While many small-business owners use trucks in their operations, not many rely on them to the extent that Rick Galliher does. Galliher owns a 1-800-GotJunk franchise, and without trucks he wouldn't be able to haul customers' unwanted and unsalvageable goods to the dump.

Galliher readily recognizes how important trucks are to his livelihood, as well as how hard it can be to provide the kind of care and maintenance they need. “We essentially sell labor and a big truck,” he told me. While the company's Vancouver, BC-based headquarters helped Galliher obtain a vehicle with the right specs for a junk-disposal business, maintaining it is up to him.

“For 20 years I worked in road construction, mostly for Driggs, a local company here in Northern Virginia,” Galliher said. “They had their own repair shop and mechanics to take care of the fleet. So if you had a truck problem, they'd send a guy out to fix it while you used another vehicle. It's a lot different when you're on your own.”

But Galliher got lucky. C&G Maintenance, a local garage, stuck a magnet on one of his trucks while it was parked out near a highway in a rather conspicuous attempt to use it as an advertising billboard; they've taken care of the fleet's three GM/Isuzu cabovers ever since.

According to John Gaydash, marketing director for GM Fleet and Commercial Operations, OEMs serving the light- and medium-duty market are increasing their focus on the needs of small business owners like Galliher — precisely because they have to do so much on their own.

“Small business is the fabric of our economy, and it's those small businesses that use trucks to make a living that are the bread and butter of our local dealer network,” he said. “We're finding that getting them as they start out in business and growing them as a customer over the life of their business is a much easier proposition than conquering them, or taking them away from another truck brand.”

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there are 25-million small businesses in the U.S. They employ half of all private sector workers and create two-thirds of the net jobs in this country. GM, for one, hopes to “latch on” to small businesses as they start out, taking care of their commercial vehicle needs so the business can focus on more important issues, said Gaydash.

“For most small businesses, a truck is but one of the tools they use,” he explained. “So we want to partner with them to make sure their needs…are met, especially as their business develops and grows over time.”

For example, GM is now offering a range of incentives for small-business owners purchasing new light trucks or vans. Options include installation of storage areas, ladder racks or toolboxes from upfitter Adrian Steel at little or no extra cost, $1,000 toward the purchase/lease price to install eligible aftermarket equipment from any upfitter, and cash-back in the amount of $500.

Galliher gets the larger vehicle with special waste hauling and dump body he needs as a complete package through 1-800-GotJunk's partnership with GM/Isuzu. He has access to all the trucks he needs, as long as he has enough business to support them.

“The great thing about my line of work is it's always going to be there; there's always going to be junk,” Galliher said. “So now it's up to me and my crews to go out and get the business. Right now, 95% of our business is residential; 30% is repeat business. Over time, we hope to add more commercial customers, too.”