Chris Hale was skittish about hauling chemicals in the back of his brand new GMC Canyon. Any pool professional can understand this hesitancy, particularly those who’ve seen the corrosive damage that liquid chlorine can dish out on a truck bed.
That’s why Hale, owner of Into the Blue Pools, serving Southwest Florida, tried an interesting solution: He bought a nifty little enclosed trailer from a service technician who customized it with PVC pole holsters and holes for ventilation.
It comes from Pulmor, maker of lightweight utility trailers that generally are used for camping. The passive vehicle weighs less than 400 pounds, so it’s light enough that a sedan can tow it.
It also was orange and green — the school colors of the University of Miami Hurricanes. “I’m not a Miami fan,” he says.
So, he spray painted it aqua blue, and it’s been turning heads ever since. “It’s definitely an eye-catcher,” Hale says. “I’ve never seen anything like it in Florida.”
Whether buying trailers specifically designed for the industry or rigging up their own hauling solutions, a growing number of service providers now turn to this product as a tool of the trade.
A liquid asset
For now, the trend appears largely a Florida phenomenon. The primary reason? Pros in the Sunshine State are big on liquid chlorine. At approximately half the cost of packaged dry chlorine, techs in this region say liquid is the way to go.
Supply houses store it in 1,500-gallon tanks. Technicians line up in the morning to top off their refillable containers before hitting their routes.
Towing bathtub-size storage containers of the chemical is another distinctly Floridian practice. It spares techs from having to make so many return trips to the supply house.
“Most guys are carrying anywhere from 65- to 100 gallons,” says Todd Starner, owner of Starner Brothers Pools in Bradenton, Fla.
This is practically unheard of on the West Coast. At most, service professionals might pack a 15-gallon “carboy” of pool-cleaning fluid, but mostly it’s a granular chlorine market.
While inexpensive, liquid has its drawbacks. For one, it’s heavy. Most professionals carry chlorine in 2½-gallon jugs, which weigh approximately 22 pounds. Repeatedly lifting them up and over the side rails of a truck bed can cause major back and shoulder aches down the line.
That’s why some techs tout trailers as an ergonomic alternative. With lower profiles than pickup beds, these vehicles hold containers and tools within easy reach. This makes trailers a true back saver for some.
Transporting so much fluid poses another problem: A dozen-plus jugs take up precious cargo space, leaving little room in a truck for tools and equipment. A trailer is a must for those with a high volume of pools.
Still, technicians would be wise to choose a suitable size.
With 32.5 cubic feet of storage, Hale’s Pulmor didn’t have enough capacity for all the containers of chemicals his route demands. He recently upgraded to a larger unit so he could haul a 65-gallon tank of liquid chlorine.
Be sure to check with the Department of Transportation to see the rules of transporting hazardous materials.
So long, single cab
Trailers offer another advantage: They allow for vehicle versatility.
Starner tows a 6-by-10-foot trailer behind his Ram 1500. His truck pulls double duty as a route warrior and off-duty errand runner. When it’s time to pick up his daughter from school, he can simply unhitch his payload of pool supplies.
“That way I don’t have a bunch of chemicals sloshing around the back when I go get her,” says Starner, who also serves as president of the Independent Pool & Spa Service Association.
The trend toward trailers also is driven by the demise of the small, regular-cab pickup. Affordable, fuel efficient and reliable route runners, such as the Dodge Dakota and Ford Ranger, were discontinued in recent years. And Toyota stopped making its regular-cab Tacoma last year.
This leaves some technicians searching for alternatives.
“A lot of guys are looking into little SUVs,” Starner says.
Hitch a trailer to a Jeep Renegade or a Kia Soul and you’ve got a perfectly suitable service vehicle. Plus, some of these models can achieve almost twice the miles per gallon of large pickups.
Hopping on the bandwagon
Sensing an emerging market, at least two manufacturers of trade-specific utility trailers have emerged in recent years.
Chris Kaderabek, a steel fabricator, received so many requests from techs to customize their trailers that he decided to engineer one from the ground up. The PoolRunner Pro is a steel wagon tricked out with accoutrements such as load bars to compartmentalize chemicals, and a quick-release latch for a pool service cart.
“This is a culmination of fixing other people’s trailers over the years,” says the president of PT Design in Davie, Fla.
His closest competition is a boat manufacturer on Florida’s Treasure Coast that makes the Pool Mule, a 4-by-8-foot hauler that resembles a fiberglass pool on wheels.
Both feature receiving hitches for carts, among other accessories.
Kaderabek said he was recently approached by a large service firm in Georgia that’s considering converting its entire fleet of pickups into SUVs. So he is confident trailers will gain traction outside of Florida.