John Fisher is pretty much fed up with pickups.

“I’ve been in the pool industry for 21 years. I’ve driven F-150s, mostly Ford Rangers. My very first was a Ford Ranger extended cab,” says the owner of Pool Service Plus in San Antonio. “I needed more space, so I bought a Toyota Tundra double cab.”

But the Tundra invited trouble.

“What ended up happening was, I don’t know if the recession had anything to do with it or what, but — holy cow! — people were stealing buckets of tabs,” Fisher says. “They were pretty much using the bed of my truck as a pick-your-own-part kind of thing.”

When a top-of-the-line vac head and hose were swiped, Fisher reached his boiling point and began researching a new mode of conveyance, something that would keep his equipment and supplies more secure.

He wasn’t convinced he could pack his day-to-day inventory into the confines of a compact cargo van until a dealer invited him to take a test drive. Fisher brought along a payload of space-consuming sandbags and a 30-inch sand filter and told him, “If all this fits, you’ve got yourself a deal.”

Turns out, the vehicle had ample capacity for the rest of his accoutrements: two cases of liquid acid, portable vacuum, 100-pound container of cal-hypo, a bucket of tabs, brush, pole, net and more.

He’s been a van fan ever since.

“This thing has a ton of space, not just vertical space, but horizontal space,” Fisher says. “I also have a shelving unit with compartment areas. Everything is neat and clean.”

The fact that very few of his competitors drive vans helps Pool Service Plus standout among the ubiquitous pickups.

Certainly, the industry has long favored sub full-size trucks — a category of vehicle that seems to have fewer and fewer options every year. The Dodge Dakota and the Ford Ranger were discontinued in recent years and the regular-cab Toyota Tacoma is approaching its expiration date as well. While the market for single-cabs is shrinking, the compact cargo van is emerging as a viable option.

They have all the zippy maneuverability and fuel economy of a two-door truck and boast more storage capacity, ranging between 123 and 144 cubic feet.

Those who’ve made the switch aren’t missing their pickups.

“In the beginning, we just had four accounts and a little truck,” says Velma Solis, who owns V & L Pool Service with her husband, Lorenzo.

As their business grew, so did their desire for a vehicle that would keep their inventory safe from thieves and curious kids. The two-year-old firm now drives a compact cargo van to the more than 100 pools it maintains throughout Alice, Texas and beyond.

“We don’t have to worry about a child coming along and getting into chemical containers,” Solis says.

Vans have another distinct advantage over trucks. Those side panels offer prime advertising real estate. Both Fisher and Solis were able to work out deals with their graphic designer clients who offered art in exchange for pool service.

These mobile billboards, they say, are driving business.

“When I’m in a driveway, I like for people to know who’s there, and this thing screams it,” says Fisher, whose van sports a Hawaiian motif featuring a Tiki warrior wielding a leaf net.

“I never go anywhere that people aren’t smiling and looking at it.”

Nissan revs up the Expo

Considering a van conversion?

Swing by the Nissan booth at the International Pool | Spa | Patio | Expo to learn more about the automaker’s commercial vans. Its full cargo line-up will be on display, including the NV200 Compact Cargo Van and two of the models of the full-size NV Cargo.

You’re invited to take the vehicles for a spin during Nissan’s three-day Ride and Drive Event during show hours. Participants can enter to win a $100 gift card with drawings every hour. You can also play the NV Challenge for a chance to win up to $500 in daily prizes. Plus, stop by the Nissan booth during the outdoor barbeque and receive a pair of work gloves.