What Makes a Truck or Trailer a “Moving Van”?
People who move furniture for a living, need moving vans that will help make that task as easy and as profitable as possible. Certain features stand out as “must have” items for furniture movers, while some are just plain nice to have. When looking for a new or used moving van, ask yourself these questions, and consider these tips to help get the most out of your purchase.
Cubic Foot Capacity
Is the body large enough to handle the type and size of loads you plan to carry? Is the GVWR sufficient to carry that load? Is the inside ceiling height enough to allow you to stand up armoires and sofas? Is the overall height of the van low enough to get you into the places you need to go? These are key questions you should answer when looking for a new or used moving van. The industry standard truck body is 26 feet long inside, 96 inches wide outside (93 inches inside width), and 109 inches inside height, plus a 5 feet attic or peak. These dimensions give a mover about 2000 cubic feet with which to work. Van bodies that are longer, wider, taller or even shorter are all possibilities; depending on the chassis GVWR, how you plan to load your van, and where you plan to operate.
Do you need a CDL or a non-CDL chassis? Are the tires, axles, suspension and driveline sufficient to handle the load you plan on carrying? If it is a non-cdl van you are looking for, is the chassis rated at the full 26,000lb GVWR, or is it less? If it is a CDL van you need, is it rated at the full 33,000lb GVWR? If not, why? What does the data plate or title from the manufacturer state? The few dollars saved by specifying lighter axles and components will cost you much more over the service life of the vehicle. On a used truck purchase this is especially critical as you can bet the van was regularly overloaded if it was underspec’d originally. Calculating cargo weight capacity is done by taking the GVWR, less the empty weight of the truck, less the weight of your inside van equipment, the driver and helpers, and the fuel. The remaining number is the legal maximum weight of any cargo you can haul. The industry calculates the weight of household goods, at 6 or 7 pounds per cubic foot.
Minimum floor height is something all movers want and competent manufacturers strive to achieve. Many things effect loading heights that are not in a body manufacturer’s control. However, some manufacturers are better at squeezing those last few inches out than others. A good balance must be made between GVWR required, component longevity, tire availability on the road, etc. Does the chassis have low profile tires? If the van has air ride, does it come with a dump valve to lower the loading height further? Is the body manufacturer mounting the body as low to the chassis as that chassis vendor allows?
Attic or Peak
A properly sized attic adds cube and gives the public the proper visual of a “Moving Van”. When the truck arrives on moving day, customers will know they did not hire a freight company to move them. Ask yourself, will the attic be built at the proper height to allow the body to be mounted as low as possible, while still achieving the maximum cube? Will it look correct on the chassis I have chosen? Does the attic have full cargo control? What is the maximum weight capacity of the attic? It does no good to have the cube if you can’t use it without damaging your body or chassis.
General Body Construction
Freight bodies are typically constructed from aluminum panels that are .040 thick and with front corner posts as thin as .060. Because movers travel in residential areas and are subject to brushes with tree limbs and shrubbery, the thin panels and posts are much more likely to be damaged than the .050 panels and .130 thick corner posts used by builders of “true” moving van bodies. Additionally, the same applies to the top front radius used on the attic. Kentucky, in producing their moving van bodies for example, installs a radius that is .130 thick; while most freight body builders use a radius that is less than half of that thickness. The built in strength of these stronger, better materials is an important consideration in keeping your moving truck looking new longer. These heavier materials will be obvious when looking at a used truck that has been used in local operations.
The most common “ugly surprise” people get when they buy a traditional freight van instead of a moving van, is they have no way to carry a standard movers ramp. A standard fiberglass or aluminum ramp is 12 feet long x 30 inches wide with at least a 1500 lb capacity. Many people prefer longer, wider, or even split auto loader type ramps. A pull out ramp from the rear is generally the worst possible solution for a mover. This forces the body manufacturer to mount the body as much as 6 inches higher off the ground than necessary. These slide out ramps are too narrow, do not have sufficient capacity and they usually cannot be used from a side door. Kentucky integrates racks into the body, using skirting or metal boxes to keep them as clean and dry as practical.
