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Grip Truck Variations


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#1 Michael Collier

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Posted 06 May 2008 - 10:40 PM

I have been talking to a buddy of mine down in texas who is looking at building his grip truck. Hes thinking of getting a 5th wheel type trailer (the kind they tow custom cars to shows with, with the full drop gate in the back and maybe a door on the side) and building off that. At first that seemed strange to me. I mean every grip truck I have seen has been one of those box type trucks with a liftgate of some sort, or at least a full size van for the one tons.

Now I am thinking its not such a bad idea. I mean, the deck would be very low to the ground compared to a box truck, there is a ramp to wheel heavy loads down that short elevation, and there would be ample room to fit a 3ton grip package inside, with maybe some room to spare, and there would be no extra drivers certification needed (no CDL). Plus in a pinch you can always block the trailer and unhitch the tow-truck to have a spare production vehicle.

But what unforseen problems could using a vehicle setup like this present? It doesn't seem standard and I know how a lot of us respond to non-standard issue tools. Has anyone seen/used a grip truck set up like this? Is there any glaringly obvious problem with the idea that he or I can't think of. Its one of those situations where I think....that can't work. But on the other hand I really see no good reason it can't, other than I haven't seen it before. Any ideas?
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#2 Daniel Wallens

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Posted 07 May 2008 - 01:07 AM

While this is not what I'd say the norm, I have in fact seen trailers used to haul G&E gear. They generally tend not to exist in the "big leagues" (ie, larger rental houses or production companies; for instance, Paramount Production Services, Walton, Panavision, Feature Systems, Haddad's, etc. all use box trucks/semi's). I have, however, seen individuals and owner/operators use these kinds of follow trailers. Why this is, I can't say for sure. However, I can venture a guess or two. Perhaps these smaller trailers, which usually only rest on two wheels (or sets of wheels) just can't take the weight of the larger payloads that typical G&E trucks carry. Also, with no liftgate (and only a ramp) getting large, heavy carts on and off takes considerably more effort (and thus sometimes more manpower). Other little things, like the absence of jockey boxes, makes it less of a real grip truck, and more of an "all-purpose" truck. I also suppose that larger vehicles that belong to rental companies or productions don't nessasarily need the flexibility of multi-usage -- they were built to be G&E trucks, and that's only what they're used for.

I suppose it really depends on the setup, what you are carrying, and who you are. You can put gear in the back of a station wagon if you want. Really depends on how well-thought out and luxurious you want your ride to be.
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#3 Adrian Sierkowski

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Posted 07 May 2008 - 01:24 PM

I would also think, a reason for a trailer as a private owner, could be the automotive insurance? Also, they are a lot less costly to operate I would say.
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#4 JD Hartman

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Posted 07 May 2008 - 02:26 PM

A CDL is required for any vehicle with air brakes, varying class of the CDL exist. I believe any truck over 28 feet in length or xx,xxx gross pounds in weight also requires a CDL (and air brakes). I could be wrong.
As for the need for jockey boxes, it's more of a convenience and a way to utilize wasted space between the frame of the truck and the road. Look at where a moving company (like Allied Van Lines) store their ramps and stuff. In boxes under the frame.
Additional small access doors or hatches could be added to the sides of a fifth wheel type trailer, which open into small interior compartments for cable, sandbags, etc.
As for weight capacity a two axle race trailer usually is carrying two compete cars, engines, spare body andf a complete repair shop. Properly designed, the same type trailer could serve as a 3 to 5 ton grip truck easily. Heavy carts could be pulled into the trailer with a floor mounted electric winch. Ever see equipment fall off a lift gate? Close to the ground, with no hydraulic lift gate to maintain looks like a good idea.
Many of the grip trucks you see, especially if it's run by an owner/operator are former rental fleet trucks, nothing custom built there.
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#5 ChrisConnelly

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Posted 07 May 2008 - 03:59 PM

As far as the CDL thing goes, it's determined entirely by weight. If you're planning on operating a single vehicle in excess of 26,000 lbs or a trailer in excess of 5,000 lbs you need a class B, a trailer in excess of 10,000 lbs requires a class A. Air brakes are a whole separate endorsement on top of the CDL.

