It’s as controversial as pre-tribulation, mid-tribulation or post-tribulation… more hotly debated than Bieber and Kanye being real Christians, more pondered than the effectiveness of essential oils. Many churches we work with have strong feelings about this topic. It’s a tale as old as time. And that is buying a trailer vs box truck.
Every portable church whether new plant or multisite, will fall on one side of the line and typically have opinions about it. Many fall into the same camp, but not all! So let’s jump right into the conversation about pros and cons.
Anyone who has worked with us in the past will tell you that we are huge advocates of buying and using trailers to transport and store your portable church gear. And after doing this work for over 25 years, we have some good reasons to back us up.
We recommend trailers because, to start with, they are much less dangerous to load out and load in. Trailers have a significantly lower ground clearance, so the ramp is not very steep and the transitions are smooth. This is significantly safer for the multiple trips volunteers will take up and down the ramp. Besides making it easier to physically move around, the chances of gear falling off and getting damaged are very low. Because a trailer ramp is such an easy way to roll out your cases, the time it takes to unload is blazing fast. An entire church can be unloaded and in the venue in 5-10 minutes, easy.
If there is any type of issue with the pull vehicle, say your truck breaks down, it is relatively easy to find someone else with a truck to pull your trailer to your location. You can simply un-hitch the truck and hitch up another one to continue on. If you’re in a real pinch, even tow trucks can hitch up quickly and get your trailer to your destination.
To be fair, there are some cons to trailers as well. The biggest one being that it does take some skill to back up the trailers. Something not well know is that the larger the trailer, the easier it is to back up. Smaller trailers jack-knife quickly when backing them due to the short wheelbase. The wheelbases on longer ones are further back and you see the transitions easier as they are slower and much easier to correct. With that in mind – it’s probably best to not let just anyone transport your trailer. We recommend having select people on your set up team responsible for this job.
We understand the temptation for church planters and campus leaders to want to utilize a box truck for portability. We really do. And sometimes when you find that killer box truck deal it’s tough to budget for the right trailer, and we understand that too. We just have been in the business long enough and have heard enough stories that we try not to recommend it, with that in mind, we are aware that each church is unique and we trust pastors to make the best decision for their church.
The most compelling advantage to having a box truck is that they are budget-friendly! You can usually find one for a pretty good deal. In addition to that – most people can pick up driving them quickly, so a wider range of volunteers can transport your equipment.
Box trucks might also make sense when your venue has a loading dock that empties right into the location that your gear will be used. Just be sure you have a long term rental agreement in place or ensure your next venue has a loading dock as well. The last pro is a blessing and a curse (explained later) and that is simply that it is both truck and trailer in one contained unit.
Box trucks are much higher off the ground than trailers, making a steep ramp or liftgate for unloading – both of which can be hazardous. In addition, liftgates slow the unloading process down by typing up additional people to help secure the load as well as adding minutes to the “up-down” process of a liftgate. You will find people often waiting for their next load to haul in. Liftgates and steep ramps also create many stories of things falling off. Due to the height of box trucks you put your gear and team at a higher risk. Not to mention that if the liftgate stops working you have to unload things by hand (which is another layer of danger). This has caused knee injuries, back injuries, hernias, and worse. One of our pastors from a highly known church who went this route encourages us to tell people about his story after he ended up with 2 knee surgeries and a hernia. “People need to know about this!” he says.
The last disadvantage (and curse mentioned above)… If your box truck breaks down, getting another box truck on short notice on a Sunday morning is not fun. In fact, it can be near impossible. In the best-case scenario, if you do happen to have another box truck, transferring the equipment is difficult. Although box trucks are easier to drive, once it’s on-site, they are not that great.
We know that the cost is a very important piece of the puzzle, but so are your volunteers. So before you decide, you will have to weigh out the long term impact on you as the pastor as well as all that you will be asking of your volunteers.
One last thing to note – when thinking through drivers and owners of trucks to transport your trailer/s, consider people in these professions (they usually will have some experience with towing trailers): construction, contractors, farming, people with tow trucks, landscaping, or people who work in a warehouse. Ask your launch team if they know anyone in their circle who has a truck and list the professions above. And if you can’t find anyone, drive by your local Walmart or Home Depot, find the perfect truck and wait for the driver to show up. Even offer to pay! We’ve actually heard some pretty cool stories of people coming to Christ because they were hired to transport the trailer of a portable church! How cool is that?!
If you’d like to talk more about this and your specific situation or have more information to add to the conversation – we’d love to talk! Call us at 800.939.7722 and check out our trailer gallery here.