Point of Beginning

Web Exclusive: My Survey Truck

June 1, 2009


I've noticed that, like each survey plat we produce, each surveyor has a unique way of setting up his or her own survey truck. So, for the last couple of years, it's been a vision of mine to create a platform where we surveyors can show off our survey vehicles-all in the interest of having some competitive fun, of course.

This month, POB launches “My Survey Truck,” a Web exclusive feature showcasing your survey vehicles. “My Survey Truck” highlights not only how you set up your survey truck but also why and how. How did you design and build your tool storage box? Or, if you use a premade box, how did you choose it? What makes your truck different from all the others? Why do you organize it the way you do? What special features does your truck have that your colleagues’ trucks (or vans) may not? The purpose of “My Survey Truck” is to share our ideas and help others make their survey truck better and more efficient.

To officially introduce this feature, I offer you a description of my own survey truck below.

Name: Joseph D. Fenicle, PS
Title: Chief Surveyor
Employer: Office of the Fulton County Engineer, Wauseon, Ohio
Survey Duties: Boundary, topographic, construction, GPS, corner recovery and remonumentation
Vehicle(s): 1998 Chevy 1500 4x4 w/2006 John Deere Gator HPX 4x4
Survey Equipment: Trimble 4700 & 4800 RTK GPS, Sokkia Set 4BII, tripods, rods, etc.

Special Features and Comments: My survey truck, Unit 5, has been pieced together by multiple surveyors over a span of 10 years. The box is custom-made to fit the equipment and surveying supplies necessary to complete the required field work. The extended cab provides an excellent place to store most of the GPS components and keep them secure. The GPS receiver sits on brackets on top of the box; it is very convenient and makes for quick initialization. There is a small set of drawers that is bolted on top of the box that holds all of the survey nails, shiners, ribbons, caps, etc. I have also bolted down an old milk crate to hold railroad spikes, bolts, hubs, etc.

The total station and level sit in a depressed portion of the box and are surrounded with padding. Pelican cases hold the prisms and tribrachs in the cab of the truck. The Gator is mainly used for right-of-way staking and large ditch surveys. The truck also has an AMS distance measuring system installed, which is one of my favorite options while doing construction staking and searching for section corners.

What I like most about my survey truck: Since 1995, I have worked out of about a dozen different survey trucks, and each has had its own special features. My current survey truck is a blend of each of my past trucks put together. I like how the GPS receiver sits under the cap of the truck but can still keep lock on satellites for quick initialization. We do a lot of section corner referencing, recovery and remonumentation, and the truck is specifically set up for ease of operation in all three aspects. I rarely use the four-wheel drive, but when it is used, it is absolutely necessary. I also like the “suicide” doors on the extended cab for maximum working and storage space. I am sold on working out of a truck compared to the various vans I have worked out of in the past.

What I like least about my survey truck: For the most part, I am happy with the size and features of my survey truck. When I eventually replace my truck, the only feature I would like to change is to upsize to a crew cab and a ¾ ton. I would also like to mount the cones on the front to clear up some space in the back and install wig-wag lights in addition to the top-mounted strobe.

Name: Steve Burkholder, PLS
Title: President
Employer: Burkholder Land Surveying Inc.
Survey Duties: One man solo practice (party chief, draftsmen, bookkeeper and chief bottle washer)
Vehicle(s): 2001 Ford F-150 Lariat quad cab
Survey Equipment: Topcon GPT 8203A robotic total station with Satel radios; Wild NA-2 automatic level, tripods, rods, locater, etc.

Special Features and Comments: I custom designed and built a watertight aluminum box for the back of my truck. I also custom designed a cone rack to make more room in the bed of the truck. The cone rack is designed to hold seven DOT-size cones and has a removable grip to keep the cones from coming off while driving on the highway. The cone rack was mounted for optimal ground clearance and can easily be removed to service the engine. With the Reese-type receiver mounted on the front of my truck, I can also use it to mount a cargo rack or an umbrella, as well. The rack has one long bar welded to the base with two support brackets. These brackets also help to keep the cones stacked neatly as I put them back on. I use the standard toolbox that is mounted on the back of my truck to carry my level, cordless drill, various hand tools and other items.