Skirting on a moving van adds value in several ways. Ongoing studies have proven that skirting adds to the aero-dynamics of a vehicle and reduces fuel consumption. The skirts help hide and protect ramps and tailgate components. They also give that finished moving van look, the general public recognizes as the difference between a “Moving Van” and a freight truck. And while on the subject of the look of a moving van…while your truck is a commercial work vehicle and will not have the fit and finish of a fine luxury car (even though it costs more), it should be crafted with the thought in mind that it is your mobile billboard, and as such, should present an image of professional pride and workmanship.
Side and Rear Doors
Movers need doors that are both wide and tall enough to fit large bulky HHG items through them. Typical freight bodies and trailers have no side doors, or they are much shorter and narrower doors than movers would prefer. The interior of side doors should be flush with the side walls and the logistic posts flush in the doors. The logistic posts must match the posts in the opposite wall for proper cargo control and to allow the ability to use a shoring beam in the door if necessary. Almost all movers use swing open rear doors, as they require less maintenance in the long run, are more weather tight than roll up doors, and prevent damage to furniture from door opening and the cables. All rear swing doors should be constructed with a minimum of two locking rods.
Smooth Finished Floors
Oak hardwood floors are a must for all moving vans. Smooth joints, with the screw holes and any wood cracks filled, along with high quality floor coatings are all part of a moving van floor that keeps claims down. Individual truck flooring boards are connected via a ship lap joint that runs the length of the board. While there is a built in expansion bead in that joint (To compensate for the changes in moisture content of the wood.), these joints should be uniform and smooth with no light coming up from below. The joint edges must be smooth and even, so a chair leg won’t snap when being pulled across the floor. Never accept rough, ragged, unfinished floors in a moving van, they will cost you large claims in the long run.
Industry standard “punch post” construction is the preferred type of interior for most movers. By building the logistic posts (E track) as part of the walls and side doors, you achieve greater usable interior width; many more tie off places than traditional horizontal track, and a smoother surface, much less likely to damage your cargo. A proper moving van body will have recessed, evenly spaced, vertical, logistic posts across the body, including all side doors, to allow decking or shoring beams to be used.
Whether you prefer solid aluminum or translucent fiberglass roof material, furniture movers always want to have some sort of lining to prevent damage to the roof from the cargo inside the body. A properly installed roof liner also reduces the heat transfer from the roof to the cargo or your movers hand or head.
Liftgate Types and Installation
Certain moving applications require power liftgates, and choosing the “right” gate and mounting it properly are critical to a furniture mover. Even with rear swing doors, any gate for a mover must feature as smooth and level an entry as possible. The ability to use the moving van without using the gate is a big plus for a mover, since many jobs do not require the gate. A platform large enough for the bulky items movers transport is important. Ground clearance and departure angle are critical for a mover constantly backing into driveways. In almost all cases, a standard rental truck type tuck-away, falls far short of what a mover really needs in a liftgate.
When purchasing a new van, plan on having the factory do your van line’s painting and graphics. Why paint a van, just to bring it home to be prepped and painted again? If you are not affiliated with a van line, perhaps your own custom colors or graphics would be a smart way to differentiate your company in the marketplace? When purchasing a used van, factor in the considerable cost of removing decals and repainting a truck. When selling your used trucks, removing decals and touching up paint will help you get top dollar and may avoid future liability of having your name on a vehicle years after you have gotten rid of it.
Although many companies build or have built, “Moving Vans”, Kentucky Trailer has truly stood out over time. When searching for a used trailer, these moving vans trade at a premium. Kentucky and its distributors consistently support your National, State and Local Associations. They, and their representatives, go to these industry meetings, trade shows and conventions because listening to movers, is the only way to make the continued improvements necessary to help support an industry in constant transition.