For 45 years, Centurion Auto Logistics and its transportation entity, Centurion Auto Transport, have been focused on providing on-time, damage-free service to customers. Recently, the Jacksonville, Fla.-based company took a big forward-looking step to ensure it can continue to meet that goal by investing $6.8 million in its fleet and in management technology.
“We added 23 new trucks to our fleet of 178 company-owned auto haulers,” says Dave Kluge, the fleet director. “The new vehicles are 80-ft. models and they’re our first trucks to have air disc brakes and side-facing cameras on head racks so drivers can see around the load. These technology upgrades will enhance safety for our drivers and help meet our damage-free delivery goal.”
Now that federal regulations allow for 80-ft. auto haulers, Kluge explains, the extra room on the trailers makes it easier to load and unload vehicles and allow for space so cars don’t bump into each other during transit.
“Over the years we’ve adopted every new length allowed by law, from 55 ft. originally to 75 ft. recently to 80 ft. today,” he relates. “With 80-ft. units, if weight limits change, Centurion will have the opportunity to increase loaded revenue.”
A mix of open rack and enclosed car carriers, the auto haulers in the Centurion fleet are, on average, 6.2 years old, with model years ranging from 2007 to 2019. The majority of the fleet consists of Peterbilt and Volvo models, Kluge notes, because the two manufacturers have been building auto carriers for a long time.
Focused on fuel efficiency
Along with safety and driver comfort, Kluge says that Centurion is focused on fuel efficiency. “With open racks and different types of vehicles on each load it’s almost impossible to find fuel savings in aerodynamics on this type of equipment,” he elaborates. “However, we are doing whatever we can to keep fuel use as low as possible.
“For example,” Kluge continues, “our newest engines are PACCAR MX-13 and Volvo D11 and D13 models set for a maximum road speed of 65 MPH and to limit idle time. In addition, since 2015 we’ve spec’d only Eaton and Volvo automated manual transmissions, and we work with the manufacturers to set shift points for maximum efficiency.”
Kluge also points out that Centurion is saving fuel by equipping its trucks with 24-volt hydraulic systems for moving ramps instead of PTO-driven solutions. In addition, the fleet is using Hendrickson Tiremaax Pro automatic tire inflation systems on trailers and has installed Aperia Halo inflation technology on 2019 tractors.
Keeping the Centurion fleet running efficiently and productively as it covers over 12 million miles annually throughout the southeastern U.S. are two shops, one at the company’s headquarters and a second facility in Commerce, Ga., next to an auto OEM’s processing center.
The two locations, with seven bays and a staff of more than 20 technicians combined, perform preventive maintenance and minor repairs, and there is a welding and fabrication bay for trailer work at the main facility. Major repairs and warranty issues are handled by networks of dealers and service locations.
“With our focus on preventive maintenance, we’re fortunate to have managers and technicians with many years of experience servicing auto hauling equipment,” Kluge says. “Our shops perform three or four very extensive PMs each day. We schedule those every 20,000 miles and they take as long as six hours to complete. In addition, every 160,000 miles a complete cleaning of emissions systems is done.
“Our shop management system is 100% paperless,” Kluge relates. “We track everything that’s done in-house and that we outsource, including parts, by VMRS code, and we charge every penny spent to each truck. That lets us manage our service programs and watch for problems based on failure rates.”
Comprehensive management technology
Centurion’s shop information system is tied into the company’s comprehensive enterprise management solutions. For example, using mileage readings from ELDs, the carrier’s operations staff can work with the shops to schedule PMs during 10- and 34-hour driver Hours-of-Service rest breaks, and to notify drivers about upcoming service needs.
The host of solutions in place at Centurion includes TMW.Suite from Trimble (formerly known as TMW Systems) for order entry and dispatching, Trimble mobile communications and ELDs and TMT Fleet Maintenance software for shops. Also integrated are Drivewyze weigh station bypass and Great Plains accounting solutions.
“We’ve found that these management system providers offer us solutions that will grow with our business as our technology needs change,” says Claudia Land, the training and compliance manager at Centurion.
Recently, Centurion worked with Trimble (f.k.a. PeopleNet) to develop a custom Auto Hauler workflow app that provides electronic proof of delivery receipts. The app aids drivers by prompting them through screens to gather information while they are at a stopped location, along with allowing them to scan vehicles as they are loaded. The app also helps prevent mis-hauls, which can mean lost revenue, Land notes, by verifying each VIN at the loading facility rather than upon arrival.
“The app can provide OEMs with real-time order status updates from bay departure to delivery,” Land explains further. “The system also automatically provides estimated delivery dates to dealers and a proof of delivery document within minutes of delivery. Before the Auto Hauler app, our customers would have to wait 24 hours before they knew when the vehicle had shipped. This technology helps the supply chain move faster, and it helps speed up our billing cycle because our new way of managing orders allows us to send same-day invoices.”
Land also says that advanced technology like the Auto Hauler app and other on-board systems help improve driver retention. “Our drivers are our front-line associates and they have a tremendous amount of cargo management responsibility,” she says. “With technology it’s easier for them to meet customer service expectations.
Meeting driver needs
“We need to attract and retain people who are willing to do more than just drive,” Land continues. “With comfortable equipment, high pay rates and better routes and schedules than they’d find elsewhere, we’re keeping drivers, including some that have been here for more than 30 years. Today our annual turnover rate is well under 25%.”
To ensure drivers at Centurion are well prepared for the job, the company hires people with at least two years of verifiable over-the-road experience and provides intensive training. Onboarding programs for new drivers in the operation include a full week of sessions with business, operations, safety and maintenance team leaders to familiarize them with every aspect of the company’s business.
The drivers then spend at least two weeks practicing loading and unloading all configurations of the company’s equipment. The training, focused on damage prevention, takes place on-site with used vehicles purchased specifically for that purpose.
For more than four decades, Centurion has been intent on being a trusted auto hauler for high-end vehicles across the southeastern U.S. The company’s services include direct to dealer, factory to port, port to processing center and port-to-port moves. Its customers include original equipment manufacturers as well as secondary market companies that sell remarketed vehicles.
“All of our OEM customers are expecting on-time, damage-free delivery for their customers, which is why providing flawless service is so important to Centurion,” Land says. “By investing in people, equipment and technology, we’re able to provide high-quality, dependable service for decades to come.”