What I like most about my survey truck: It’s paid for! (The most important issue during these economic times.) Besides that, my truck is set up for surveying efficiency as well as practicality. Being a boat owner/fisherman, I didn’t want to lose the functionality of my pickup for hauling coolers, etc. I really don’t like toppers as they obstruct your view while backing a boat and take away the use of the bed. (If I wanted a van or SUV, I would have bought one.) So I custom designed an aluminum box to carry my tripods, rods and equipment. The box is very light (gas mileage), watertight and secure. There is no way to get into the box with the tailgate shut, and my tailgate also locks. When moving setups while surveying, I can just lay both my robotic pole with ranger, radio and prism attached and the tripod with the Satel radio directly in the bed without disassembling them. The nice thing about both the custom box and cone rack is that when I do replace my truck, these items will go on the next one. Having the quad cab also allows me to keep my robotic total station, robotic radio kit and my field books and plans secure in the back seat of the cab for easy access. Two 5-gallon buckets are bungee tied on top of the aluminum box for ribbon, nails, paint, garbage and other essential items for quick access. In one of the slots of the box, I built a wooden draw, which holds hammers, tapes, markers, paint and other supplies.

What I like least about my survey truck: My truck is only two-wheel drive and has 120,000 miles. Although it is paid for, I know that I will need to replace it within the next couple of years. My next truck will be four-wheel drive. I haven’t really had a problem not having four-wheel drive , but I really take care in where I drive.

Joe’s Comments: The thing I like best about Steve’s Survey Truck is the versatility. This vehicle is a fully functional survey truck, but it’s also a weekend vehicle that is both classy and secure. The custom accessories are obviously well thought out and can be moved from truck to truck. Steve has thought this vehicle through, and it clearly fits his everyday survey needs.

Name: John T. Donohue Jr.
Title: Chief Surveyor
Employer: JFC Inc. A full-line land development company, Ellicott City, Md.
Survey Duties: Construction stakeout and onsite red line plans
Vehicle(s): 2005 Quigley E-350 Ext. 6.0 Diesel , 4x4 w/office, generator, heat pump and many other extras.
Survey Equipment: SOKKIA SET 4B total station, HP 48GX calculator, Auto Cad, Ramss Software (cut sheet) and Dell Latitude C620 Core 2 DOU Laptop with 19” wide-screen remote LCD.

Special features and Comments: My own design. The first generation was built in 1997. My father and I built it with most of the same features, and after eight years of service, it was time to build a new and improved van with the help of a company called Adscom Corporation located in Glen Burnie, Md. This is where I met JD Sauer and Jimmy Hess who are both very skilled on custom fabrication with commercial vans. Both of the vans are 100-percent custom-made to my specifications.

We did a cardboard and tape mock-up, which gave us a better perspective of what little space we had to work with. One-half is an office, and the other holds supplies. The office has a desk with an air-ride seat for long hours on the computer, and there are 17 tubes behind me for easy reach of my site plans.

To the right, we have filing cabinets for drafting supplies, job folders (20) and field books (20). We use a Canon IP90 portable printer for the cut sheets, which are given onsite the same day of work performed and also e-mailed with a Sprint Air Card with external antenna.

Hard hats are also stored in the front of the van on their own brackets. We have a fridge and microwave for hot or cold lunches.

The back of the van houses a Honda EU 3000IS generator with a 3.4 gallon tank, and it will run for about 8.5 hours at full load (23.3 amps). It has custom manifold for an external exhaust. Service is very easy, the divider slides out for your access panel. There are also two 5-gallon Jerry gas cans, which are pumped by a 12-volt air compressor to refill the generator tank. When on the road, we use a 4,000-watt inverter with two AGM batteries for power. We need power for the computer, printer and 3 Motorola Radius P1200 walkie-talkies; the heat pump is entirely powered by the generator. Our supply area, which holds over 200 36-inch guard stakes and about the same number of 6-inch hubs, usually is enough to make it through the day. Also, it holds transit and tripod. We have cabinets and drawers that hold ribbon and all other supplies needed for survey layout.

On the roof, we have four 8-inch PVC tubes that are about 5-feet long. They are attached by an aluminum frame and they hold two prism poles, a 25-foot rod, an extra tripod, shovels, brush ax, pipe finder, road signs and other miscellaneous items. The bottom half of the van has Line-X (black), a spray-on protection used for lining truck beds.

What I like most about my survey truck: I have worked for JFC Inc. since 1990, and it has been a great job. I have learned a lot about design and construction. What looks good on paper doesn’t always work! The most important thing is communication and to always double-, triple- and quadruple-check yourself. The best thing with having an office on wheels is that you can talk to the person you are surveying or staking out for and fulfill their needs. It gives you a better understanding of how projects are constructed.

