Bed Storage On The Side
Optimizing bed cargo space with side-mounted toolboxes
By Steve Campbell
Pickup bed space is at a premium for professionals.
Tools, material and other equipment all have to make it to the jobsite, and if they’re well organized and easily accessible, any task can be performed more efficiently.
Added lockable storage can also provide greater security for valuable gear.
While many pickup owners have equipped their trucks with lockable crossover boxes that fit between the bedrails just behind the cab, that design takes up valuable bed space and offers limited storage for longer objects.
Better alternatives for those who need full bed access are the variety of side boxes that sit beside or atop the bedrails or around and over the wheel wells. Some designs also allow storage of longer items.
The rail-top side storage option allows users to maintain full access to a 4- by 8-foot bed while adding carrying capacity.
Boxes designed to fit below the rails allow toppers or caps to still be fitted.
And some wheel well boxes (also called pork chop boxes due to their shape) are equipped with pullout shelves with bins for smaller fasteners, fittings and tools.
Side boxes are constructed of steel, aluminum or plastic and may be painted or powdercoated for both weather protection and appearance.
Aluminum units may be either constructed of smooth sheets or diamond tread, and both steel and aluminum boxes are generally equipped with stainless-steel hinges and latches.
Latching styles include paddle, pull and T handles, and many use dual-cam locking mechanisms for greater theft prevention.
Nearly all feature keyed locks, and some are also equipped with a secondary padlock option for even greater security. Some also offer pushbutton locks that retract when engaged.
Side boxes are designed to protect their contents and survive inclement weather, so they are equipped with integrated sealing systems and, depending upon size and access, even rain channels or gutters.
Foam or D-shaped rubber bulb seals lock out moisture, and some low or wheelwell boxes sit on a raised platform to prevent rust and corrosion. Most top- and side-opening box lids are also equipped with hydraulic or gas prop lifts.
Attaching systems vary from manufacturer to manufacturer, but most use simply installed self-tapping screws, J-hooks or bolts as well as brackets or mounting plates that are fastened to either the bedrail or the bed floor, depending upon the type of box being mounted.
Many of the boxes that are mounted to the top of the bed rails are also fitted with legs that bolt to the bed, providing support for the rear of the box.
Even though installation of side boxes is relatively straightforward, at least one manufacturer, Unique Truck Accessories, encourages professional installation at one of its authorized dealers to ensure proper attachment.
Pork chop boxes are the smallest of the side-storage units, ranging in size from 36 to 60 inches long, 9 to 12 inches wide and about 19 to 20 inches high so that they fit below the bed rails.
Pork chop boxes are often fitted with pullout drawers, the best of which are mounted on ball-bearing slides, and they are available in all three common materials: aluminum, steel and plastic.
Low-profile side boxes, designed to extend a few inches above the bedrail or fit below it to allow the use of toppers, range from 48 to 70 inches long and are usually a little wider than pork chop boxes.
Some are offered with internal organization partitions or lift-out trays but may also be completely open to accommodate long tools, pipes, boards and the like.
High side boxes that are mounted atop the bedrails range from 48 to 96 inches in length and also provide additional depth and width – a full 24 inches high and 20 inches deep in some instances.
These boxes may be ideal for electricians or plumbers who need not only length but also the ability to incorporate dual storage tiers for longer materials as well as separate compartments smaller tools and fixtures.
High side boxes are available with either top-opening drop-down doors or bottom opening lift-up doors and can be fitted with hooks for extension cords.
In addition, many manufacturers offer custom boxes built to the customer’s specifications, with optional dimensions, shelves and drawers.
Side boxes require no special maintenance other than occasional inspection, lubrication and adjustment of locks and latches.
Side storage units help maximize carrying capacity without scarifying much-needed pickup bed space. The varieties of styles, options and materials should provide a lockable storage solution for virtually any need.
Better Built manufactures side mounts, top mounts and wheelwell storage boxes that range 48 inches long and 12 inches wide to 90 inches long and 18 inches wide. Most use a single-bin storage area, but the longer top-mount boxes have two doors accessing the storage area. Information: dawsbetterbuilt.com; 800-366-8269.
Built from non-rusting heavy-duty bright treadplate aluminum, Dee Zee’s side boxes feature self-adjusting strikers, dampened gas shocks and closed-cell foam gaskets to help prevent water intrusion. The hidden hinges run the full length of the box, and the lockable handles are made from stainless steel. Information: deezee.com; 800-779-2102.
