An innovator in the less-than-truckload industry, Pitt Ohio Express is most notable for its continued willingness to invest in technology that meets the needs of its customers. Using those capabilities, the Pittsburgh, Pa.-based carrier has flourished as a specialist in regional short-haul freight transportation. Servicing the Mid-Atlantic Region, including Ohio, Virginia, West Virginia, Indiana, Michigan, Chicago, Ill., and the Greater Triad of North Carolina from more than 20 terminals, Pitt Ohio offers a variety of diversified services.
The backbone of the Pitt Ohio operation is its fleet of 728 Mack, Sterling and Freightliner tractors, 349 Freightliner and Ford straight trucks, 47 Freightliner Sprinters and over 1,600 Trailmobile trailers, including 45-, 48- and 53-ft. dry vans.
“Our purchasing and specification decisions are based on the type of use for each piece of equipment, customer needs and value in terms of life cycle costs,” says Denny Martin, director of vehicle maintenance. “Trade cycles are determined on an individual basis but our average tractor is 4.3 years old. Factors considered when determining trades include age, mileage, and overall condition of the equipment, as well as current business needs.
“At the same time,” Martin continues, “our fleet is standardized because that practice reduces repair costs and allows us to maintain a smaller standing parts inventory. In addition, it lowers training expenses for technicians and means drivers don’t have to adapt to different types of equipment.”
If a new component or system is introduced that looks like it might be advantageous to Pitt Ohio, Martin relates, the company will consider evaluating it for the supplier. “We look for improved technologies on products we are currently using or new products that would be more efficient and cost effective for our fleet,” he explains. “This process also enables us to specify equipment that reduces long-term maintenance costs.”
A 14-year fleet management veteran, Martin heads an expert team at Pitt Ohio. Included are Larry Cookson, fleet maintenance manager for LTL at Pitt Ohio Express and Bert Derrick, fleet maintenance manager for TL at sister company ECM Transportation. Serving all parts of the business are Cheryl Riker, office supervisor, Dave Shimkus, parts and warranty supervisor, Larry Maun, Western region maintenance supervisor and Tim Hutsko, Eastern region maintenance supervisor.
Pitt Ohio operates maintenance facilities at all of its terminal locations. Staffing, according to Martin, is based on equipment age and terminal activity. “Our program is focused on preventive maintenance,” he states. “We train our technicians in-house on various topics. Repairs may be outsourced to ensure maximum equipment utilization and uptime if needed.
“We also have to address the fact that there’s a shortage of technicians,” Martin adds. “We do that by recruiting using our Human Resources’ online system, posting newspaper ads, offering an employee-compensated referral program, and actively participating in career fairs sponsored by various technical schools.”
Other programs in place at the Pitt Ohio maintenance operation include making parts purchases directly from manufacturers and utilizing a mounted wheel program through Valley Tire, a Michelin dealer. “National accounts are set up to our specifications for repairs and replacements,” Martin notes, “and our breakdown service providers are supplied with our tire specs as well.”
The Pitt Ohio fleet management team is also responsible for the carrier’s fuel program. Most locations have bulk fuel tanks and the team makes purchases and schedules deliveries based on daily pricing and service. Multiforce, an automated fuel management system, is used to capture mileage and gallons dispensed for each unit.
Martin is quick to note that in many ways supplier relationships are extremely important to Pitt Ohio. “Good relationships are built on trust,” he states, “with both parties working toward the common goal of a safe, reliable and efficient fleet.”
By many indications, the carrier has achieved that objective. Evident throughout the organization is a dedication to providing quality service that enables the carrier to efficiently haul approximately 12.5 million lbs. of freight in over 10,000 shipments for more than 3,000 customers daily. At the same time, Pitt Ohio Express boasts an astounding 98 percent on-time delivery record, making it one of the most reliable less-than-truckload carriers in the nation.