Jeff Knope is quick to say that his company isn’t in the trucking business. He’s just as fast to add, however, that trucks play a key role in the ability of the glass products wholesaler to serve its customers effectively and efficiently.
Knope is president of Dearco Distributing Inc., based in Shawano, Wisc., which operates a fleet of 10 delivery trucks fitted with specialized glass carrying bodies. The trucks make 25 to 30 stops each day across Wisconsin and in the upper peninsula of Michigan. The company also has a large number of service vans.
“To safely handle glass, whether it’s for a nearby delivery or across longer distances, we need specialized bodies and equipment,” Knope relates. “For our newest models we worked closely with our dealer, Packer City International Trucks, to specify equipment that meets our needs.”
For example, Knope says that Dearco Distributing wanted to have as much carrying capacity as possible without exceeding the CDL threshold to widen the pool of available drivers. The result was the choice of Class 7 International MV Series models with a GVW rating of 26,000 lbs.
“We also wanted to make it easier and safer for our drivers to handle glass at delivery locations,” Knope says, “so we specified International Ride Optimized Suspension systems on the newest trucks. The IROS system allows drivers to lower the body close to the ground when they’re unloading glass at a customer’s site and then raise it to the correct ride height for traveling on the road.
Finding a better solution
“We also needed a better solution for protecting our glass products while they’re in transit,” Knope continues. “Traditionally, glass trucks have open, angled racks that provide easy access for loading and unloading, but unprotected sheets are vulnerable to chipping, cracking and damage from road debris and from de-icing chemicals used to treat the roads during the winter.
“A number of our glass trucks are equipped with curtains to protect the product,” Knope adds. “However, the side curtain systems that have been available until fairly recently tend to make accessing the racks more difficult. They can also be time consuming to operate because they require drivers to bend and stoop down to tension and secure buckles and latches.”
To address this issue, Dearco Distributing turned to its longtime glass body supplier, Marion Body Works. The manufacturer has been building the company’s glass truck bodies both without curtains and with traditional curtain systems with buckles for many years.
The answer that Marion Body Works introduced to Dearco Distributing was the Kin-Slider curtain-side vehicle access system from Kinedyne LLC. Introduced in 2016, the Kin-Slider system has an all-in-one latch-release mechanism and curtains that slide on rollers located on the body’s top and bottom rails. The curtains can be opened from the front or the rear of the body without the need for tensioning or securing buckles.
Kinedyne’s Kin-Slider system features weather-tight vinyl curtains that are designed to prevent moisture intrusion and to resist fading and fungal growth. The curtains can be ordered with high-resolution printing and company graphics.
“We can easily calculate the improvement in loading and unloading time with the Kin-Slider system,” Knope adds. “It promotes efficiency and productivity because it opens and closes from both ends of the truck body and it can be operated in about 30 seconds. It’s especially faster during winter when latches and buckles on traditional curtain side systems can be covered in ice and snow.
“The ergonomic advantages of the Kin-Slider system are also readily apparent,” Knope continues. “Without any latches or buckles to tension or secure, the system does not require our drivers to bend or stoop down twice at every stop.
“This was a new idea for us but it was quickly obvious that the Kinedyne Kin-Slider would improve our drivers’ safety and our efficiency,” Knope adds.
In January, Dearco Distributing took delivery of its first new Marion Body Works glass hauler with a 12-ft. rack and the Kin-Slider curtain-side vehicle access system. To equip the body, Marion provides Kinedyne with the dimensions of the vehicle to be upfitted and the Kin-Slider kit arrives ready to install. Once International Trucks delivers the chassis, the unit is then easily readied and delivered to the fleet.
“Our drivers were immediately impressed with this new kind of glass delivery vehicle because it’s so much easier and safer to operate,” Knope says. “Soon after we took delivery of the first truck with a Kin-Slider system they began to argue over who gets to drive it. That makes it a game-changing technology for us, so we’re getting ready to order more units with it.”