What I like least about my survey truck: There is one thing I would like to change: With a diesel van, I would like the generator to be diesel. Because of our gas generator, I am not able to turn on and off the generator from the front of the van. When I do turn the generator off, I need to shut the fuel supply off because the carburetor will have leftover fuel in it, and the fumes are a hazard. I’m not able to set a remote on/off because of this reason, and the cost difference between a gas and a diesel generator is about $8,000. Wow, I can live with it.

Joe’s Comments: John’s Survey Truck looks like the ultimate survey vehicle with years of research and determination. It seems as if he has studied every detail of the vehicle and customized it to fit every possible need. Reminding me of Ecto 1 from “Ghostbusters,” this mobile office has everything!

Name: John Reed / Sergio Urtiz
Title: Survey Crew Chief / Instrument Man
Employer: PSOMAS, Los Angeles, Calif.
Survey Duties: Corner recovery and section corner referencing, boundary survey, design survey, construction staking, GPS surveys, RTK-VRS surveys, and topographic surveys.
Vehicle(s): Ford F-350 4x4 Crew Cab Short Bed

Special features and Comments: Prior to my current vehicle, I had been working out of a two-wheel drive Ford survey van. What a difference the Ford F-350 4x4 Crew Cab Short Bed has been! Our current survey assignments involve a substantial amount of highway work and associated off-road boundary and monument recovery. When the new truck arrived, I immediately removed the back seat from the crew cab and installed a sub floor and created my mini field office. I was able to modify my new space and include a file cabinet, desk and chair. With a power inverter installed under the driver’s seat with a backup battery mounted under the truck, we have the ability to mobilize all the computer equipment necessary for our projects. We are a completely functional mobile office that includes a laptop, printer, scanner and the necessary charging stations for each of our instruments. Add a wireless air card to the laptop and our ability to perform most of our work is virtually unlimited.

I designed and constructed the box myself and customized the area to accommodate the space in the truck bed. The box can hold six sets of legs, a survey traffic sign, all necessary survey rods, six bundles of 4-foot lath, four bundles of 2-foot lath, a 4-foot deep drawer for hubs of different sizes, and three drawers 6-feet deep which hold all necessary field supplies and hand equipment. On the top of the box, I created separate compartments customized for our conventional instruments, Trimble GPS cases, and digital level. The Trimble total station is secured in the mini field office by I-hooks in the subfloor, and with the ease of a bungee cord, it rides safe and secure in the office space.

By having the side “win-doors” on the cab shell, we have the ability to utilize all of the extra storage on the exterior of the bed box. What it really unique about this extra space is that I am able to grab the American Grip 20-lb sand bags for the tripod legs (we carry nine sets) from the side of the truck safely and with ease.

For added safety on our Caltrans highway projects, we installed the rooftop beacon and the rear mounted LED warning light. These safety lights are powered through the inverter, which charges the battery as we drive and has a convenient controller panel mounted under the front dash.

What I like most about my survey truck: We perform a lot of section corner referencing, boundary recovery, and GPS surveys where the four-wheel drive capability has become essential to performing our surveys effectively and efficiently. My personal favorite addition to our truck is the custom-fabricated “Swing Cone Carrier” hitch mounted on the rear of the truck. Each day we carry twenty 28-inch tall safety cones, which each weigh approximately 10 pounds. This custom safety cone rack is the safest and most accessible I’ve ever experienced in the field. The swing arms on the hitch mount make the storage, the setting of safety cones, and the retrieval of safety cones from traffic situations extremely efficient and, in my opinion, quite a bit safer. I also enjoy my mini field office in the cab of the truck. The computer equipment and peripherals all stay clean and fairly dust-free. This helps reduce downtime on projects due to computer maintenance and equipment issues, and best of all, our clients gets to see a well-organized and clean work space.

What I like least about my survey truck: The box is a bit too heavy, and I should have installed drawer glides. With the equipment weight, the drawers can be hard to open and close. The pickup came with 17-inch wheels, and with all the weight in the bed, the auto technician recommends 19-inch wheels to make the ride more stable on the highway. This change in tire size would also be better on the braking system. Initially, we opted for a long bed truck to gain an additional two feet of bed storage, although after working out of the shorter bed, I feel we made the right decision.

