orange taxicabs labeled yellow
March 14, 2005 9:14 PM   Subscribe

Why do some American transport companies named "Yellow" paint their vehicles orange?

In Northern Virginia there's a "Yellow Cab" company whose fleet is actually orange. What's up with that? And nationally, another example (you've probably seen 'em out on the interstate): a trucking company called Yellow paints their cabs orange, with orange details on their trailers (lorries). Something like the Japanese confusion of blue with green? I doubt that it's color blindness (which allegedly affects 10% of males, to some degree) since that's usually red-green. My understanding is, the yellow-blue variant is quite rare.

Not sure why this is aggravating, might find it less so if they had a good reason. Possibly just to be memorable, like a cat named "Dog"?
posted by Rash to Travel & Transportation (12 answers total)
As Penske and Ryder already use canary yellow for their fleet, and as Orange is a registered trademark, perhaps a yellowish-orange makes Yellow more distinctive in the yellow-saturated transport market.
posted by AlexReynolds at 9:19 PM on March 14, 2005

Yellow sponsors a car in the NASCAR Busch series and their driver at the time, Jamie McMurray, explained it during an interview. He said it was found that orange was a much more visible color than yellow.

Here is a more complete explanation from the yellow racing site:

In the 1930s, A.J. Harrell, President of Yellow Transit Company, realized that the streets were becoming crowded with vehicles. Concerned for the safety of his drivers and passing motorists, he ordered that the entire fleet be repainted. Harrell said, "We need to find the safest color on the road."

Harrell collaborated with the fine folks at DuPont to develop the safest, most visible color. A color that belonged to only Yellow. They experimented. They tested hundreds of colors. They worked day and night. Until one day, they created the perfect color. It was unequaled in its vividness and its ability to be seen at great distances. They named it after a wild berry that grew in the South, "Swamp Holly Orange."

Mr. Harrell was thrilled. The employees were surprised. The customers were confused.

For more than 60 years, "Swamp Holly Orange" has been the signature for Yellow Transportation. Far and wide the bright orange vehicles are associated with dependable, reliable service. The color also represents a commitment to the safety of our employees and the public. The color has become our calling card.
posted by sciatica at 9:25 PM on March 14, 2005

Commitment to safety of the public? If that's true, than why is their super-safe color only for them?

I don't argue that their color may be extra safe. I'm of the mind that gray and blue vehicles ought to be banned, as they disappear into the pavement (especially when wet).
posted by Goofyy at 11:42 PM on March 14, 2005

In some cities, they may not be able to paint their vehicles yellow by law. For instance, in Ontario only school buses are allowed to painted that particular shade of yellow, simply because that makes them more identifiable. That way if there is some sort of school-bus related incident, there won't be any confusion about which vehicle the kiddies are in.
posted by Kololo at 12:31 AM on March 15, 2005

John Hertz really liked yellow. He ran Yellow Cab, Yellow Truck and Coach Manufacturing Company and Hertz Rent a Car. Penske used to be associated with Hertz as well. Apparently he thought it was the most visible color.

So now some of these things might still be called Yellow for historical reasons.
posted by grouse at 12:45 AM on March 15, 2005

I always thought it was a trick to make you notice the logo. You look at it once, and think "Yellow", or maybe "Orange". But then you think "wait, something was wrong with that logo", and look again. It's more memorable than it would be if it was painted in yellow.
posted by Plutor at 5:16 AM on March 15, 2005

Not an answer as such, but there is a Yellow Cabs in Brisbane, Australia which also has orange cabs.
posted by dg at 5:30 AM on March 15, 2005

ditto, plutor.
posted by kelegraph at 5:57 AM on March 15, 2005

The official rules for New York City's taxi fleet (can't find a link, so you'll have to take me on my word) require that cabs are painted "yellow with a touch of red" for maximum visibility. There is no proportion mentioned. In recent years, Ford has been putting more red into its Crown Victoria paint than usual, so the cabs here have an orange cast.

The same explanation probably applies to true orange taxis in other cities: they're easier to spot than plain yellow. The name is probably a reflection of the history of taxicab culture.
posted by werty at 6:09 AM on March 15, 2005

Yellow Cabs in Vancouver has black cars ;) Black Top has yellow cabs with a black roof (who looks at the roof!?)
posted by seawallrunner at 7:31 AM on March 15, 2005

I don't know that this is the case, but is it possible that our definitions of colors have changed over the years? I say this because I used to play the game Rummikub with my grandparents and the early-80's version of this game had orange tiles that both my grandparents called "yellow" (later versions of the game have clearly yellow tiles). It was about the same shade of orange used in Yellow Trucks.

Glad to see I'm not the only person who wonders about these things.
posted by dagnyscott at 8:20 AM on March 15, 2005

Completely unrelated, but when I was a kid I thought that that bright orange used on power tools was called decker. Because, after all, they were called Black & Decker, and were colored black and... bright orange.
posted by kindall at 3:22 PM on March 15, 2005

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