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In the early days of modern signmaking, installers would use ropes, pulley systems, lifts, and ladders to accomplish various aerial jobs. However, over the years, the use of sign trucks has made it easier for industry operators to take their sign businesses to great heights. These machines are both mobile and versatile, and have made it easier for installers to work seamlessly—even in hard-to-reach areas.

Buying a sign truck is a significant investment that requires a great deal of thought.

Whether a company is looking to enhance the reach of its installation business or expand its overall services, here are seven factors for sign shop owners/managers to consider before making a purchase.

1. Aerial needs

If a 60 foot boom reach does most of your work and you feel it will meet your needs then that’s great. Stick with the 60’ foot reach boom. However, if you spend $25,000 a year renting cranes to compensate for the lack of an 85’ foot reach boom then it would make sense to buy the 85’ foot boom and get rid of your rental costs. Your monthly payment would be half as much.

2. Ease of operation

K.I.S.S. Many of us have heard this acronym once or twice in our lifetime I’m sure. Keep it simple stupid. Many manufacturers try to engineer and design things to be super modern, however, in our line of work it’s always best to stick to the basics. Stability, reliability, and smooth operation are of the three most important aspects when looking for ease of operation. Don’t get fooled by gimmicks. Simple and easy to use controls and baskets that can be rotated into place without jerking are extremely critical to feel safe at 85’ feet in the air.

3. Helpful attachments

A sign truck is a like a little Swiss army knife. You use different attachments to save you time and money. On some sign trucks you could add a digger derrick. This can alleviate the need for a second truck or waiting on a contractor. Some sign trucks come with a main winch. This eliminates a second truck and now you can set your pylons. Some even have jib winches which will allow your installer to stay positioned and raise his channel letter or anything else he is installing.

4. Safety features

I have listened to many of the old timers in the sign industry share their life and death stories with me. I remember one man told me how me managed to hang 80’ feet over the street with no safety harness and successfully installed a sign. Well, times have indeed changed. Safety features are everywhere today. Sign trucks come in various lengths so that you can meet the demands of the job safely. Nowadays, if your outriggers aren’t properly extended, the crane won’t even operate. Outriggers keep your vehicle rock solid and balanced so that when you’re 85’ feet in the air installing a sign, you have a sense of security which will allow you or your crew to operate in confidence. You can’t even drive off with your boom not stowed properly which I find incredibly valuable.

5. Chassis design

Your sign truck has to be mounted to a chassis. A chassis is an integral and important part of your sign truck. Some dealers offer one stop shopping that takes the guess work and worry out of purchasing the proper truck for your particular needs. If not, I would definitely recommend you ask your boom truck dealer before just buying a chassis from a dealership. Most of the time they have little or no experience building what you are asking for. Locating an industry professional will save you mounds of time and money.

6. Transmissions

The three most important things about buying real estate is location, location, location. Well, the same principle works for sign trucks and transmissions. Automatic, automatic, automatic. Whether you’re putting together a truck with a 19,500 gvwr or one with an 88,000 lb svwr, always go with an automatic transmission. With the advent of automated transmissions, almost 95% of boom trucks we sell come equipped with them. This option will save maintenance, driver fatigue, accidents, and down time. For the one purchasing a sign truck, this will save them a lot of money.

Bottom line

If you are in the market to purchase a new sign truck, it’s critical that you take your needs to a dealership that has industry specific knowledge. A dealership that knows how to ask the right questions to equip them with the proper answers that will ultimately aid the sales team in guiding you to the perfect truck. I have spent over 20 years serving the boom truck industry and I can promise you, if you follow these 6 factors when buying a sign truck you will have a great chance of making the correct choice.

Jeff Stutt

Jeff Stuff has accumulated over 29 years of industry related business experience.  He has built cranes , repaired cranes, and has even driven trucks across North America.  Jeff worked in new  and used truck sales and then transitioned 19 years ago into the boom truck industry. Along the way he has earned his PHD in helping companies find the best solutions for delivering and unloading their products.  


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