Commercial Fleet Graphics Awards: Furnishing more attractive highways

Arhaus Furniture’s mixture of cool, classic simplicity and eye-catching product promotion leads the winners in this year’s National Private Truck Council/CCJ Commercial Fleet Graphics Awards.

Some award-winning fleet graphics feature bold splashes of color and imagery; others are simple and sleek. Some graphics stress brand image, while others promote product. But rarely are fleet graphics simultaneously simple and splashy, both brand-oriented and product-focused. Arhaus Furniture, a furniture retailer based in the Cleveland area, has accomplished all these objectives, and its efforts earned it recognition as the top overall entry in this year’s National Private Truck Council/Commercial Carrier Journal Commercial Fleet Graphics Awards.

Better world, better graphics
Arhaus changed its graphics a year ago after it replaced its old logo. Since the logo change meant new graphics anyway, company officials decided that “we would also like a different view of the Arhaus brand image for the trucks,” says Anne Elshaw, public relations manager for the company. “So we added visual images of some new furniture to make the trucks stand out and show off our products.”

While the trailer slides are simple but striking black with white lettering, the trailer doors are just as stunning in their contrast – a chair sitting in a meadow against a clear blue sky. Otherwise, Arhaus takes a minimalist approach: Just the name Arhaus and its Web address on the doors; and just the name, Web address and phone number on the sides.

In a sense, it’s this lack of information that makes the Arhaus graphics particularly effective. If you visit, you quickly discover what Arhaus was trying to say with the intriguing image on the doors. As part of the change in its logo and branding, Arhaus added a tagline – “Furnishing a better world” – to reinforce a green corporate image. Only after going to the website do motorists make the connection, and it’s that kind of follow-through that any marketer craves.

“It was really our focus on making sure our products are eco-friendly,” Elshaw says. “We wanted to show that on our trucks.” She adds that owner John Reed is committed to using only using eco-friendly materials – a value that is a high priority with Arhaus customers.

A nod to trucking
Some of the most effective fleet graphics in some way cleverly play off the fact that the text and images appear on a truck body or trailer. For example, the top-placing Red Gold Tomatoes entry in 2002 featured what appeared to be a partially open roll-up rear door showing cases of tomatoes. Another award-winning entry from the same year from Jack-In-The-Box displayed mouth-watering burgers with the text: “Driver carries no napkins.” And last year, Primo Water placed among the overall winners with graphics featuring the following warning on the back of the trailer: “CAUTION: Following too closely may cause dry mouth, excessive thirst or uncontrollable panting.”

In this year’s competition, the second- and third-place overall winners are based on the premise that the viewer is looking into the truck body or trailer interior. When All Makes Office Equipment changed its fleet graphics about a year ago, the company decided to take a different approach to their truck graphics by incorporating humor into the graphic design, says Jaylene Eilenstine, director of marketing for the Omaha, Neb.-based contract office furniture dealer.

The All Makes graphics feature two versions of the same basic concept – the office is inside the truck and the truck’s motion is creating chaos. Small touches – such as the fact that the man’s toupee is coming off – add to the effect. The images used in the graphics were shot on the All Makes showroom floor, Eilenstine notes. The response has been quite positive; drivers report hearing laughs from clients when they are unloading furniture, she adds.

Kraft Foods’ third-place entry for the Chips Ahoy! graphics portray the inside of a trailer as if the rear doors were open. The slogan is “They go fast!” So the rear-door graphics show a realistic trailer interior that’s empty except for a couple of stray packages that have been left behind.

The Chips Ahoy! graphics are the latest in a series from Kraft Foods that creatively play with perceptions of reality. Graphics showing a turkey vandalizing a trailer with graffiti because of the message “Miracle Whip makes a better turkey sandwich” took second in the competition two years ago. Indeed, another Kraft entry in this year’s competition promoting Fruity Peebles and Cocoa Peebles uses graphics that suggest the truck is from the time of Fred Flintstone and Barney Rubble, who are featured in the graphics.

