Contractor Truck

Making a work truck fun and functional

Published in the December 2008 Issue December 2008 Feature

Running a commercial electrical service company is no simple task in and of itself. Managing the tools, supplies and product from one jobsite to another is a whole other job. Most guys in this position rely on their light-duty diesel pickups to get the job done. But that usually leaves coils of Romex and cases of lighting supplies scattered out in truck beds and trailers, with tools everywhere in between.

A.R.E., a manufacturer of light truck bed accessories from tonneau covers to matching toppers, has recently introduced a line of dedicated commercial truck units. The Deluxe Commercial Unit, or DCU, line is a fully-customizable truck unit that offers you the control, security and organizational benefits that you can't get with an open truck bed.

We pulled a 2007 crew cab Chevrolet Duramax (with the LBZ engine) off of a jobsite and gave it a contractor truck makeover. The truck, operated by Brent Purcell of Electrical Support Services, fit right into the previous description: open bed with ladders, spools of wire, boxes and scattered tools; a trailer loaded with more of the same; and a history of having stuff like fiberglass ladders walk away from jobsites.

Using A.R.E.'s build-your-own feature on the DCU section of its website, we set out to design a unit that would best suit the needs of an electrical technician's rolling office. We went with a 30-36-inch height, wedge-design DCU (other options include 23, 26 and 29-inch standard height units and 23-29 or 26-32-inch wedge-design units) to maximize interior lockable storage space-one jobsite can take over 200 can lights, so being able to fit a lot of boxes into the truck is important.

The second option is the color. Standard DCU's are available in white, but you can have A.R.E. paint your unit to match your truck's paint code for an additional charge.

After that, you can select the interior finish, from standard (exposed frame) to a fully-lined or fully-skinned interior using either fossliner fabric for the liner or sheet aluminum for the interior skin. We had our DCU skinned.

You can select from eight rear door options, from double doors with windows to a simple standard half-hatch that functions with the truck's tailgate. We chose a locking hatchback lift door with a window. That way, the door would lift up and out of the way for easy and quick access from any side of the truck.

There are six side options for the DCU. We went with locking double doors on the driver's side and a single door on the passenger side, with double shelving on both sides (there are 15 shelving options available and you can add fold-down shelves if you want.

To make sure we could see through the unit from the rear view mirror, we added a clear picture window on the front of the DCU. You can choose from sliding windows, a window with a security screen or no window at all.

There are 12 wiring/lighting options available to choose from, with either 12-volt interior lights or battery-operated lights. Rear center brake lights are standard.

Finally, there are several options for ladder racks, both interior Jet Racks and top-side racks. Or, you can stick with no rack at all. Electricians live on ladders, so we added a rack to our wedge-style DCU.

Our unit arrived at our local A.R.E. dealer, Auto Trim Design in Idaho Falls, ID, (208-529-8746), and once the installation was scheduled, it took about two hours to get the DCU installed and wired.

From there, we turned it over to Purcell and told him to treat it like any other piece of equipment in his fleet. We wanted to see how the DCU stood up to typical commercial use.

We've been very impressed with the DCU's durability. It's held up to the daily abuse without a flaw. Part of that can be attributed to its construction. The frame of the DCU is made using .050-inch T6 aluminum tubing with TIG-welded joints. The exterior skin is heavy-duty .035-inch aluminum sheet. All of that sits on base rails built from .080-inch T6 aluminum tubing with MIG-welded corners. The rear hatch's gas props have stood up to the task of lifting the large rear door repeatedly.


To get the Duramax rolling down the road with its loads quicker and more efficiently, we went with a DiabloSport Predator handheld flash programmer. The Predator offers four different tunes for the Duramax, in claimed 45, 65, 85 and 120-rear wheel horsepower increments.

We also added a Corsa 4-inch single downpipe-back exhaust system to improve air flow and manage noise while improving performance.

To finish off the performance side of the truck's makeover, we went with an AEM Brute Force HD intake.

This power combo has proven to be a capable and reliable setup for a truck that's constantly operating under a payload. Even with one of the hotter tunes loaded in the engine's PCM, the truck will maintain reasonable EGTs and rip like a hot truck.

Before we did anything to the truck, we put it on the dyno at Custom Auto (208-522-7166). In stock form, the truck put out a respectable 276 rear wheel horsepower and 515 lb-ft of torque.

After adding the AEM Brute Force HD intake and the Corsa 4-inch single exhaust, the numbers jumped to 330 rwhp and 617 lb-ft of torque. That's with the stock Duramax programming.

When we got the Predator involved in the mix, the numbers took a big leap. With the 45-horsepower tow tune uploaded to the PCM, the truck put out 372 rwhp and 703 lb-ft of torque.

The 65-horsepower street tune upped the power output to 384 rwhp and 725 lb-ft of torque on the dyno.

With the 85-horsepower performance tune uploaded, the truck put out an impressive 407 rwhp and 762 lb-ft of torque.

But the big shocker came when we tuned the Duramax with the Predator's 120-horsepower race tune. On the dyno, the truck rolled out an amazing 443.3 rear wheel horsepower and 833.9 lb-ft of torque. That's from a truck with nothing more than an intake, exhaust and programmer.

Needless to say, if Purcell's on a tight schedule, it won't be the truck that's holding him back. What's more, the truck's fuel economy has improved by an average of 1.5 mpg with this power combo, up from 15 mpg to 17.5, and that's running around with a payload in the bed. Exhaust gas temperatures have also improved with the changes to the intake and exhaust. On average, EGTs have dropped by 100 to 150 degrees F.

The Corsa exhaust system was easy to install and has a very unique exhaust note. But what's most impressive about the system is that there is absolutely no drone. Inside the Chevy's cab, the engine and exhaust rumble quietly without annoying the passengers or disrupting phone conversations. Purcell says he's very happy with the exhaust's quite tone and performance.

The AEM intake might take a little longer to install compared to other intakes, because it takes a little extra care to get the filter in place and the tubing pieces connected and lined up so that nothing rubs or rattles. But, as shown by the dyno numbers and improvements in fuel economy and EGTs, the intake lives up to its expectations.

We couldn't be happier with the Predator flash programmer. Its tunes are reliable, economical and powerful, and we haven't had any trouble codes or issues with the truck while running the Predator's tunes.

The numbers don't lie: The Predator, Corsa exhaust and AEM intake are worth every penny.

Since the truck carries a constant payload, we changed out the rear differential cover with an oversized cast aluminum cover from PML. The added fuel capacity and improved cooling fins improve the rear end's life span, and the cover adds a nice touch to the truck's appearance.

Aside from those mods, the truck is also equipped with Firestone Ride-Rite air bags, a set of ReadyLift leveling torsion keys and Cooper Discoverer STT 285/75R16 tires.


See your local A.R.E. dealer





(208) 522-7166

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