How To: Safeguard your tools during transport

Grounds-maintenance professionals require a variety of tools and equipment with which to do their jobs. Considering the cost of that equipment, an investment in good-quality storage units is a wise decision. It is important to keep tools and items organized for greater efficiency, as well as to protect them from the elements and potential thieves. Before shopping for such equipment, it is a good idea to become as knowledgeable as you can about the products available. Define as clearly as possible what you need in a storage unit. Some things to consider might be: * What kind of equipment and tools do I transport regularly? * Do I use a truck or a van most often? * Does my vehicle sit outside all year round? * Do I need easy accessibility to my equipment and tools?

Depending on whether you work out of a truck or a van, you have different accessories from which to choose to organize your vehicle.

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Low- and high-profile truck storage Low-profile boxes are one of the most common accessories for which a landscape manager can find a use. These units sit low behind the pickup truck's rear window so they don't hinder visibility. They hold a variety of small tools, such as hammers and wrenches, as well as some of your larger hand-held power tools, such as hedge trimmers or chain saws. Low-profile boxes come in a variety of configurations: cross (dual-lid) boxes (see Photo 1, page 56), saddle (single-lid) boxes (see Photo 2, top left), low-side boxes (see Photo 1, page 56), super-low boxes and all-purpose chests (see Photo 3, above).

When talking to your retailer or distributor, be sure to ask about the quality of construction. Inquire about the reinforcing of the aluminum boxes, specifically any channels that have been formed into the body and bottom of the box. This is important because aluminum will flex over time if not reinforced and cause the weather seal to break. Make sure all seams are fully arc-welded to produce a weather-tight storage box that is not only rust resistant but also strong and durable.

If you are interested in a box that you mount on top of the side rails, instead of in the bed, the high-profile box is the answer (see Photo 4, top right).

Additional truck accessories Additional accessories are available to help organize your pickup. Each meets various needs you may have, depending on the services your firm offers. Refer to the specific photos for details on each: * Underbed boxes: see Photo 5, above. * Transfer tanks: see Photo 6, page 80. * Ladder racks: see Photo 1, page 56. * Cab protectors: see Photo 1, page 56. * Drawer units: see Photo 1, page 56. * Sliding platform: see Photo 7, page 80

Van accessories If your work vehicle is a van rather than a truck, products are available to help you organize it for maximum efficiency and convenience. You can custom design a package to fit your individual needs, or you can order a pre-packaged module already designed for your trade. Included in the modules are shelves, drawers and cabinets, bulkheads, bin boxes and accessories, among other items, depending on what you require. Modules are designed so they are interchangeable.

Van racks. These exterior racks are available in steel or all aluminum for full-size and mini vans. They hook on the top of your van. A type of rack called a "quick-clamp" rack has side rails that run the full length of the van and hook to the front end, providing a convenient pivot point. It's a simple one-person operation to lean the front of a ladder against the front hook and swing the back up onto the rack. Close the pneumatic, spring-assisted clamping mechanism, and you're ready to go.

An all-purpose rack, available in steel or aluminum, also is available that mounts to a van's rain gutter. For full-size vans, consider a "safari" rack, which also sits on the top of your van. This rack is wide enough to haul a 4-foot-wide load. Its eight cross-members spread your load evenly to protect the van's entire roof, and it will support the flimsiest of long materials.

Of course, as mentioned, in addition to these standard accessories, many companies offer customization to meet specific needs you may have. Whatever type of storage accessories you consider, always remember to compare quality of construction-along with price-before making a purchase.

Brad Fagala is promotion manager for Knaack Manufacturing Co. (Crystal Lake, Ill.).

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