Got graphics?

Sargento Foods is carrying its new design concept from tractor-trailers all the way down to personal vehicles for executives.

Top prize in the day category of this year’s Commercial Fleet Graphics Awards started with a motorcycle.

In 2003, Sargento Foods CEO Lou Gentine bought a bike from Harley-Davidson, another notable Wisconsin company. Gentine added a side car, which he painted yellow with holes like Swiss cheese. The Cheese Chopper was born.

Soon, Gentine’s Cheese Chopper became a promotional gimmick for Sargento. The Plymouth, Wis.-based company took the motorcycle to Milwaukee Brewers baseball games, Green Bay Packers football games and various promotional events. Others at Sargento have followed Gentine’s lead. His brother, Larry, owns a Swiss cheese Jet Ski. The vice president of marketing owns a Swiss cheese VW.

Eventually, Gentine himself suggested that Sargento’s private fleet also adopt a Swiss cheese theme with its graphics, says Danny Buss, fleet operations manager for Sargento. “He had this vision and wanted to explore it himself before he brought it out.”

The idea was enticing, but changing out fleet graphics is a bit more expensive than painting one motorcycle yellow. Besides, Sargento already had a sharp fleet. In fact, its bold-yet-simple red and black design had in 2002 placed second in the Commercial Fleet Graphics Awards, which are co-sponsored by the National Private Truck Council and Commercial Carrier Journal.

Ultimately, the decision to switch graphics was made in June 2004. By the end of next month, Sargento’s entire fleet will be full of holes.

Two types of products – bottled water and dairy foods – have fared particularly well in recent graphics competitions. This truly was dairy’s year. Second and third place in the day category went to other distributors of milk-based products. North Aurora, Ill.-based Oberweis Dairy placed second with its delivery fleet graphics that simultaneously promote its current product line and evoke the company’s 90-year history and home milk delivery that began early in the last century. And Athens, Tenn.-based Mayfield Dairy Farms took third with its bold and tantalizing display of its ice cream products.

First place night category winner Cooper Tire Co.

In the night category, Findlay, Ohio-based Cooper Tire Co. pulled off a rare feat, winning its second consecutive first-place award for its reflective graphics. The dominant feature of this year’s entry is the bold display of the statement “Buy Quality,” along with use of the American flag in conjunction with the company logo. Second place went to Philadelphia-based Sunoco Inc. for its simple yet colorful tanker graphics. And third place was snagged by The Schwan Food Co., based in Marshall, Minn.

First Place
Day Category

Sargento Foods Inc.
Designers: Bob Peiffer, Sargento
creative services manager; Hare Strigenz Design, Milwaukee; and Epic Media Group, Los Angeles
Producer: Epic Media Group, Los Angeles

First Place
Night Category

Cooper Tire Co.
Designer: Don Egan, senior graphics designer, Cooper Tire Co.
Producer: Endagraph, Export, Pa.

Second Place
Day Category

Oberweis Dairy
Designer: Signature Graphics, Porter, Ind.
Producer: Signature Graphics, Porter, Ind.

Second Place
Night Category

Sunoco Inc.
Designer: Harbor Graphics, Minneapolis
Producer: Harbor Graphics, Minneapolis

Third Place
Day Category

Mayfield Dairy Farms
Designer: Asen Marketing,
Knoxville, Tenn.
Producer: Calaway Systems,
Woodstock, Ga.

Third Place
Night Category

The Schwan Food Co.
Designers: In-house designers and Signature Graphics, Porter, Ind.
Producer: Signature Graphics,
Porter, Ind.

About the award
Since 1978, the National Private Truck Council and Commercial Carrier Journal have co-sponsored the Commercial Fleet Graphics Awards to recognize individual and corporate commitment to excellence in the design and use of commercial vehicle markings.

CCJ and NPTC believe the awards achieve several important objectives. Attractive equipment enhances the public’s perception of the motor carrier industry, and outstanding fleet graphics represent cost-effective marketing of a company’s products and services. And reflective graphics in particular even may improve the margin of safety by establishing visibility beyond minimum conspicuity requirements.

The Commercial Fleet Graphics Awards competition is open to fleets operating vans, straight trucks, tractor-trailers and buses. Excluded from the competition are fleet cars and one-of-a-kind, special-purpose vehicles, such as show trucks. The contest has two categories – day and night – and there is no distinction for vehicle type. Each category has a first-, second- and third-place winner, and an optional honorable mention place may be awarded at the judges’ discretion.

Entries for 2004 were judged by Barbara Brecher, owner, Brecher Design Group; Tony Breland, art director, CCJ; George Mundell, senior VP, NPTC; Gary Petty, president & CEO, NPTC; and Avery Vise, editorial director, CCJ.

Compete for 2005 honors
Are your fleet graphics potential award-winners? Plan now for the next Commercial Fleet Graphics Awards competition, which will cover graphics in operation during 2005. The entry deadline is Dec. 31, 2005. For entry forms, rules and photography tips for the 2005 Commercial Fleet Graphics Awards, contact Dean Smallwood, CCJ managing editor, at [email protected] or 800-633-5953. Or you can download the form and rules at