The best of the rest
While Arhaus, All Makes and Kraft took overall honors, others stood out among the dozens of outstanding entries. NPTC and CCJ recognize the Top 5 in each of two categories – combinations and single units, such as straight trucks and vans.

One of the more clever graphics approaches came from Bridgestone Firestone, which uses the slogan “For drivers who want the most out of their cars, it’s Bridgestone or nothing” – the images are of sports cars and SUVs without tires and wheels. CHS, which supplies Cenex fuel to its own and other convenience store chains, created eye-catching graphics on its tankers that resemble a blue sky with just a few clouds. Meanwhile, Raynor Express Corp. – the private fleet for garage door supplier Raynor – uses its trailer space to feature leading products. Swiss Valley Farms takes a simpler but effective approach with its graphics featuring milk and chocolate milk. And Wal-Mart uses the space on some of its trailers to promote highway safety, warning motorists to watch for blindspots.

Among the single-unit entries, the Chicago Tribune gets attention with its unusual color scheme and attractive photography. Hill’s Pet Nutrition trucks feature large photos of veterinarians with pets. The Katzman Produce graphics stand out with their colorful displays of mouth-watering berries. Wholesale foods distributor Mackoul shows an artistic side. And Market Day, a company that supplies foods for fund raising, gets attention and smiles with large photos of happy people.

Congratulations to all the winners.

First Place
Arhaus Furniture
Walton Hills, Ohio
Designer: Arhaus Furniture
Producer: Power Media, Akron, Ohio

Second Place
All Makes Office Equipment
Omaha, Neb.
Designer: Clark Creative Group, Omaha, Neb.
Producer: Design8 Studios, Omaha, Neb.

Third Place
Kraft Foods
East Hanover, N.J.
Designer: Draft FCB, New York
Producer: Modagrafics, Rolling Meadows, Ill.

Bridgestone Firestone North American Tire, Nashville, Tenn.
Designer: Bridgestone Firestone North American Tire
Producer: Epic Media Group, El Segundo, Calif.

CHS, St. Paul, Minn.
Designer: Colle+McVoy, Minneapolis
Producer: Signature Graphics, Porter, Ind.

Raynor Express Corp., Dixon, Ill.
Designer: Raynor Express Corp.
Producer: Signature Graphics, Porter, Ind.

Swiss Valley Farms, Davenport, Iowa
Designer: Swiss Valley Farms and Signature Graphics
Producer: Signature Graphics, Porter, Ind.

Wal-Mart Transportation, Bentonville, Ark.
Designer: Wal-Mart and Mountain Commercial Graphics
Producer: Mountain Commercial Graphics, Hurst, Texas

Chicago Tribune, Chicago
Designer: Chicago Tribune
Producer: Modagrafics, Rolling Meadows, Ill.

Hill’s Pet Nutrition, Topeka, Kan.
Designer: Callahan Creek, Lawrence, Kan.
Producer: Signature Graphics, Porter, Ind.

Katzman Produce, Bronx, N.Y.
Designer: Katzman Produce
Producer: Signature Graphics, Porter, Ind.

Mackoul Distributors, Jacksonville, Fla.
Designer: Signature Graphics, Porter, Ind.
Producer: Signature Graphics

Market Day, Itasca, Ill.
Designer: Market Day
Producer: Modagrafics, Rolling Meadows, Ill.

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.

“This award recognizes fleets for their creative graphics designs, color schemes and general appearance which enhance the motor carrier industry’s public image and the image of the company operating the vehicles,” says Gary Petty, NPTC president and chief executive officer.

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, services and branding.

The Commercial Fleet Graphics Awards competition is open to all 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.

Are your fleet graphics potential award-winners? Plan now for the next Commercial Fleet Graphics Awards competition. The entry deadline is Jan. 30, 2009, but why wait? For entry forms and rules, contact Dean Smallwood, CCJ, at or
800-633-5953. Or you can download the form and rules at