For New Jersey-based Bug Doctor Termite & Pest Control, expanding its services to new states means growth in employees as well as fleet. With 32 vehicles and counting, Bug Doctor now serves customers in five pest control divisions, each with specific fleet needs.
Stuart Aust, owner and president, started Bug Doctor Termite & Pest Control with his wife as a mom-and-pop operation in Paramus, N.J., in 1992.
As the business grew, Aust expanded his company’s reach into other pest control divisions. In 1996, Bird Doctor was born. Three divisions soon followed: Mosquito Doctor, Animal Doctor (trapping of skunks, raccoons, squirrels) and Bedbug Doctor.
In 2009, Bug Doctor took one of its divisions nationwide. With its other pest control divisions mainly serving customers in New Jersey, New York and Pennsylvania, Bird Doctor Nationwide now has customers as far as Texas and California.
Currently, Bug Doctor is averaging a revenue increase of 10% to 12% each year, says Aust. In December, the company was up about 16% in revenue. In the face of such growth, how does Bug Doctor manage the challenges of fleet?
A Diverse and Customized Fleet
With an expanding reach, Bug Doctor needs a reliable and up-to-date fleet. Aust decided to start leasing his vehicles instead of buying them. Cycling fleet every three years not only keeps maintenance costs in check, “We found that gives our brand a clean and fresh look,” he says.
Although each fleet vehicle wears the color white, Bug Doctor’s fleet is made up of several different types of vehicles. The trucks are broken down by division: 13 trucks for Bug Doctor, 10 trucks for Bird Doctor Nationwide, one for Animal Doctor and one for Bedbug Doctor.
Of the 32 vehicles, the fleet includes several field service trucks — a mix of Ford F-150s, Ford Rangers, Toyota Tacomas and Chevrolet Silverados — along with four Ford Transit Connect vans used by the sales team for inspections, two Nissan Maximas and one VW Beetle for the management team.
By cycling fleet every three years, Bug Doctor has the flexibility to choose vehicles that work best for each division at that time.
When Beetle production went dormant for a year and the color white wasn’t available, Aust switched to Ford Transit Connect vans for the sales team. The vans’ interiors are upfitted with shelving and storage. “They look like a mini office,” Aust says.
However, the company is looking to go back to the Beetles. “The Transit Connects have been great for advertising and storage space, but the sales team would prefer to go back to Beetles, especially with parking in New York,” says Tim Periard, the branch manager in charge of fleet operations.
Additionally, four new Tacoma trucks will be added to the fleet this year to replace the Ford Rangers, which are no longer available. Many of the drivers wanted more legroom. “We have learned that it’s important to involve the employees in choosing the types of vehicles,” says Aust.
Each truck gets a customized commercial cap and a toolbox on the driver’s side. Job-specific equipment includes bird deterrent products, ladders, power tools and safety equipment for the area lifts. The termite truck needs specific tools, including heavy hammer drills to drill through cement slabs and shovels to dig around the property.
With Periard’s input, the truck caps have been customized and now feature port windows on the passenger side to eliminate a blind spot while driving. And to make it easier to maintain new caps on the new vehicles, the leasing company now includes the caps in the leasing agreement and depreciates them along with the trucks.
“We used to buy our caps for the lease trucks and switch them from truck to truck, but trucks change in design and dimensions,” says Periard. “And now with the different vehicles we are using, the caps aren’t interchangeable anymore.”
The company branding on the vehicles — along with old-fashioned word of mouth — are the company’s biggest lead generators, Aust says. As the company expands, having the trucks on new job sites in new states has created even more business, he adds.
Each white-colored service truck features the division logo on all sides, with the logos as big as possible.
Aust refers to the Ford Transit Connect vans as “moving billboards.” Each of these inspection vans contains several of the company’s logos. For example, one side features the Bug Doctor logo, the other side is for Bird Doctor Nationwide and the back contains the Bedbug Doctor logo.
Another marketing opportunity comes at Yankee Stadium. As the official pest control company for the New York Yankees and one of the team’s sponsors, Bug Doctor is allowed to park its multiple-logoed Silverado truck at Yankee Stadium’s loading dock, providing high-profile visibility, especially with the baseball players walking by.
While the company has been servicing Yankee Stadium for 14 years, Aust made the business decision six years ago to become an official Yankees sponsor, and the added visibility has paid off. The company has signage in the stadium and advertising in the Yankees Magazine.
Aust credits some of the company’s growth to the marketing of its specific divisions, each with a specific customer solution. Ironically — but not surprisingly — customers serviced by the bedbug division do not want the logoed trucks anywhere near their property, Aust says with a chuckle.
With the company’s brand growth, Periard must monitor mileage while considering additions to fleet. For pest control, most of Bug Doctor’s business comes from New York City, New Jersey and Pennsylvania. Those trucks average a considerable 50,000 to 70,000 miles per year.
Officially changing the Bird Doctor division to Bird Doctor Nationwide garnered new business from national retail chains in different regions — while forcing some decisions with fleet. “Driving as far south as North and South Carolina, we put a lot of miles on the bird vehicles,” says Aust, who has done the math in travel distance to best manage vehicles and drivers and still be profitable.
And for its bird control assignments not within driving distance (i.e., Michigan, Texas, California), Bird Doctor will fly the technician to the job and ship the equipment. Once there, the technician rents a van and buys any needed tools.
With the busy season starting in March, Periard is already preparing for the company’s growth. Because Bug Doctor is planning to hire new technicians, this means more fleet vehicles will follow.
“To plan ahead, we need at least one or two spare vehicles to grow into,” says Periard. “Or if we need to take a vehicle out of service, I need a backup vehicle. New vehicle deliveries can take up to 16 weeks so it is good to prepare in advance.”
Bird Doctor Nationwide has even done work internationally.
“We bird-proofed a building in New York City for the king and queen of Qatar. Then they asked me to take a look at two of their palaces in the Middle East. We may need to change our name again to Bird Doctor International,” Aust muses.