Like many owner-operators, David and Denise Brandt view their Class 8 ride as more than a tool for making a living. It’s also a larger-than-life rolling canvas on which they can express their artistic inspirations.

And the inspiration covering their 2003 Peterbilt 379 – a truck they call ‘Eleanor’ -- is something to see. The engine cowling, doors, and sides of the sleeper are wrapped intricately with Dragons – magnificent winged beasts spouting fire – with the rear of the sleeper dedicated to the display of a sword-wielding woman.

The key difference between the Brandt’s work of art and similar displays on many owner-operator rigs is that it cost less than a tenth of the price to put it on their vehicle. And only four days of downtime were required. That’s because they used 3M’s Scotchprint vinyl sheeting, as opposed to physically painting the truck, to bring their creation to life.

“When we dreamed up this design and put it out for bid, we were quoted a price of $50,000 and 120 days of downtime to put it on with paint,” David Brandt tells DRIVERS. “So we decided to see if there was another way to do it.”

First, they worked with a graphic artist who designed all the artistic elements via a computer program over a nine-month period. Then they went to Carl’s Blueprinting & Instruments in Reno, NV, to print their designs on 3M’s vinyl sheeting and install it on their truck.

Printing the designs alone required four days, whereas installation took just a day and a half – all at a cost of $3,500, a much more manageable price tag, especially for a husband and wife owner-operator team. And David Brandt believes the quality is equal to paint – giving his truck’s artistic covering the feel of a “graphic novel” illustration.

Dom DeRicco, president of JMR Graphics in New York, adds that the time saved is one of the biggest benefits to using vinyl truck graphics today. “You have it on the truck in just one day in most cases, so the vehicle isn’t tied up and can get back on the road,” he tells DRIVERS.

“The other benefit is that you can choose a material based on how long you want that design on your vehicle – one-year, three to four years, or even a more permanent five to seven year material. It’s all based on how long you want the design to last.”

Brandt notes that the “semi-permanence” of vinyl sheeting is one of the reasons he and his wife chose it over paint.

“If part of the design becomes damaged, they just print out a new section, ship it to us and we replace the damaged part -- it’s that easy,” Brandt explains. “Then there’s the design removal issue. It’ll take a half a day at most to completely remove the design, leaving the truck ‘blank’ like it was when we bought it. Not only will that make it easier to sell it when the time comes, it also makes it easier for us to add a new design any time if we want.”

Less than a year after his ‘Dragon’ inspiration, Brandt is already working on a new one-- a collage of samurai warriors facing one another over a series of war-torn battlefields.

“The best thing is, we can come up with these ideas and put them on our truck, but not break the bank,” he says. “That’s the best part about using this vinyl sheeting system.”