“Safety is behind every decision we make at Boyle Transportation,” says Ben Curtis, Boyle’s fleet manager. “From our vehicles to our professional drivers and in our maintenance operation, we have a safety-first philosophy.”
Headquartered in Billerica, Mass., Boyle Transportation transports security-sensitive cargo across the U.S. and Canada with a fleet of 65 tractors and 165 trailers. Tractors in the fleet are all Freightliner Cascadia models. Trailers, including reefers, dry vans and a variety of platform units, are mostly Great Dane models.
“We’ve invested heavily in safety technology for our fleet,” Curtis says. “We spec Meritor WABCO RSSplus roll stability control systems on trailers and in 2016 we began spec’ing Bendix ADB22X air disc brakes on tractor steer and drive axles. We’re now deploying them on all new trucks and ordering air disc brake systems on all new refrigerated trailers as well.
“We’re very pleased with the air disc brakes so far,” Curtis continues. “The feedback from our drivers has been very positive. With these systems, they know they’re going to get a smooth, car-like feel when the brakes are applied and there isn’t any vibration or pull that can cause a loss of control.”
Curtis also notes that a change in specs has improved drum brake performance on existing trucks in the Boyle Transportation fleet. Using Bendix RSD compliant replacement shoes with the manufacturer’s BA202R friction material, he relates, “grabbing” and noise issues during brake application on some trucks equipped with drum brake systems have been eliminated.
As an early adopter of safety technologies, for many years Boyle Transportation has equipped all of its tractors with AutoVue lane departure warning (LDW) systems, initially supplied by Iteris and from Bendix after it acquired the product line in 2011. Using a forward-facing camera, the AutoVue system detects when a vehicle begins to drift toward an unintended or unsignaled lane change and provides alerts to the driver.
“While we recognized the value of the vision-based technology,” Curtis says, “we had some initial trouble implementing the systems with our driver teams because the audible ‘rumble strip’ would interrupt the driver who was resting in the sleeper. Bendix, however, addressed that issue by updating the system with the capability to alert the driver at the wheel through a vibration in the seat. In our operation, that was an ideal solution.”
To address safety, and to improve fuel economy and extend tire life, according to Curtis, Boyle Transportation also uses tire pressure monitoring systems. “It was especially helpful on some of our shorter routes,” he explains. “We’d have trucks running from New Jersey to Boston, which is about a five-hour drive during which the driver rarely needs to get out of the truck. While tire pressure was fine during the pre-trip inspection, sometimes we’d have trucks come in with low pressure in a tire.
“That was the main reason we started looking into tire pressure monitoring systems,” Curtis adds. “Then, during a Freightliner safety technology demonstration, we realized we could have Bendix SmarTire systems installed at the factory. That was a huge advantage in terms of cost.
“In addition,” he continues, “we liked that the system continuously monitors both pressure and temperature. With this solution we’re able to address costly and unsafe tire conditions that can result from both overinflation or underinflation relative to the tire’s recommended cold inflation pressure, and provide earlier warnings of potential problems. When it comes to safety, sooner is always better.”
Curtis notes that supplier support and practical knowledge are as important as the safety system’s performance and reliability.
“Working relationships provide a better understanding of products and performance expectations,” he says. “It’s been very important to engage both sales and technical service people for the systems we specify. That way we know we can rely on suppliers to help us keep our fleet rolling safely.”
For example, with its first air disc brake equipped tractors on order, Curtis arranged a seminar on the technology for the fleet’s service department. He also invited attendees from a regional truck center, a distributor and a local dealer.
“Maintenance has a great deal of responsibility for the overall safety of the vehicles in our fleet,” Curtis states. “At both of our maintenance facilities—one at our headquarters in Massachusetts and the other at a terminal in Indiana—we work with our technicians and shop managers to ensure they have a good understanding of how their role impacts safety and how it has an effect on our CSA scores and on the company as a whole.”
Spec’ing for fuel efficiency
Curtis is also quick to point out that, along with safety, Boyle Transportation is focused on fuel efficiency as well, in part by purchasing aerodynamic tractors and by adopting SmartWay Transport specifications whenever possible.
“We have also spec’d Detroit DD15 engines, and set them to limit road to 65 MPH in both manual and cruise control modes,” Curtis relates. “In addition, our new tractors are equipped with Detroit DT12 automated manual transmissions, which we feel help drivers operate more efficiently, as well as safely. We also use Detroit’s Virtual Technician remote diagnostic system so that we have an immediate idea if anything is wrong with a vehicle that might be negatively impacting performance.”
Another addition to Boyle Transportation’s latest specs is the factory installed Freightliner ParkSmart system. ParkSmart uses battery power without requiring additional internal ducting or external condensers to provide eight to 10 hours of cooling through an electrically-driven AC compressor or more than 34 hours of heat through an Espar diesel fuel-fired heater, circulates coolant to serve as an engine block heater, and incorporates an inverter for engine-off AC power.
“We needed to give our drivers an option for heat, air conditioning and electrical power without having to idle the engine or add the weight, complexity or maintenance requirements of an APU,” Curtis explains. “Idling can be costly but with these technologies, our drivers have a solution and it works for us because it’s engineered into the truck by the manufacturer, not something we need to add after we take delivery.”
Every one of those decisions at Boyle Transportation, Curtis notes, is made after a system or solution is thoroughly researched, including an evaluation of its return on investment in lower costs and safety. All items, he adds, are also presented for consideration by the fleet’s drivers and maintenance staff.
“Our approach is very comprehensive,” Curtis says. “From our management that ultimately makes equipment decisions to our maintenance team and our professional drivers, safety and efficiency are top of mind in everything we do.”