DeWalt manufactures black and bright aluminum side-mount and top-sider storage boxes in lengths from 48 to 96 inches. The interiors are coated with ToughCoat and use oversize pushbutton locks or paddle handles with stainless-steel hardware. The boxes are secured to the bed with bolts and J-hooks. Information: dewaltworktruck.com; 888-361-8936.
Geneva manufactures side bed, underbody and three-, four- and five-drawer storage units in powdercoated steel and diamond aluminum. Base plates raise the boxes to help prevent moisture damage and rust, and the boxes are secured with a pair of cam locking systems. Information: genevaproducts.com; 800-899-1161.
Highway Products manufactures side-mount toolboxes in both low and high configurations. Low sides are available in 48-, 65- and 90-inch lengths, and high side boxes are available with drop-down or lift-up doors. High side boxes can be built with drawers, shelves or hooks for extension cords. Information: 800toolbox.com; 800-866-5269.
Northern Tool + Equipment
Northern Tool’s side-mount truck boxes feature 0.60 bright treadplate aluminum, double-latching lockable paddle handles and an oversized striker pin. Fully welded seams add durability, heavy-duty gas shocks allow for easy opening and closing, and a weather gasket keeps the elements out. Five-year limited warranty included. Information: northerntool.com; 800-556-7885.
Owens Products offers side-mount toolboxes in the popular Ellipse Series toolbox line. Owens says that these extra-wide side mounts allow room for larger items, and the Ellipse line features a patented lid with a distinctive curve. All Owens boxes are built with a lid bracing design. Information: owensproducts.com; 800-726-9367.
Pro-Tech is a leading manufacturer of quality truck accessories with distributors in all 50 states. Pro-Tech rail boxes feature two handy designs: top-open or drop- door styles that can be ordered with smooth or diamond-plate doors. Top-open boxes feature a low-profile design. Information: protech.net; 800-443-6153.
RKI manufactures low side boxes in various profiles from 43 to 67 inches long and upper side boxes in standard or top opening from 48 to 96 inches long. Steel boxes are powdercoated, and aluminum boxes are available either plain or in treadplate and may be powdercoated. Information: rki-us.com; 877-754-3678.
Taylor Wings manufactures pork-chop boxes and side-mount boxes. The pork chop boxes have rear doors or front openings with ball-bearing drawer inserts. The universal top-opening boxes are hinged at the back over the wheelwell. All are available with bins, shelves or drawers. Information: taylorwings.com; 800-634-7757.
Tradesman offers fenderwell-, flush-, side- and top-mounted boxes in steel or aluminum. They range from 48 to 90 inches long in bright or black aluminum and white or black steel. A universal lid allows the boxes to be mounted on either side of the bed. Information: tradesmantruck.com; 866-789-5300.
Truck-Tool-Box.com manufactures side boxes and wheelwell boxes. They are built from 1/8- and .080-inch-thick aluminum, and all fasteners are stainless steel. Most of the boxes are equipped with locking T-handles with integrated key sets. The side boxes are fitted with gaskets and rain spouts around the openings. Information: truck-tool-box.com; 866-790-1815.
Tuffy Security Products
Tuffy’s side boxes leave the length and useable width of the bed open. Made of either welded aluminum or 16-gauge steel, they use patented locking system featuring two patented 1/4-inch-thick steel latches, two welded steel strikers and a pick-resistant, double bitted, ten-tumbler pushbutton lock. Information: tuffyproducts.com; 970-564-1762.
Unique Truck Accessories
Unique offers pork chop boxes, low siders, topsiders and contractor top siders with dual storage tiers and optional integrated drawers with divided compartments. Unique’s 29 models range from 3 to 17 cubic feet of storage capacity. Options include single bins, dual tiers and integrated drawers. Information: uniquetruckaccessories.com; 800-239-2343.
UWS manufactures fenderwell boxes and aluminum and steel side mounts and top-siders in 48- to 96-inch lengths. They are fitted with stainless-steel hardware, paddle locks or T-handles and are equipped with MicroSeal weatherstripping. Toolboxes are available in aluminum or a black/white powdercoat finish. Information: uwsta.com; 800-432-4685.
Vertically Driven Products
Vertically Driven Products manufactures side-mounted molded plastic wheelwell storage for use in front of or behind the wheelwell on either side. There are two compartment choices: deep for dry or wet storage and shallow for dry storage. Each is fitted with a heavy-duty lock and key mechanism. Information: vdpusa.com; 562-438-5112.
Weather Guard Truck Equipment
Weather Guard has redesigned its Hi-Side Truck Boxes to deliver improved security, durability and organizational solutions for construction, municipal and field service professionals who require frequent and easy access to valuable tools and equipment while keeping the truck bed open for supplies. Information: pweatherguard.com; 800-456-7865.