One of the main things I would consider if building a grip truck would be to figure out how much gear I was planning on keeping on wheels (i.e. what type of taco carts/flag boxes/etc i was planning on putting in the truck) and how much would live on shelves (rags, lumber, frames, etc). If I remember correctly most of those car trailers are pretty low to the ground so I'm not sure if you'd be able to install jockey boxes or not, so I guess you'd have to consider storage space for sandbags and cable too.

JD Hartman's idea of a winch is indeed a good one, I used to work with a grip van that used a similar system and it wasn't too shabby at all, made getting heavy stuff up the ramp way easier.
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#6 robert duke

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Posted 07 May 2008 - 10:03 PM

This is the configuration I have. It has its ups and downs.

Upsides:
Cheaper to build.
Cheaper to maintain.
Cheaper to insure.
you have a vehicle on location after dropping the trailer.
you can have more storage than most 5tons, if built right.
everything is already on carts

Downsides:
some producers just dont accept the idea of a trailer instead of a truck
buy as big and heavy duty as you can afford or you run out of space and become overloaded.
you are stuck with a big expensive truck to tow with
fuel effieciency isnt the best
everything is on carts.
you have to spend money on a lot of wheels.
theft is a real issue, almost more than a true grip truck.
storaging the thing can be an issue.
you have to be good at driving a trailer or you break things
expensive to repair.
breakdowns are more difficult when they happen. ( I broke an axle twice)
High speed sway is a B***th.
you can't go off road easily.
some states enforce a 55mph towing speed.
manuverability can be tricky and you dont fit in as many spaces as a truck, ( you are Longer than a truck)
some states are hitting trailers for DOT inspections, go ahead and get a DOT # and CDL.


Dont put logos on it as it just becomes a target for theives.
Invest in good locks, even a Boot for the wheel.
I recommend a three axle 5000lb axle, towed by at least a dodge 3500 ( the dodge has a bigger payload capacity and gets better mileage towing.
If you have the cash buy a toter.
custom order the trailer box extra high.
The ramp is nice, I dont have a winch and dont really need it. the ramp is about as steep as a liftgate in loading position.
you really have to pay attention to weight distrobution to prevent sway and overloading the hitch.
Go with a gooseneck rather than a bumper pull, they handle better, bigger payloads, more manueverable.

I sometimes wish I had bought a truck instead.

good luck
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#7 JD Hartman

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Posted 08 May 2008 - 12:46 AM

Robert, thanks for adding your thought on this subject and for adding the detail on the CDL requirements.

Edited by JD Hartman, 08 May 2008 - 12:46 AM.

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#8 dan brockett

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Posted 13 May 2008 - 12:43 AM

Hi all:

As the owner of a 32' fifth wheel trailer, I can chime in on this with some authority. While my trailer is a camping trailer and not a grip vehicle, I concur with much of what Robert writes about.

One main issue that has not been mentioned is that most RV type vehicles that cost under about $150k use the same flimsy construction techniques. Compared to a real 5-10 ton grip truck or trailer, my 5th wheel and all of my friend's RVs of varying types (Class A, Class C and travel trailers as well as 5th wheels) are built like a Kleenex box, everything is fragile and easy to bend, break and puncture. As a personal camper, you can deal with it. As a professional with crew and heavy gear being dragged in and out of it, this could be a total nightmare.

What this means to me is that you would have to go to a builder who can craft a custom trailer that is up to the construction standards expected in our industry. The air conditioners need to be high end with high output if the trailer is to be used as anything with crew working in it as an office or green room. The walls and trim need to be super heavy duty. This means weight and cost. Buying a recreational toy hauler and retrofitting it to try to do grip work would be a shortsighted enterprise IMHO, the construction standards are fairly flimsy in comparison to a real grip truck.

Positives
5th wheels are great because of the space efficiency, they are relatively large inside and have a lot of room. 5th wheels are inherently more stable in wind than hitch mounted trailers and 5th wheels have a lot less sway. Hauling a 5th wheel is fairly easy and no, at least in California, you do not need anything other than your regular driver's license.

