Ultra-low VOC Paint Makes A Difference


By John McQuillan

With climate change and related environmental concerns mounting, there is growing unease about whether certain products or industrial processes are “green.” And if, in fact, a product or process is green, there is often a concern about whether it is green enough. This question extends to the refinish paint and coatings used on working trucks across all industries.

Work truck owners are increasingly aware of something that truck body builders, collision center owners, and painters have been dealing with and responding to for a long time: volatile organic compounds (VOCs). Environmental regulations in the US and Canada limit the amount of VOCs that can be used in automotive and commercial coatings. Those limits determine the kind of solvent paint used in the refinish process. Legislation limiting VOC emissions has created a growing demand in the truck sector for high-quality, environmentally acceptable and realistically priced paint that is categorized as low-VOC compliant. The fewer VOCs emitted into the air, the better. Heeding the call, paint companies have answered.


Savvy paint companies have developed entire systems of refinish products designed expressly to comply with VOC limitations and address the environmental concerns of the commercial truck market. Recently, these companies, including PPG, for example, have introduced exceptionally low-VOC versions of their solvent-based paints. These are known as ultra-low VOC solvent refinish systems.

“Our customers were very clear about what they want in a commercial paint system,” says Scott Colvin, PPG commercial truck brand manager. “Color-matching excellence, easy application, and durability are among their top concerns. So our aim was to meet those demands with a paint system that would also be environmentally sustainable well into the future. Other paint suppliers are also pursuing more sustainable products, and we view this as positive sign since we all want to do our part and contribute to cleaner air and a healthier environment.”

PPG’s entry in the market, the DELFEET ONE® paint line, is an ultra-low VOC collection of premium undercoats, topcoats, and clearcoats suitable for use across the entire commercial transportation continuum. With ultra-low VOC ratings of 1.5 for basecoat, direct gloss, and matte finishes and 2.0 or less ratings for undercoats and clears, the system emits 57% fewer VOCs compared to a traditional paint system.

“There’s no doubt that the system is well positioned for any future—and stricter—VOC legislation,” Colvin adds.


While the benefits of an ultra-low VOC system may sound appealing, how does such a system work in the real world? PPG posed the question to people who use these types of products daily.

One person with direct knowledge of ultra-low VOC paint systems is John Melvin Jr., owner of JM Collision in Laveen Village, Arizona, outside Phoenix. He switched to the Delfleet One system shortly after it was introduced. “I wasn’t happy with the product I’d been using,” Melvin says. “It wasn’t easy to work with. I had a hard time matching and blending paint, and I wasn’t getting support from the company. On top of all that, it was just too expensive. My PPG and Single Source (distributor) reps suggested I try Delfleet One. I did, and I liked it.”

Melvin was no stranger to low-VOC paint products, and the green advantage was a major factor in the change. “We handle cars and trucks,” he explains. “For cars we use a PPG waterborne system. We are familiar with the ecological concerns and know the importance of being environmentally aware and accountable. When state and county inspectors come into the shop and see we’re using ultra-low VOC and waterborne systems, they are very pleased.”


Melvin’s shop covers 5,000 sq ft including a 50-ft paint booth. He and his six employees handle a continuous stream of work. Melvin is a hands-on painter—he’s been in the business for more than 40 years. He and his team thought there might be some transition adjustments to the Delfleet One system. There were, but far fewer than expected. “I was involved with the process right from the start,” he says. “I like being directly involved so that I can understand the change process, familiarize myself with the paint, and help out if any problems come up. But there were no problems. We adjusted in a week, and within a month it was as though we’d been using it forever. My painters love it.”

Melvin regards the Delfleet One benefits of ease of use and excellent color match and tint as big pluses that came with the switch. The economic advantages of the ultra-low VOC product line also appeal to Melvin. “Using the Delfleet One system, I’ve seen greater product efficiency. I don’t need to use as much paint, so I’ve been able to reduce my inventory and my bottom line is better.”


Patrick Connell is the CEO of Delaware Truck Refinishers in Wilmington, Delaware. Connell and his team—50 employees including three full-time painters—provide collision repair and refurbish services exclusively for commercial truck fleets. Connell switched his company to PPG’s Delfleet One paint system last June.

“I like to be on the cutting edge in my business, and ultra-low VOC paint is the cutting edge,” Connell says. “In this case, quality and ease of use are obviously important, but I saw Delfleet One’s ultra-low VOC level as an equally important factor and a huge plus in terms of environmental impact and social responsibility.”

Connell points out the marketing benefits of the Delfleet One brand. “By choosing this ultra-low VOC paint system, I was able to align my company brand with a top paint brand. It was an instant image upgrade environmentally, one I’m happy to promote.”


At first, Connell’s painters were uncertain about the new system. He thought it would be a challenge for them to adapt. But things turned out differently. “Painters don’t like to change the way they work. But the challenge we expected wasn’t much of a challenge at all,” he says. “Once we saw how easy it was to use Delfleet One, everyone adapted quickly. The product did what it was supposed to do—it is simple to apply, offers premium quality, and is great for all kinds of jobs. We had training and support from PPG and our distributor, Single Source. We were a Delfleet One center in no time.”

To illustrate how trouble-free the transition was to Delfleet One, Connell related a story about a junior painter on staff. This particular painter found the new system so easy to use that within six weeks he had mastered it and was elevated to a senior painter position.

In switching to Delfleet One, Connell added a third paint booth to the company’s 40,000-sq-ft plant. The new booth, a 65-ft unit, is intended to expand the company’s capabilities and handle an anticipated increase in transit vehicles and large-truck business.


The demand for environmentally sustainable products is growing. As technology advances, better, more progressive solutions are being developed. The ultra-low VOC option is worth serious consideration for body builders, truck collision shops, and the like that see the value in creating a healthier work environment and planet by incorporating the latest in commercial paint technology.


John McQuillan is a Detroit-based writer who has covered the automotive industry for more than 20 years. Find out more about PPG’s Delfleet One paint system, visit

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