It’s easy to say that most pickup trucks are intended to be used on the job. High-torque engines, beefy drivetrains, heavy-duty springs and large cargo boxes are part of a pickup truck’s DNA. They’re bred to do things like haul equipment, get in and out of rugged terrain and tow a trailer with ease.
Some guys upgrade their trucks to improve horsepower or off-road capabilities. But Jim Harmon, who runs and manages his own pest control company, upgraded his rig to haul his entire business.
Harmon’s 2009 GMC Sierra 2500 HD pickup proved to be an ideal choice for carrying all of the company’s tools, equipment and extra crew out to the job site.
Harmon’s extensive experience with trucks and pest control has led to several upgrades that he believes are key in making his vehicle fuel efficient, powerful and capable of hauling heavy loads — all while looking professional and presentable to his clients.
“A work truck is a rolling toolbox, as well as a transportation tool,” Harmon said. “You can include a large number of accessories at the point of purchase that makes your job a whole lot easier.”
The first step was to replace the 8-foot bed with a utility body. This plumber’s utility body worked perfectly for Jim Harmon’s pest control business.
Harmon spends four to six hours in a day in his truck, so he opted for the upscale SLE trim, which includes leather seating, climate controls, steering wheel controls, remote start and other upgrades.
“If you’re going to spend lots of time in the truck, you may as well be comfortable,” Harmon said.
But comfort isn’t the only benefit of this job-optimized pickup. Harmon brought the truck, which originally was purchased with an 8-foot box, to Pacific Truck Equipment Co. in Whittier, Calif., where the box was replaced with a custom utility body. The higher-priced utility body costs more upfront, but it will outlast less expensive versions, he said.
“The utility body we chose was originally a plumber’s truck body,” Harmon said. “It was returned because he needed more space. So we ended up getting it for a deal!”
The utility body included shelving, double doors with windows and polyurethane-coated (Line-X) floors and walls for extra protection. Harmon also added Go Rhino interior side boxes and shelves for extra storage space in the main back compartment, which helps to carry smaller items that are needed in his line of work.
The utility bed had a ladder rack, but Harmon wanted to go a bit retro and had Pacific Truck weld solid metal panels on the outside of the side frame pieces.
A Magnaflow cat-back exhaust system improves the performance and fuel economy of the 6.0-liter V-8.
“This will be great for additional advertising space in the future,” Harmon said. “It also makes the truck appear taller!”
Harmon also added a set of side marker lamps that also function as turn signals for additional safety.
Because the load on the truck’s 6.0-liter V-8 would be hefty, Harmon knew that a simple cat-back exhaust upgrade would add power and a minor fuel economy improvement by allowing the engine to breathe more freely. He opted for a Magnaflow stainless-steel system that improved the engine’s torque and horsepower.
Performance exhausts can also translate into smoother power transition during acceleration and provide more midrange horsepower that allows the engine to make better use of it during towing and highway use.
With a fully stocked utility body on the bed, these work trucks tend to lean during turns and feel top-heavy. Harmon knew that incorporating an aftermarket rear anti-sway bar would take care of this problem.
“Our truck came with a factory front sway bar, so we added a beefy 1-1/4-inch-diameter rear sway bar from Hellwig Products in Visalia, Calif., to keep the truck under control,” said Harmon. “The heavier-duty work trucks can gain significant increases in safety with an additional rear bar.”
A Hellwig rear anti-sway bar kit helps keep the truck steady, even with a hefty load.
Addressing the weight of additional tools — and in many cases, additional staff — prompted Harmon to maximize the truck’s load-carrying capabilities. Most utility trucks use an air-spring assist system that consists of air bags that help support additional loads over the axle. They also level out the ride so the rear isn’t lower than the front of the pickup.
“We used a set of Firestone Ride-Rite rear air-bag springs and coupled it with a set of their front Level-Rite air shocks,” Harmon said.
This system has an on-board air compressor and sensors that detect the pressure in each of the shocks and air bags. “You can set whatever pressure in the system on the remote control,” Harmon said. “Then the system's computer checks the air pressure against the inputted values. If it is under the desired air pressure, the compressor automatically kicks in and adds more air. This keeps the vehicle at the exact right height you want.”
While keeping the truck level, there is also the fact that it can sometimes be difficult to reach all the tools on the tall utility bed. Because of this, Harmon always upgrades his trucks to incorporate some aftermarket steps. In this case, a set of Go Rhino Dominator III steps were added, including an extra step for the ladder rack and the rear hitch step. He also installed a Big Country Rancher grille guard, complete with Delta halogen off-road lights that come in handy when the job site gets dark. The front grille guard is also set up for a winch or small toolbox on the lower flat mount.
This Firestone Air Command system automatically inflates the suspension’s air springs to add support and load-carrying capability.
“This not only adds to the look of our truck, but the overall function on the job site,” Harmon said.
To ensure the crew’s safety on a job site, the truck needs to stand out. Harmon didn’t want to add big strobe lights and a light rack onto the truck, so he opted to install some concealed strobes from StreetGlow Industries.
“We installed a pair of strobe light kits that fit into the stock headlights. We also used their fog lights, plus amber boxed strobes that are mounted below the rear bumper,” said Harmon.
The strobe lights in the front are drilled into the factory lights and use the factory reflectors to produce a huge flash of light guaranteed to alert anyone. The control systems are small enough to be concealed, and the lights can be activated using a remote.
For an additional image boost, Harmon used StreetGlow’s LED strip lights. “These lights emit an amber glow when the headlights are on to illuminate our truck’s running lights, and then switch white to provide a light on the ground, which light up our side steps when entering and exiting the truck,” Harmon said.
The truck is outfitted with 17×9 KMC wheels mounted on BF Goodrich Rugged Trail T/A tires that set the truck apart from a typical work truck.
A vehicle’s overall appearance adds to the professionalism that’s brought to the workplace, Harmon says. That’s one reason why he ditched the factory steel wheels and replace them with 17×9 KMC XD798 Addict wheels mounted on BF Goodrich Rugged Trail T/A tires.
“These tires are great for 50,000-plus miles on the highway and rugged enough to take us almost anywhere,” Harmon said.
With his work truck properly equipped, Harmon can be assured that it can handle any type of job site that it encounters. His selection of aftermarket components to the GMC not only adds to the professional appearance of his business, but is also an asset to the functionality that his truck can deliver on the job. Pests, you have been warned.
A Garmin Nuvi 1690 navigation system is vital to minimize time and fuel getting to a work site.
Got a truck that you've customized to do your job, like Jim Harmon? We'd love to hear about it. Drop us a line and you could find your pickup featured in a similar story.