The Luton truck is such a common sight on our roads and such a well-known name that few people will stop to consider where the truck originated and what gave the truck its name. If you assume that the Luton-bodied truck originated in the Bedfordshire town of the same name, you’d be right and the connection is an interesting one. It seems that the Luton-bodied truck was first designed by a Mr Barrett, who owned a haulage firm in the town. Mr Barrett’s company did a lot of business with hatters, or milliners, which was a major industry in Luton back then at the beginning of the 20th century.
These hats were certainly bulky and were transported in even larger hat boxes, but being made largely out of straw, they were also very light. Mr Barrett could see that in order to distribute the hats most efficiently, size rather than payload capacity was most important. At the time, most trucks were delivered as chassis cabs, rather than being pre-bodied, so designing a bespoke body for his needs was relatively simple. In order to maximise space, Mr Barrett built a body that extended out over the top of the cab and almost to the front of the bonnet. These early ‘Luton’ vans and trucks had metal poles running up from the front bumper to support this new overhanging cargo area.
The new Luton design was extremely successful and has remained popular ever since those early days of transporting hats from Luton. Modern uses are varied and are focused on those areas where bulk rather than weight is the limiting factor in transport operations. This makes them especially popular in the removals industry, where they are still the body style of choice today. Clearly, furniture and other household items are bulky rather than weighty and this makes the Luton-bodied truck ideal for such operations. Because of this focus on space rather than payload, many Lutons also feature a dropwell at the rear of the body. This makes use of the dead space behind the rear wheels and gives ease of access as well as increasing load area.
The added storage area above the cab is most often called the ‘peak’ but it is also referred to as the ‘kick’ or indeed the ‘Luton’. In some cases the extra storage area of the peak is sacrificed to make way for a fairly spacious sleeping area — ideal for crews who spend much of their working week away from home. The Luton does have a drawback, though, and that comes in the form of increased wind resistance. Clearly, with the storage area extending over the cab towards the front of the vehicle, there is far less scope for introducing aerodynamic modifications such as wind deflectors. A Luton-bodied truck also tends to be more expensive to buy than its standard box van counterpart. The box van, meanwhile, can easily accommodate wind deflectors above the cab, improving fuel economy. This means that Luton-bodied trucks can be more expensive, both to acquire and to run. This should be considered alongside the increased productivity delivered by the extra capacity when you want to work out if a Luton-bodied truck is the most economical and efficient choice for your needs.