The service trucks in this post are heavier duty than the basic one-ton trucks discussed in A History of Light Duty Service Trucks
These mid-size trucks are often more specialized in equipment and fittings, both because the trucks themselves have the capacity to handle the tasks, and also because the specialized equipment itself is bulky and difficult to make portable.
The typical mid-size service truck, generally based on a cab-and-chassis foundation, can be built around either a dedicated service body, or constructed around a solid flatbed foundation, with modular units added to the flatbed frame. The service bodies themselves tend to have major reinforcement (and weight), in order to support cranes and lifts. These trucks are not always specialized, and some are simply extended-length, higher-capacity versions of the basic service truck format. These extended-length trucks are actually hybrids of sorts, a lighter-duty service truck, extended a bit. Their length makes them more difficult to maneuver in tight places, but they aren’t fully peers with the other, heavier-duty trucks described here.
While the light duty service trucks mentioned in the previous article can typically fit in an ordinary parking spot, and can navigate many covered parking garages without issue, the longer and larger trucks begin to run into issues. As people with “dually” long-bed pickups and “lifted” trucks have found, they need to park across multiple spots in the backs of parking lots, and their trucks often don’t play well with tight covered parking garages.
Another element of these trucks is that the exposed equipment assures they are typically parked either at a work site or in secure storage. Unattended, open parking is not a good habit with one of these (Home Depot parking lots are a common exception). They are not trucks to be parked unattended for significant lengths of time in places accessible to the public.
While a handyman may use a light-duty service truck for daily driving, and can typically keep everything locked up and mostly out of sight, it gets more difficult to do so with the larger, more elaborate rigs. The economics of such larger rigs also comes into play. The cost of such heavier duty equipment is relatively very high, and the equipment is typically dedicated to accomplishing specific tasks, so the trucks are usually employed at job sites full-time.
Generators and air compressors tend to be standard equipment in these rigs, but other features tend to be more job-specific. Many of these trucks are used to service other heavy equipment, so lifts are used to move heavy parts around. Other trucks are used for aerial work, so will have scissor lifts for materials or cherry pickers for workers. Water well maintenance rigs of this size are common, too. All of these jobs involve extending people or tools out in different directions, often leveraged out to the side of the rig, which means a particularly stable platform is required. It is typical to see stabilizers or jacks either extended from or placed around the perimeter of the frame of the truck, to keep the rig from leaning or tipping while loads are being moved around.
Trucks in this range serve some other varied roles as well. They can carry lubricants for servicing off-road construction equipment, or they can be used to change the tires on large on-road trucks or off-road equipment. Road maintenance crews can use specialized service trucks for painting stripes, setting cones, or as sign trucks, directing traffic. Gas and electric companies will use this size truck for service and maintenance of their infrastructure, and oil rig servicing firms will often use this type of truck for general maintenance out in the field. Once you start looking around, you will see these trucks everywhere.
It is very difficult to find vintage medium-duty service trucks, or even photos of them. They seem to have emerged out of a marriage of the lighter-duty service trucks and the heavier-duty flatbed trucks of decades past. While medium-duty cab-and-chassis units have always been available, medium-duty service trucks, as we know them, seem to have become mainstreamed only in the last few decades. Like the smaller trucks, the older examples tended to be painted different colors, if the photos are to be believed, while the more modern iterations are almost universally white.
While the basic layout of the medium duty service truck is universal, there are still so many variations that can be had, as the manufacturers are quick to step up to offer “improvements” or “customizations” (for a price).
The price tags on these rigs are not for the faint of heart, as they can often exceed $100k new, if equipped with lifts, cranes, or other options. Medium sized fleets may have rows of trucks, though they are often leased or otherwise carefully financed.
This time around has been a bit of a survey, like an adult version of the Richard Scarry children’s car and truck books. These service trucks are vital to building and maintaining our way of life, yet they are largely invisible to the average person (but we aren’t average around here, are we?). The service trucks go larger and heavier yet, so there is one more collection to follow.