Take Your Office on the Road

A well-equipped portable office that enables you to work from the jobsite instead of waiting until you return to your office building can increase efficiency and allow timely workflow.

In the past, this was not always possible. We have all seen the trucks with plans and work orders wedged between the windshield and dash. Valuable time is lost trying to located critical documents, if they can even be located. Then there was the issue of connectivity. Without a reliable internet connection, communication can be difficult.

But modern technology allows your truck to truly become an office on wheels. Storage systems, work stations, electrical power adapters and connectivity software can make you truck as productive as your brick-and-mortar office, maybe even more productive.

Integrated communications solutions

Communications with the office and outside world are critical for any office. In the past this could be a challenge from your vehicle. But the major truck manufacturers now offer connectivity solutions that are either voice activated or operated via touch screen that enable mobile devices to communicate with the vehicle through Bluetooth technology or via USB connection.

Most 2014 Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra pickups feature MyLink with a 4.2- or 8-inch color touch screen radio. The 4.2-inch radio, standard on 2WT and LT models, includes Bluetooth for phone streaming, two USB ports, an SD card slot and natural voice recognition. LTZ and High Country models receive an 8-inch high-definition touch screen that enables users to scroll or drag through menus.

MyLink provides connectivity for the jobsite with natural voice recognition. It allows you to place calls, enter destinations, browse media and control other functions simply by telling the vehicle what to do. There are no key phrases to remember and no need to look at a screen.

Ford offers SYNC technology which is designed to keep you connected while you keep your eyes on the road. It allows you to make calls or get turn-by-turn directions through voice activation. MyFord Touch allows access to the connection technology through an 8-inch dash-mounted touch screen.

The 2014 F-Series is available with a truck-specific version of the voice-controlled connectivity SYNC system with MyFord Touch. The truck-friendly version offers tactile button controls and large rotating knobs to accommodate work gloves.

Vehicles are even becoming internet hot spots, with Ford and Ram Trucks all offering Wi-Fi solutions.

Ram Trucks offer the latest generation Uconnect system. By registering for the Uconnect Access premium paid features you get Wi-Fi, remote mobile commands, Yelp and emergency assistance. The Wi-Fi enables all of your passengers to be simultaneously connected to the web. Any W-iFi-enabled device — such as a laptop or compatible mobile device — can connect over your private network. No cell cards or software are required. The high-speed, secured connection lets anyone on your private network access the web from up to 150 feet away.

Voice-recognition technology, steering-wheel controls, touchscreen displays and traditional controls, provide Ram customers with a variety of ways to interact with their mobile phones, music, navigation system and applications. Users can remotely lock or unlock doors or start their vehicles from any distance via the web or a smartphone application.

Uconnect features one-step voice command of navigation, the ability to check real-time fuel prices and listen and respond to text messages . The system announces receipt of a text message, audibly identifies the sender and reads the message.

When a compatible Bluetooth mobile phone is initially connected to the system, the phone book within a mobile phone is automatically downloaded, synchronizing as many as 1,000 phone book entries, which can then be selected by simply saying a contact name.

And Ram Trucks has taken steps to make sure your Uconnect system doesn’t rapidly become obsolete. Owners will be able to upgrade to the latest features and services. Applications are updated over the air and are downloaded directly to the Uconnect Media Center, so features remain current.

Wi-Fi capability is available with SYNC with MyFord Touch on the 2013 Ford F-150 and Super Duty pickups. It does require a USB modem. “Default security is set to Wi-Fi Protected Access 2 (WPA2), requiring users to enter a randomly chosen password to connect to the internet,” says Ron Hall, Ford. “When SYNC sees a new Wi-Fi device for the first time, the driver has to specifically allow that device to connect, preventing unauthorized users from ‘piggybacking’ on the SYNC-provided signal.”

Power your workstation

The next critical function for any office is the ability to power computers, printers and other mobile devices. This can be done through either 12-volt power outlets or power inverters that supply 110-volt power to the vehicle cabin.

Power inverters are available to covert the vehicle’s DC power into AC power like you have in the office. There are currently two types of inverters – Modified Sine Wave (MSW) and Sine Wave (SW). MSW inverters can initially cost less to purchase. For simple loads, they efficiently convert DC power to AC. But they do not produce a true sine wave and may not be the best choice for sensitive electronics. The SW inverters produce the same clean quality power that the utility delivers to your home. They help eliminate incompatibility and performance loss issues.

