.

  • Keep up with restocking needs.

  • Install bands and compartments on every sidewall.

  • Leave enough floor space for water heaters and appliances.

  • Unload and clean out your truck at the end of every day.

  • Do daily, weekly, and monthly clean-outs. (Do it with your team for extra support!)

  • Gather all of the parts you’ll need for a specific job into a box, so you only have to put away what’s in the box each day.

Keeping a plumbing van clean and organized isn’t a one-size-fits-all-approach. Find what works for your team and make it something you can easily incorporate into your routine. 

Plumbing Van Setup Guidelines for Your Fleet

A messy truck reflects poorly on your entire company, not just the tech. When we surveyed managers about this particular subject, it provoked strong feelings. If you’re a manager or owner trying to corral your rogue plumbers, implement these plumbing van ideas. Managers saw reduced job times after implementing a new plumbing box truck setup.

Keeping Your Plumbing Fleet Clean Inside and Out

Whether you’re a plumber, manager, owner, or an apprentice, it all begins and ends with your truck. Not even the best tools or the newest truck make a difference if organization is lacking. Take the time to keep your work vans clean and organized, so you don’t end up like this:

“Before I was the manager, we had one guy that just threw everything onto the floor of his cargo space. One time, he tripped over stuff while trying to find a part in his truck and fell out of the back. He ended up in the ICU for a concussion…

“As a manager, I perform weekly inspections both inside and outside each truck (before it gets) on the road. If it’s dirty or messy, the tech has to wash and organize it before it can leave the parking lot.”

— Kevin Pearl, Dauenhauer Plumbing

(Plumbing van shelving and organization from Tiger Plumbing, Heating, Air Conditioning, & Electrical Services)

Earn Tech Buy-in on Plumbing Van Setup

“We hold our technicians 100% accountable for the organization and maintenance of the vehicle. They are graded on every single thing, from the first aid kit being complete to the fire extinguisher’s location—we even grade down to the tire tread. Every 90 days, the employee with the lowest truck grade is now in charge of truck inspections for the next 90 days. We repeat this until everyone in the company understands the importance and relevance of an organized truck.”

— Georg Efird, Blue Planet Plumbing

Reward Proper Plumbing Van Setup

"The most impactful thing we’ve implemented so far is a rewards program. Techs earn points for truck cleanliness (Is it properly stocked? Is it clean?). They can exchange their points for gift cards, cash, a day off work, or even a vacation. Our techs can accumulate these points month-over-month and can get even more points for stuff such as: being on time, improved efficiency, higher sales, positive reviews, and more. This rewards program even incentivizes techs who do installs… and those types of trucks get very dirty!

"We also use Fleetio to maintain our trucks’ oil changes, tire rotations, maintenance, tags/renewals, and inspections. You even get alerts when it’s done!"

– Mike Hudson and Fredy Trinidad, Nice Home Services

Must-Have Tools for Every Plumbing Van

From your standard safety equipment to your must-have power tools, we’ve compiled a list of must-have tools for inside a plumber’s van.

Safety:

  • Gloves

  • Safety glasses

  • First aid kit

  • Knee pads

Basics:

  • Sharpie

  • Pencil

  • Pen

  • Shop vac

  • Sandpaper

  • Tape measure

  • Pocket level

  • Solder flux

  • Voltmeter

  • Voltage tester

  • Drain machine

Power Tools:

  • Impact drill

  • Cordless sawzall

  • Right-angle drill with various bits

  • Heavy-duty hammer drill

  • RIDGID® ProPress gun

  • Uponor ProPEX® gun

  • Viega MegaPress® gun

Hand Tools:

  • Tubing cutters

  • Mini tubing cutters

  • Torch

  • Fitting brush

  • Allen wrench set (standard & metric)

  • Cable saw

  • Crescent wrench

  • Hammer

  • Plum bob/plummet

Top-Rated Cargo Vans for Plumbers

Plumbing truck organization is impossible if you don’t have the right vehicle or plumbing van shelving. Our customers recommend these cargo vans for shops of all shapes and sizes.

1. Maximum Storage Capacity: Ford® Transit-250 Cargo Van

“We're exclusively moving towards the Ford Transit-250s, because we can store water heaters and furnaces with the taller roofs… [and it’s] the most economical way we can grow our fleet.”

