Updated Jan 13, 2010

On highways crowded with sharp images and bright colors, it’s not enough just to look good. The best fleet graphics have that something extra to grab your attention.

What might get your attention while you are driving along the interstate? A good book? The headlights of an oncoming car? Perhaps a mind-bending three-dimensional image or just a simple, unusual graphic? CCJ’s Five Flashiest Fleets have them all. If there’s any common thread linking the five top fleet graphics, it might be the fact that each offers something beyond a pleasing image.

In a way, top-ranked Barnes & Noble breaks a time-honored rule of fleet graphics: Don’t use too many words. Of course, words are exactly what you would expect from the nation’s leading book retailer, which designed a moving bookshelf to highlight the wide variety of literature available at more than 800 locations as well as its Internet bookstore.

An alternative to Barnes & Noble’s graphics reinforcing its branding, these graphics feature a wide variety of books that include recent bestsellers, classics, children’s favorites and standard reference books. A Post-It note with the Barnes & Noble website is a subtle but well-executed touch. Designer Farago, a New York agency, has taken care to make the note translucent and to show the shadow at the bottom that would result from the note curling upward at the bottom.

By contrast, MillerCoors’ second-place Miller Chill graphics incorporate no text at all except the words on the beer’s label. What sets these graphics apart are the 3-D visual tricks – the appearance of depth in both the rear and side views, and especially the surge of beer on the side. The cap seems to pop right off the side of the truck.

Designed and produced by Modagrafics, the graphics were used for the launch of Miller Chill on trailers operated on routes where the product was available first. “We wanted something different that would stand out from the everyday truck wrap,” says Sandra Gallo, senior buyer in MillerCoors’ corporate procurement department. “We felt this design was the perfect way to show energy, appetite appeal and strong branding all in one.”

Third-ranked Cooper Tire & Rubber continues a tradition of award-winning graphics that incorporate reflective materials. Designed in-house by lead graphics designer Tracy Tackett and produced and installed by Epic Media Group, the graphics capitalize on Cooper Tire’s status as the official tire of Roush Performance, says C. Douglas Lyon, fleet operations manager. On the side, the swirl treatment gives the impression of movement and complements the Cooper Tire logo. For the rear, the straight-on view of the Mustang draws attention to the trailer, Tackett notes.

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The tread stripe down the sides and across the rear of the trailer continues a theme from Cooper Tire’s other trailer graphics, building continuity. Lyon’s lone input into the design of Cooper Tire’s graphics is to incorporate reflective materials as “a safety feature to protect our drivers by making them and our trucks more visible as they drive during evening and night hours.” In addition to the Cooper Tire and Roush names and logos, the graphics feature reflective materials for the Mustang’s headlights and turn signals.

Kraft Foods’ fourth-place Ranch Dressing graphics demonstrate that graphics don’t have to be busy and elaborate to be effective. The clean and elegant graphics – designed by New York firm McGarry Bowen and produced by Modagrafics – feature just a fork, a bite of salad and a bottle of Kraft Ranch Dressing against a white background. What makes the graphics so striking is the single leaf wrapping around from the back of the trailer to the rear door. Kraft uses this effect in several of its current fleet graphics, but none to greater effect than Ranch Dressing.

Rounding out CCJ’s Five Flashiest Fleets is NBTY Inc., which effectively conveys the illusion of three dimensions by using the trailer itself as a design element. NBTY’s previous graphics simply featured the company’s MetRx and Pure Protein brand-name logos. “When it came time to redo the graphics on the trailers, the MetRx brand team was looking for a bigger splash,” says James Flaherty, NBTY’s senior vice president of advertising and marketing.

Designed in-house and produced by Signature Graphics, the inspiration came from the name of one of the products to be featured – the MetRx Big 100 Colossal bar. The idea was the bar was so big that it had to be strapped down. NBTY continued the idea for the other side of the trailer featuring the company’s Pure Protein Bars.

CCJ’s editors selected the Five Flashiest Fleets from dozens of quality entries. While we selected these five for our top honors, we have selected another five for honorable mention: Kraft Foods Ritz Crackers, Lohr Distributing, Override Decking Systems, Pepsi Americas and Trauth Dairy. Any of them arguably is worthy of the highest recognition, but we couldn’t really pick 10 Five Flashiest Fleets.


Kraft Foods (Ritz Crackers) Champaign, Ill.
Designer: Euro RSCG Worldwide
Producer: Modagrafics Inc., Rolling Meadows, Ill.

Lohr Distributing
St. Louis
Designer: Antista Fairclough Design, Atlanta
Producer: Craftsman Industries, St. Charles, Mo.

Override Decking Systems Lakeville, Minn.
Designer: Print Lab, Lakeville, Minn.
Producer: Print Lab

Pepsi Americas
St. Louis
Designer: Epic Media Group, El Segundo, Calif.
Producer: Epic Media Group

Trauth Dairy
Newport, Ky.
Designer: Graphic Concepts, Cincinnati
Producer: Signature Graphics, Porter, Ind.

How flashy is your fleet?
Commercial Carrier Journal has recognized excellence in fleet graphics for more than 30 years. For 2009 and thereafter, we are focusing on the five absolute best fleet graphics – CCJ’s Five Flashiest Fleets. Each year, CCJ editors and art directors will choose the best among the entrants. Others may be recognized as honorable mentions.

The competition is open to all fleet operations – private or for-hire – and all classes of commercial vehicles. Ineligible are automobile-only fleets, one-of-a-kind designs and special-purpose vehicles, such as vehicles used in demonstrations or exhibits.

Think you have award-winning graphics? Enter the 2010 CCJ’s Five Flashiest Fleets competition. Download the entry form, rules and guidelines at www.ccjmagazine.com or contact Dean Smallwood at 800-633-5953 or [email protected].

Entries must be postmarked or e-mailed by Friday, Jan. 15, 2010.