Joe’s Comments: John and Sergio have an incredible set up here. I have always been a fan of the mobile office, and with today’s technology, it only makes sense. I also feel they should get a patent on the “Swing Cone Carrier” because they have found a solution to those cumbersome cones. Nice work guys, and nice survey truck!

Name: Dan Corriell, PLS
Title: Survey Department Manager
Employer: Petroleum Field Services LLC, Denver, Colo.
Survey Duties: Boundary, topographic, construction, well locations, corner recovery & monumentation.
Vehicle(s): 2006 Ford F150 4x4 Extra Cab w/4.5L V8
Survey Equipment: Topcon GPS, Trimble robotics.

Special features and Comments: RuxWorks GPS Pole Transporter allows GPS pole to be securely mounted and transported on the exterior of the truck, and the rod height modification permits continuous topo while driving. The laptop table and power inverter give convenient access and power for laptops (with data cards) and allows data to be sent/received in field. A generator is used to power jackhammers for corner reconnaissance, remonumentation, etc. The lightweight steel/PVC bed box allows for convenient and protective storage of all of our tools and equipment -- without the excess weight.

What I like most about my survey truck: RuxWorks GPS Pole Transporter because the rover remains fixed at all times, increasing productivity.

What I like least about my survey truck: Manual windows -- what a drag!

Joe’s Comments: Dan has the survey truck we all typically think of, but is has the benefit of being lightweight. He has clearly customized a box that fits his needs and gains gas mileage. I am also increasingly becoming a fan of the PVC tubes. Good looking truck, Dan!

Name(s): Don Phillips, Travis Campbell
Title: Party Chief(s)
Employer: Neathamer Surveying Inc., Medford, Ore.
Survey Duties: Land surveying, land-use planning and miscellaneous services.
Vehicle(s): Ford long bed and short bed.

Special Features and Comments: Surveyor Pickup Pack from Highway Products Inc.

What I like most about my survey truck: Our Ford has been a great truck. It has been very dependable, and we like the extra cab to put our warm clothes or rain gear in. Plus, the heater in this truck is awesome. Working outside can get brutal sometimes, and a warm truck is very important to me. We have a long bed and a short bed. The long bed is nicer because we don’t have to cram as much.

Without a doubt, the Surveyor Pickup Pack that Highway Products Inc. makes is our favorite part of the truck. It is so much better than the pickup canopies we had in the past.

We used to carry just what we needed that day, and sometimes we would run into situations where we didn’t bring enough tape, spray paint or something. We were always looking for items we knew we already had in the truck but would have to tear the bed apart to find them. With the Surveyor Pickup Pack we can see what we are getting low on because everything has a place. We never run into a situation where we forget something anymore. The time-savings have been huge. And not having to crawl into the back of the truck has been a real safety factor. The Roller Coaster slide also gives us a workbench and a place to lay out the maps.

What I like least about my survey truck: The rebar rack Highway Products built us could have been an inch deeper. As long as the rebar comes the right length, we’re fine; but our rebar supplier sometimes cuts them a little long, and they stick out past the rack, which has in the past caused a problem with closing the tailgate. This is not Highway Products fault, but if that rack were longer it would help.

There is an occasional sharp edge on the Surveyor Pack where we store the hammers. This is caused by us hitting the edge of the storage bin while putting them away. We could be a little more careful or just take a file to that edge every now and then but we get in a hurry and forget. When our instrument cases rub against the aluminum compartments, they turn black. It would be nice if they could coat the sides with paint or something so our cases would keep looking nice. I would like to see Highway Products install lights in the boxes and rear hatch so we can see to get our gear early in the mornings. Holding flashlights is a hassle, and batteries seem to always be dead.

Joe’s Comments: Don has a great survey truck here, and I think we have all seen this vehicle in trade magazines before. I know some guys who have this setup, and if you have the money to invest, it seems like an awesome accessory. Highway Products has also conquered that cumbersome cone scenario while incorporating a field desk and excellent, organized storage.

