What Do Your Vehicles "Say" About Your Company?

There’s hardly a commercial vehicle on the road these days without huge logos, advertisements or even biblical admonitions plastered all over it. Fleets have been using their vehicles as a media for advertisement for a long time. With the arrival of vehicle wraps – a vinyl “skin” stretched to completely or partially cover a vehicle – this form of advertising has grown to include vehicles of all shapes and sizes.

Nonetheless, trucks still maintain the majority of the mobile advertising market. Some companies want to use their fleets as a means to increase recognition of their own brand, while others might advertise other companies as a means of additional revenue. Whatever reason there may be, there are several considerations for fleet managers to consider before they convert their vehicles to rolling billboards.


Back in the day, the only way to brand a fleet was with traditional decals. Logos and wording were generally monochrome and not large in size. Each decal had to be cut to shape and then applied to the vehicle. These decals had to be applied to clean surfaces at specific temperatures. Air bubbles under the decal were a problem that could not be dealt with easily.

Removal of decals was expensive because once the decals were applied they were not easy to remove.

This began to change beginning in the early 1970s when companies, such as 3M (www.3m.com), pioneered improved adhesive technology allowing decals to be applied using pressure. This made the decals much easier to handle and to place properly. Then, in 1999, 3M invented a feature in its wraps that allowed air bubbles to escape easily. What has resulted is an explosion of wraps being used for marketing purposes.

Wraps have quite a few advantages over decals. They can be put over curved surfaces and applied more easily. Wraps lend themselves to large printed images and are not terribly expensive to have. Pricing tends to be between two to four dollars a square foot to install, and five to 20 dollars a square foot for the material itself.

One of the leading vinyl wraps available is the No. 480Cv3 with 8548G over laminate available from 3M, says the company. These wraps benefit from ease of installation in wide temperature ranges and in error-free application.

Removal is better than traditional wraps, because it is stronger and tends not to tear. Plus, it is more environmentally friendly than other wraps available up to this time, requiring much less solvents to make and no PVCs.

Some other vehicle wraps cannot be put on very quickly or easily, however. The vehicles need to be clean, dry and above 55 degrees F for installation. Depending on the installers and the size of the pieces of wrap used, the process can take several days.

Traditional wraps look great over smooth and curved surfaces, but can visually look strange when put over a side of a vehicle where rivet marks are apparent.


Since 1998, Epic Media Group (www.epicmediagroup.com), has been taking vinyl wraps in an entirely different direction. Instead of adhering large sheets of vinyl to the side of a vehicle, the company has been achieving the same wrap effect by installing a frame on the outside of the trailer and “zipping” a flexible sheet of vinyl into it. This flexible vinyl system is called Kwik Zip.

There are some pros to using flexible vinyl versus a traditional wrap. Installation is much quicker and not dependent upon weather conditions or location, so weather is a non-issue. Furthermore, since the vinyl does not need to adhere to any surface, the installation is relatively quick - usually 30 minutes or less per side for both the frames and the vinyl.

Another benefit is the overall quality of the image. When this flexible sheet of vinyl wrap is stretched over the side of the vehicle, a very thin air pocket exists between the vinyl and the actual side of the vehicle. What the driving public sees is a smooth and seamless image without any rivet marks, ribs or dents to interfere with it. Since the vinyl is “zipped” into the frame as tight as a drum, it does not flap in the breeze. The visual effect of this is that of a billboard instead of a banner.

Long-term durability is good and these wraps, unlike standard vehicle wraps, can have graffiti cleaned off very simply with acetone. This is a substantial cost savings over traditional wraps that have to be replaced.

As alluded to before, flexible vinyl can be cost-effective. For example, many box and reefer trucks can have a flexible vinyl installed for much less than a wrap. On used vehicles with existing decals, dents, etc., the existing graphics don’t need to be removed and the dents don’t need to be fixed as flexible vinyl can be stretched right over them, saving more time and money. Quick installations also make for reduced costs for graphic removals.

Another significant cost savings is the fact that the frames and graphics can be re-used. To reduce costs even further, some companies install their flexible vinyl systems on their own.

That is not to say that there are not some limitations to flexible vinyls. There are certain surfaces that lend themselves to traditional wraps. This includes smaller areas or curved surfaces like the cab itself and the rear doors.

For example, Kwik Zip can be used on rear roll-up doors because of modifications in its frame, but Epic admits some swing doors lend themselves to a traditional wrap due to the locking mechanism and door designs that exist.


The choice of whether to begin or adapt one’s fleet for marketing reasons is a rather simple one: do the benefits outweigh the costs? The answer to this question depends upon the goal a given company is trying to achieve.

Some companies want to brand their own company while others want to sell ad space to other corporations. When the latter is the case, return on investment is pretty easy to figure out and is probably a matter of months before the ads turn a profit. Return on investment can be affected by the amount of trucks, the hours in which they operate and where they operate.

Return on investment aside, it is important to consider the costs of downtime for installing the wraps and ultimately, de-identifying the fleet. Traditional wraps tend to cost more in both categories. They take days to install rather than hours or even minutes. Furthermore, the cost of removal can be in the thousands as opposed to hundreds of dollars per truck.

Companies such as 3M make solvents that remove any wrap adhesive that may remain on the vehicle, but a flexible vinyl does not need any such chemicals. It can simply be removed from the vehicle.

In this way, flexible vinyls often can improve the resale of a vehicle. The cost of removal is less of an issue and often the vinyl helps preserve the original condition of the vehicle because it was not exposed to the elements. Dirt and dings are often not visible, simply because the vinyl repelled road debris, often increasing the resale of the vehicle.


Regardless of whether you choose a traditional wrap or flexible vinyl, you will need to determine the best wa y to generate the graphic artwork. Often the fleet will do this, but professional ad agencies and often the wrap-providers themselves can render the same service.

The cost of art can vary in price widely. A wrap design which includes a simple logo, may cost as little as $500. The price goes up with a more complicated image or when the graphic artist has to create the ad. When this is the case, the cost can be in the thousands of dollars.

To save money, it is best for a fleet to come up with a high-resolution image made to fit the dimensions of the vehicle itself.

Graphic art created by the fleet will generally need to be modified for use as a wrap. Often the challenge with wraps is applying a smaller image for use on the side of a large object like a truck or a trailer. No matter how high the resolution of the smaller image is, when it is enlarged so substantially, it may not be at high enough resolution when stretched over the side of an entire vehicle.

The graphics artist of the wrap company usually needs to airbrush out the pixels in an image so a smooth looking picture can be achieved.