— Dominic Durbin, Tiger Plumbing, Heating, Air Conditioning, & Electrical Services

Dominic has gone through many different kinds of trucks over the years, but he ultimately found the Ford Transit-250 Medium Roof w/ 148" WB to have the best and most practical storage capacity for his 45-truck crew—especially for jobs that require bulky equipment.

This cargo van model recently won the 2019 Edmunds Best Retained Value Awards, which means it has achieved the highest projected residual value five years after its introduction. So you know it’s an investment worth making.

2. Cost-Effective & Practical: Nissan NV® CARGO

“They are the most cost-effective van on the market today… they’re 25 percent less than name-brand competitors and they come with a five-year, bumper-to-bumper, 100,000-mile warranty. They help us maintain our investments and have a better bottom line by not paying for fancy vehicles like Ford, Chevy, or Mercedes.”

— Georg Efird, Blue Planet Plumbing

One of the unexpected benefits of this vehicle is its multi-tasking lockable center console for those long days on the road, where your front seat turns into your mobile office. Its fold-down passenger seat creates a convenient work desk.

Georg’s one downside to the Nissan NV® is that you can only fit a 9-foot 6-inch piece of pipe in it when the van has a pipe cage inside to protect the driver, and most of the pipes Georg’s team use come in 10-foot lengths.

3. Fuel-Efficient City Slicker: Nissan NV200® COMPACT CARGO

“Nissan NV200s are very efficient on gas and ideal for the city because they’re smaller.”

— Mike Hudson and Fredy Trinidad, Nice Home Services

This van is perfect for shops who service customers in busy cities. It comes with rear suspension specially designed to minimize any intrusion into the cargo space. It also includes wide-swinging rear doors and dual-sliding side doors, which makes it easy to access every inch of its spacious cargo area.

However, it does fall short in regions heavily impacted by snow since it doesn’t have the power and size of other cargo vans.

Van Racking Ideas for Plumbers

Plumbing van racks and shelving make organization a breeze. Make any work van functional with the right shelving. Before buying an expensive shelving system, take stock of what tools you already have in your arsenal and how often you use them. Try these plumbing van shelving ideas for a plumbing van upfit:

  • Install a roof rack for transporting ladders and large pipes.

  • Maximize the wall space in your work van with racks and shelving.

  • Use plastic storage containers to store small items such as fittings, washers, and pipe clips.

  • Hang wrenches and screwdrivers on a magnetic strip.

  • Keep tubes in the bulkhead.

The Only Solution for Digital Organization

After you wrangle that mess of a van, consider the chaotic pile of invoices and paperwork taking over your front seat. That’s where ServiceTitan comes in.

ServiceTitan is the only cloud-based mobile app that centralizes and streamlines everything you need to get the job done well. From a seamlessly integrated pricebook to an intuitively designed estimate builder, access everything you need right from your tablet. It also makes communication with the office staff a breeze!

“We've had ServiceTitan for about a year and a half, and it’s already increased efficiency and tightened up our processes. Everything's better with ServiceTitan. We just love it.”

— Stephanie Hornyack, Accounting Supervisor for Earl’s Performance Plumbing

Plumbing Box Truck Setup Checklist

Here’s your go-to checklist to make sure you always stay organized while on the go:

  • Maximize interior space. From installing a strategic plumbing van shelving system to leaving extra space for a water heater, make sure you are utilizing the back of your van or truck to its maximum capability while maintaining accessibility.

  • Keep accountable. If you manage an entire fleet, there’s a lot of equipment and techs you need to manage. Whether its competition or penalties, determine a motivational tactic that works for you and your team.

  • Never lose a tool. You can’t do your job without the right tools. Always check your inventory and dedicate specific locations in your van for each tool.

  • Find the right van. If you don’t have enough space to fit all of the equipment you need to complete the job, you might need a better-equipped van or truck. Whether it’s height, length, or even just extra storage capacity, the right work van exists.

  • Whip your mobile office into shape. Your company vans shouldn’t be a fleet of unkempt filing cabinets on wheels. The most efficient and organized home service businesses use ServiceTitan to stay digitally organized and manage their necessary on-site paperwork in real time.

ServiceTitan is a comprehensive plumbing business software solution built specifically to help service companies streamline their operations, boost revenue, and achieve growth. Our award-winning, cloud-based platform is trusted by more than 100,000+ contractors across the country.

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