Many pickups come with pre-installed 12-volt and 110-volt outlets, minimizing the need for an additional power inverter. In addition they are now typically fitted with a USB port.

Consider storage space

Having the latest communication technology and power available to run office equipment is only half the challenge. Then you must have the necessary storage to keep everything organized and secure. The latest generation of pickups offer large center consoles with molded in file hangers and under-seat storage.

For example, the new center console on the 2014 Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra – available on vehicles with front bucket seats – offers nearly 1 cu. ft. of combined storage space – about 25% more room than a typical paper grocery bag, with the depth and width to conceal a laptop computer.

The locking console accommodates hanging files for owners who use their truck as a rolling office, as well as controls for overhead ambient lighting, map pockets along the side, movable cup holders and reconfigurable compartments. There’s even a location on the console designed specifically for cell phone storage. LT models with the standard 40/20/40-split bench seat include a lockable under-seat storage compartment.

Ford offers two different consoles on its F-Series trucks. “The more common ‘flow through’ console is on Lariat and above, and there is no functional difference between trim levels,” says Hall. “There are folder hangers molded in and one could fit a medium to small laptop. The ‘stand-alone’ console is offered on the XLT and lower series. It does not have the folder hangers but it does offer decent storage space.”

Ram trucks offers numerous versatile storage features to help you keep your business organized including available under-seat rear storage with lids to serve as load floor, available upper and lower glove boxes, available armrest business center console that provides all the storage you need, along with AUX/USB and optional SD slot.

Use aftermarket to customize your office

But to make the best use of any office you need to customize it to fit the way you work. Many aftermarket companies offer accessories that can truly convert you truck’s interior to a customized workspace. Two examples are Mobile Desk and mobileDUZ products.. These accessories allow you to efficiently work with laptop computers, file critical documents and keep office tools and plans organized.

The TruckOffice and ConsoleOffice are both offered by mobileDUZ products, and are designed for paperwork management. Compartments are perfectly sized to accommodate hanging files, tech manuals and portable files.

The TruckOffice replaces the back seat of your truck. A custom base serves as an adapter to exactly fit the floor of your pickup. It fastens to the floor using the same attach points used by the rear seat, which offers security and safety advantages.

The TruckOffice offers three compartments sized to manage portable files, hanging files and tech manuals. A locking top compartment keeps your laptop safe. There is also a locking long drawer for storing expensive site plans or other long items. Smaller drawers allow you to organize small office items like pens, stapler and business cards.

An optional electric package offers 1,000- or 1,500-watt pure sine wave power through two 110-volt outlets. There are also two 12-volt outlets, plus on/off switches for each. In most applications mobileDUZ uses the GO POWER 1,000-watt SW inverter because it can be mounted in any position, is small, and has a great performance record.

If you need the back seat to carry additional passengers, the ConsoleOffice provides a solution. It offers padded storage for your laptop and hand-held printer, space for hanging files and printer paper, a dry-erase surface on the inside of the lid for making quick notes, an organizer for pens and pencils and a padded top for your elbow with a double jumbo cup holder for your drink. The whole thing locks so your valuable information is secure.

Mobile Desk also offers a variety of solutions to meet your individual needs. Some of the products include the Tough Desk Ultra, Console-X Integrator Truck Console Organizer and Auto Exec RoadMaster Truck Mobile Office.

Perhaps the simplest is the Auto Exec RoadMaster Truck Mobile Office , which requires no installation and is secured to the passenger seat by using the seat belt. It is designed for people working out of their vehicle that predominately use a laptop. An adjustable laptop plate comes with a strap and Velcro secure it to the desktop. Move it closer while you are typing and then move it back to the center of the desk while the vehicle is in motion. In addition, you can store hanging file folders as well as other office essentials in the storage area under the work surface.

For those who simply want a laptop mount, there is the Tough Desk Ultra. It is mounted in approximately an hour using a no-drill base mount that is specific to the year, make and model of your vehicle. It provides a versatile ergonomic mobile workstation.

Finally there is the Console-X Integrator. This truck console helps consolidate electronics, provides laptop storage, file storage and can be outfitted with a work bench. Assembled in approximately two hours, it incorporates a no drill base.

And these are only a very small sampling of what is available to truly customize your truck into a mobile office on wheels. With the advent of voice-activated technology and built-in operating systems on the latest generation of pickups, the mobile office has become a high-tech, efficient alternative.