Name: Clinton “Dale” Partain
Title: Senior Party Chief
Employer: Pickering Inc., Memphis, Tenn. office
Survey Duties: Boundary, topographic, construction, GPS, Department of Transportation surveys, and municipality surveys
Vehicle(s): 2006 Nissan Titan 2x4 with 2009 Yamaha Rhino 700FI 4x4
Survey Equipment: Leica 1200 series robotic total station, Leica 1200 series GPS, RTK

Special Features and Comments: Pickering fastidiously purchased my survey truck upon my hiring. It was immediately equipped with strobe lights on the cab, which I believe are an invaluable asset when working along busy highway projects. The truck was also equipped with a bed slide and topper, which works wonderfully when needing to get to the front of the bed. I constructed my box using the slide as a perimeter to maximize the efficiency of the bed space to accommodate the equipment. The commitment of Pickering to the safety, comfort and efficiency of the survey department is unwavering and incomparable.

What I like most about my survey truck: Because we do many jobs that require traveling, the amenities of the truck make it an excellent vehicle. It is equipped with power auto raise/lower windows, tilt, cruise, six-disc CD changer with auxiliary jack for MP3 devices, and a spacious quad cab with reclining seats makes it very comfortable for two- to three-men parties. Although it is not four-wheel drive, the Titan has plenty of power to pull the Rhino around. The power ports make using the laptop in the field convenient.

What I like least about my survey truck: Overall, there are no dislikes about my truck except there are occasions that four-wheel drive would be nice, but the Rhino all but makes that obsolete.

Joe’s Comments: As with a lot of the other entries, Dale has noticed the beauty of a quad cab pickup. We do spend a lot of time on the road and some may think the comfortable seats and a nice radio are silly, but they are definitely an added luxury in our sometimes torturous job. The benefits of a Rhino, or Gator, or any ATV are priceless in the right scenario. Dale also mentions safety, and that is always number one.

Name: Andrew C. Bramhall
Title: Owner
Employer: Benchmark Survey, Stoneham, Mass.
Survey Duties: Title Insurance, subdivisions, new construction layout, existing conditions, boundary, commercial sites, condo conversions, elevation certifications, as-builts, residential lots.
Vehicle(s): 2003 Chevy 1 ton (3500) van, 2003 Chevy 1/2 ton (2500) van
Survey Equipment: Sokkia Set 330R total station, Promark GPS, Sokkia SRX robotic total Sstation, Ziess Ni2 automatic level, tripods, rods, hammer drills, chain saw, metal detector, diamond-blade cut-off saw, custom prism cases, surveyors road signs, rain/sun umbrellas and typical tools.

Special Features and Comments: The vans were purchased with complete stock carpeted interiors and full seating. All but the two front captain’s chairs were removed to make way for the custom installation that took two full days of work for me to complete. A second layer of carpeting was installed to increase noise absorption and keep the original carpet intact. We keep our vans for eight to 10 years. They have electric everything -- door locks (handy), windows, temperature, rear AC/heater, three captain chairs (3/4 ton only), a steel locking, padded job box that contains all the instruments. There are custom compartments for legs, rods, stakes, iron pipes, shovels and tools. The pull-out drawers (3.5-feet long) are for smaller survey items, including radios, nails, spikes, flagging, keel, tapes, etc.

What I like most about my survey truck: Since the company began in 1980, we have been using vans for survey vehicles. We started with a 1/2 ton 1977 Ford van that did not last long. When you add up all of the equipment and supplies, weight becomes an issue, so we went with Chevy 2500 vans and, most recently, to a 1 ton 3500 van. I have refined the storage compartments with each new van to the point where everything is very accessible and functional. The top of the steel storage box acts as a desk. We get a lot of compliments on the van graphics (which was designed by my wife, Kerry Loftus Design) and obtain many residential survey jobs based on the fact that the client saw the van in the neighborhood.

What I like least about my survey truck: It would have to be the gas mileage. With a 6.0-liter engine, gas mileage is only 12-17 mpg. When gas hit $4 per gallon, each fill up was painful. But on the bright side, everything you would ever need for a survey easily fits in the van in an organized way, and there’s always room for those pesky 4-foot (165 lb) granite bounds. I see myself always using a heavy-duty van for our surveying needs.

Joe’s Comments: I love this van not only for its classy looks but also for its overall organization. You can tell Andy has spent years dreaming of and designing this ultimate survey truck. I especially like the idea of securely storing the most expensive survey equipment in one spot, not to mention doubling as a desk. As we have seen with the other entries, most surveyors are now buying ¾ ton or 1 ton vehicles, as I would prefer. Now if we could only take our dogs with us, it would be a perfect world!

