Vitran Express’ Greg Cybor finds right blend of biodiesel and tax incentives
As the Chicago-based regional maintenance manager for LTL carrier Vitran Express, Greg Cybor is responsible for maintaining a mixed fleet of more than 400 tractors, more than 500 trailers (dry vans and pups) and 105 forklifts. To say that it’s a challenge to find efficiencies in servicing such a diverse fleet is truly an understatement. Cybor has implemented a number of fuel-saving initiatives since the price of diesel fuel skyrocketed last summer, and has benefited even as fuel costs have come down.
“We lowered all our power unit speed limits to 65 MPH,” Cybor explains, because “every mile per hour over 60 you begin losing fuel mileage.” The benefits proved to be two-fold. “The lower speeds helped regulate our insurance premiums and saved excessive fuel consumption,” Cybor says. Another measure he took to economize on fuel consumption was to adjust the power units’ idling shutdown timers to five minutes.
One of Cybor’s most effective fuel cost saving measures turned out to be purchasing 11% (B11) biodiesel fuel during the higher fuel prices, a practice he’s continued. The decision has turned out to be a windfall, because two of the company’s terminals are in Illinois. Cybor notes, “In the state of Illinois, when you purchase biodiesel with 11% or more soy oil, you receive a tax savings by paying no Illinois state tax on the fuel.”
For the Chicago area terminals alone, the company purchased 1,500,000 gallons last year at a cost savings of $0.25 per gallon at the peak of the fuel crisis. “Do the math,” says Cybor, “$0.25 x 1,500,000 = $375,000.” He says it’s a perfect example of the old adage: “Watch the pennies and the dollars will take care of themselves.”
Buying biodiesel has had other benefits. “Soy is a renewable energy,” Cybor says. “It gets us away from dependency on foreign oil, even if it is only 11%.” On the maintenance side, biodiesel has been good for engines and fuel pumps. “With the higher cetane levels in the biodiesel and the added lubricity from the soy oil, we have seen a slight gain in power,” Cybor says. He further states that the soy cleans out the fuel system and lubricates the internal moving parts of the fuel pumps, promoting longer pump life. He explains that the soy oil compensates for the loss of sulfur in fuel that formerly helped to lubricate fuel pumps, an ingredient that ultra low sulfur diesel fuel takes away.
Cybor oversees 48 technicians in six shops, in Indiana, Wisconsin, Kentucky as well as Illinois, and will soon supervise another maintenance facility opening in Tennessee. It’s important to stay ahead of maintenance problems, so Cybor practices vigilant preventive maintenance. “We do our preventive maintenance every 22,500 miles or three months, which ever comes first, and we do a complete D.O.T. inspection at that time as well,” he says. Cybor continues, “Even though the federal requirements on the D.O.T. inspection are good on an annual basis we feel with the number of power units in our system (1,800) we want to make sure we go through them. Our vans are done on a six-month P.M. interval as well. A P.M. and a D.O.T. inspection are semi annual. Again, with (4,000) vans you want to make sure you capture them.”
Vitran’s fleet includes some Class 7 and mostly Class 8 tandem- and single-axle day cabs from a number of manufacturers, including Freightliner, Mack, Sterling and Ford. With such a diverse fleet, Cybor finds the various diagnostic programs to be helpful. “We have VCADS Pro for the Mack engines, Electronic Technician for the Caterpillar engines, Insite for the Cummins engines and The Meritor Wabco Toolbox for our ABS diagnostics.” He adds that using these diagnostic tools takes most of the guesswork out of trouble-shooting the electronic issues with these engines and the anti-lock brake systems, and that helps keep a lot of repairs in-house. Where once about 50% of PM service and repairs at terminals without shops were outsourced, now almost all repairs are done in Vitran shops, Cybor says.He notes that the fleet outsources only in an emergency.
With shops and terminals spread over seven midwestern states, Cybor clocks a lot of miles visiting them all. Although his managers handle day-to-day work on the power units, Cybor still has shop meetings to talk with all of his technicians on any
issues they may be having with equipment or vendors. “I not only listen to what the managers are saying, but also go to the associates on the floor for their input as well. Then everyone feels that they are part of a team,” he says.
He’s proud of his technicians’ versatility. Some are specialists, he says, but most work on everything from propane-powered forklifts to line-haul tractors. The practices that have helped him attract and retain such talent? He credits being straightforward when hiring and acquiring vendor training whenever possible.