The interior capacity is huge for it's relative size

Because you are not paying for a motor/transmission/etc. as components of the trailer, the relative cost of the trailer itself is low. But you do have to buy a fairly expensive truck to haul one, especially a triple axle heavy duty one.


Negatives
By the time you go to a custom coach builder and really do this right, the cost is not so low. I am not sure how much this would cost but it would not be cheap to do it right.

To get anything with the necessary weight and cargo capacity, you are talking a triple axle trailer. In order to pull trailers of these size efficiently and safely, you need, at minimum, a one ton heavy duty truck and realistically, if the trailer is really loaded down with gear, you need a Volvo, GMC 4500/6500 or Freightliner FL60 MDT. If you are buying new, figure $40,000.00 to $50,000.00 for a nice new Ford, GM or Dodge with all of the fixings or $75,000.00 to $150,000.00 for a new medium duty truck.

Size - my rig is a 32' 5th wheel. When hitched to my Chevy 2500 Duramax, the total length approaches 60 feet. In metropolitan areas, I often see 5 ton up to 10 ton trucks parked in some pretty tight spaces, especially on small residential streets. While I am good at backing in my 5th wheel, you need more approach and room to turn with a 60' trailer and truck than you do with a 35' to 45' truck alone. The bottom line is that it takes more room to park and fit a trailer than a grip truck. On some locations, not a worry but on many I see in LA, it would be impossible to park a 5th wheel easily where a 5 ton could easily fit.

Not saying that it is a bad idea, but there are certain drawbacks and limitations to a 5th wheel. To me, unless you are talking a 38'-42' toy hauler, I don't enough internal room to function as a grip vehicle AND production office, other than a really small one.

I love my 5th wheel for camping but if it were me, I would buy a regular grip truck with a hydraulic gate over a custom 5th wheel.

Dan
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#9 JD Hartman

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Posted 14 May 2008 - 02:51 PM

Robert, if you don't mind, how long is your grip trailer, approximately how much grip and lighting gear can you haul? A 3 ton package, a 5 ton package? What makes theft a big issue? Is yours a "fifth wheel"?

Dan B. said, "To me, unless you are talking a 38'-42' toy hauler, I don't (have) enough internal room to function as a grip vehicle AND production office, other than a really small one. "

Why would that be an issue? I'm looking for a way to haul my equipment, I'm not providing office space.
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#10 dan brockett

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Posted 14 May 2008 - 07:58 PM

Robert, if you don't mind, how long is your grip trailer, approximately how much grip and lighting gear can you haul? A 3 ton package, a 5 ton package? What makes theft a big issue? Is yours a "fifth wheel"?

Dan B. said, "To me, unless you are talking a 38'-42' toy hauler, I don't (have) enough internal room to function as a grip vehicle AND production office, other than a really small one. "

Why would that be an issue? I'm looking for a way to haul my equipment, I'm not providing office space.


Hi JD:

I was getting at the differences between buying an existing Toy hauler (in which case, really only the back area would be useful for grip and lighting), the front is really living/office space vs. going to a trailer manufacturer and having them build a grip 5th wheel where the entire trailer would be suitable for G&E.

My point was, unless you are going custom or a racing car transport trailer in a 5th wheel, you are getting an office space/camper with some room in the back. I am curious as to what kind of $$ a custom 5th wheel setup for G&E would go for?

Dan
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#11 Travis Moody

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Posted 24 May 2008 - 11:00 AM

Although the custom trailer rig sounds pretty cool. I think you would be much cheaper off going with a box truck since you can pick up a 20-24' box truck with a liftgate fro around $10k used in great shape, add another $2-3k for jockey boxes and shelving and you are done. I have a 24' box on my 5 ton (a former Ryder fleet truck) and it weighs in at just under 26000 lbs fully loaded so no need for air brakes or a CDL. The only problem I have with it is that I still need to take it somewhere to get the governor adjusted because it tops out at about 60 on the highway.
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