Name: Shelby H. Griggs, PLS
Title: Owner/President
Employer: OrbiTech Inc., Prineville, Ore.
Survey Duties: GPS control, mapping control, GIS data collection, topographic surveys
Vehicles: 2001 Dodge 2500 4x4, 2005 Wells Cargo trailer, 2005 Bombardier Outlander
Equipment: Leica GX 1230 GG GNSS receivers, Leica TCA 1100 total station, Leica DNA 10 digital level and full complement of support accessories.

Special Features and Comments: OrbiTech is a small private consulting firm with two employees that is heavily involved in the support of aerial mapping projects throughout the western U.S. The survey truck featured here is a completely custom-built truck from the chassis up. After working out of many other vehicles over the years, including various pickup configurations, small SUVs, large SUVs, passenger cars, etc., it was decided to build the current unique configuration. The body was built by a local fabrication shop and somewhat resembles a standard utility bed. The difference between a standard utility bed and this custom bed are many, primarily because the bed was designed around the survey equipment that needs to be stored and the needs of the particular style of work the firm is involved with most frequently.

The bed has storage space for two GPS receivers, one total station, one level, three conventional tripods, one RTK radio tripod, and accessories -- all within dual large compartments at the front of the bed that are interconnected across the front to allow longer items to be stored. There are also two long storage boxes on each side of the bed, one for “dirty” items, and one for “clean” items. One side has prisms, rods, prism pole bipods and tripods, metal locator, etc., while the other side contains shovels, brushing tools, monumentation tools, etc.

Over the center portion of the bed is a cover similar to a trunk lid on a car where stakes, monuments, survey crew signs, etc. are stored. The “trunk lid” can be removed in a few minutes by two people, which then allows an ATV to be loaded onto the bed of the truck. All boxes are gasket-sealed and individually lighted with a door light switch similar to a car door. Other features of the bed include a cone rack, water cooler rack, an integrated 5/8 x 11-inch stud in the top center of the headache rack for mounting either a prism or GPS antenna for mapping work, integrated amber wig-wag LED strobes in the headache rack with individual switches for the front- and rear-facing sets of strobes, LED running lights on the bed and custom-designed rear mud flaps with the company logo.

The base 2001 Dodge Ram truck was custom ordered from the factory well equipped with options. Communication equipment was added, including a CB radio, a 35W FM business frequency radio, and a portable satellite phone. A laptop mount was also added to the truck along with quite a few small functional or protective items such as seat covers, paint protection film, tube steps and mud flaps. The truck is powered by a 5.9L Cummins turbo diesel six-cylinder engine rated at 245 HP and 505 foot pounds of torque mated to a six-speed manual transmission. The only changes to the power train were the addition of an exhaust brake and a custom 4-inch exhaust system. The truck now has over 200K miles with only very minor repairs needed with the exception of a poorly designed fuel transfer pump, which I have finally replaced with an aftermarket solution. Other than the pesky fuel pump, there have been very few mechanical repairs outside of normal maintenance.

A trailer was added to the truck in 2005. The trailer was custom ordered from the factory and had many options added that would facilitate the end use of the trailer as a portable GPS CORS base station for RTK surveys. One of those options was a front cabinet for storage and as a workbench area. Two large deep cycle Optima batteries with 1500 CCA of reserve are housed under the cabinet. The batteries are kept charged by two 80W roof-mounted solar panels. Permanent antennas for RTK communications were also added to the roof, one for cellular devices and one for a UHF radio. I performed all after-delivery modifications of the trailer myself. In operation, the trailer can broadcast RTK corrections over both cellular frequencies and UHF frequencies unattended for multiple days if necessary. This is extremely useful in areas that are remote and may not have CORS or cellular phone coverage.

In addition to housing the RTK base station equipment, the trailer is also used to store and transport a 2005 Bombardier Outlander 400 4x4 ATV. If there will be frequent loading and unloading of the ATV in rough terrain, then it is loaded onto the back of the truck upon reaching a project area.

What I like most about my survey truck: I designed this setup from the ground up, and there is really very little I would change. The truck has been very reliable, was never stranded in over 200K miles and gets decent mileage -- rarely under 15 mpg even fully loaded with the trailer (GCVW over 11,000 pounds). Even though the truck alone weighs over 8,000 pounds, I get over 20 mpg when traveling without the trailer and ATV. This truck is one of the most comfortable vehicles I have ever driven, more so than many passenger cars.

What I like least about my survey truck: The “trunk lid” will be redesigned when this truck is replaced (tentatively slated for fall 2010, which will be the 10-year mark and approximately 300K on the existing truck). While functional, I would like to be able to more quickly convert from a covered bed without needing an extra person, so I will replace the solid cover with an aluminum roll-top cover that is power retractable. (See an example here: www.pace-edwards.com/utilitybl.html.) I would also like to add an onboard air compressor for tire-inflation duties. I am very pleased with the functionality of the current system overall and will not change any basic design features in future builds.

Joe’s Comments: When I created “My Survey Truck,” this is what I envisioned. A truck that has been custom designed and retrofitted for the specific survey task at hand. Shelby knew exactly what type of work he specialized in, and he has built a vehicle to handle everything he does. I am most impressed with his foresight to continue to improve upon what seems to be a flawless setup. As this may not work for everyone, I think Shelby has built one of the most beautiful survey trucks I have seen.

Name: William J. Stengel, LS
Title: Past County Surveyor, Boulder County Colo.
Employer: Retired 2008; Self-employed for 45 years
Survey duties: I was a lone surveyor with one helper. I did it all -- drafting, calculation, surveying, etc., as so many U.S. surveyors do.
Vehicle: 1997 GMC, AWD Utility Safari van.

Survey Equipment: Along with a Leica TCR 705 Total Station, the standard four tripods, five prism poles (1' to 25'), five prisms with targets and tribrachs, radios, first aid kit, etc. The equipment includes a gas-powered Ryobi hammer drill, 4-foot digging bar, 4-foot pin bending pipe, two Acura poles (made by Hixon manufacturing, invented by Mr. Stengel), centerline of track gauge (also invented by Mr. Stengel), and so forth.

The equipment rack was built by Stengel. The 3- to 4-foot-long drawers were purchased from American Van. The tubes were cut from used aluminum irrigation tubes. Plastic boxes were purchased from the hardware store, and the rear seat is made for a tractor. The van with two men is maxed for load, thus it has heavy 6-ply tires.

What I like most about my survey truck: The small table at the rear seat to do the field calculations and notes and to eat lunch!

What I like least about my survey truck: The low clearance of the van. It’s not a big problem, but it’s always there.

Joe’s Comments: Once again, this van represents the typical survey truck all of us have worked out of one time or another. William has created a very organized vehicle nonetheless and has used everyday supplies to make it happen.

Name, Credentials: Gary A. Drennan, PLS, PMM
Title: Owner
Employer: Drennan Surveying Services LLC, Nixa, Mo.
Survey duties: Boundary, topo, construction. (No GPS yet)
Vehicle: 1993 Chevy Suburban 1500 4x4 with rear double doors. Good AT tires, 350 Vortec or ETB V-8 engine for power and dependability.
Equipment: Leica TCP 1205 and all its relative gear. Stakes, flagging, nails and pins, signs and bases, tool belts, hammers and machettes, etc.

Special Features and Comments: I, too, have custom built a box in each of the vehicles to accommodate all the tripods, rods, signs, poles, etc. on the lower level; and the top box is compartmentalized to hold the instruments in padded slots to keep them secure. Everything has its place and is at arms length.

What I like most about my survey truck: I’ve worked out of several Suburbans over the 32 years of my surveying experience. I’ve used seven Suburbans, one van, five pickups and two cars over these 32 years. Most aren’t as easy to use, and forget a vehicle without 4x4 or one with sliding doors. I’ve found that a Suburban can haul everything I need, and with four-wheel drive, I can be assured of getting in AND out of the places I need to be.

What I like least about my survey truck: The least is gas mileage. Although this Suburban is better or equal than any other I’ve used in the past with 15-17 mpg on the highway. I will sacrifice economy to have my equipment with me and the assurance of getting where I need to go.

Joe’s Comments: I understand the gas mileage issue Gary has with his Suburban, but I also understand his point about having everything he needs and having the ability to get in and out of compromising situations. This is a great looking Suburban and seems to be very well organized and secure. The back doors seem nice for easy access in comparison to a tailgate.


What does your survey truck look like? Submit your answers to the following questions along with a maximum of six photos (.jpg or .tif attachments) that show off your truck (be sure to include yourself in one of them). Then send your submission to lyonsw@bnpmedia.

Name, Credentials:
Title:
Employer:
Survey Duties:
Vehicle(s):
Survey Equipment:
Special Features and Comments:
What I like most about my survey truck:
What I like least about my survey truck: