With its recent move into bulk materials hauling, Gypsum Express is expanding the size and the scope of its operations.
“Our expertise is in the flatbed market, so when we decided to start a bulk division we needed to learn about equipment for that type of operation,” says Larry Wight, vice president of the bulk materials division at Gypsum Express. “What we learned first and foremost was that equipment for a bulk fleet must be rugged and reliable, and lightweight enough to haul the most payload.”
In its new bulk operation, the Baldwinsville, N.Y.-based, privately owned and operated carrier fields 50 Western Star trucks and tractors, which join 500 Freightliner Cascadia and 60 International Prostar tractors and more than 1,000 trailers in its flatbed fleet. Included are new 2018 and 2019 model year Western Star 4700 dump trucks as well as several 4900 model tractors, and boom and heavy-duty tow trucks.
“The Western Star trucks are proving that they can handle the rugged nature of our bulk business,” Wight says. “We operate those vehicles over rough terrain and different grades during off-road deliveries, so the major factors that influenced our decision are strength and weight.”
Those characteristics are also important to Gypsum Express for the equipment it uses in its flatbed operation. Since Western Star and Freightliner are both part of Daimler Trucks North America, it makes it easier for Gypsum to work with suppliers like its dealer Tracey Road Equipment, which is based in nearby Syracuse and has numerous locations across New York, Wight says. “A common manufacturer and dealer makes it simpler for us to stock parts and handle maintenance and warranty needs as well,” he adds.
Gypsum Express also favors the Detroit engine platform, including DD16 and DD13 models, for their reliability and fuel efficiency, especially when paired with automated manual transmissions. “The Detroit engines have proven to be very reliable,” Wight relates. “We measure our return on investment in equipment based on lost revenue due to downtime, and with our fleet we have experienced minimal downtime and an exceptional ROI.”
Currently, Gypsum Express’s flatbed operation plans call for cycling trucks out after five years or 500,000 miles of service. In its bulk division, the company is hoping to run trucks for 10 years or more.
“The comfort of our drivers is also top priority,” Wight says. “We look for trucks with spacious cabs and we spec comfortable seats, noise-dampening insulation and auxiliary heating and cooling systems so our drivers stay well rested on the road. High-quality, comfortable equipment also help us in recruiting and retaining drivers.
“We order trucks with several items for safety,” Wight continues. “In addition to automated transmissions to help ensure drivers are focusing on the road ahead, we set a maximum road speed of 65 MPH so they are always operating at safe speeds. In addition, we spec Bluetooth radios so the drivers can use hands-free calling, and seat belt indicators to promote belt use. We also offer our drivers a safety bonus based on their performance.”
Wight also notes that Gypsum Express fully supports compliance with Hours of Service regulations and the ELD mandate. This, he says, is because it allows for safer roads, and carriers who abide by the rules and regulations can prosper.
Service and support
About 90% of all maintenance on the Gypsum Express fleet is performed in-house, while any extensive warranty work is sent to the dealer. At the company’s main shop, 30 technicians staff 12 tractor, eight trailer and two tire bays on three shifts.
The facility is also equipped with overhead cranes, truck lifts, truck, tractor and trailer alignment systems, a full body shop, a 30,000-gal. bulk fuel tank with two dispensers, and an automated generator for backup power. A wash crew that cleans each truck once or twice a week is also onsite.
Maintenance and repair services are also provided at several other company terminals, which have fully stocked parts departments, tire service and alignment systems, fuel islands and washing stations. All Gypsum Express maintenance facilities are connected to an internal 24/7 breakdown services operation, and have road service and tow trucks.
Breakdowns are managed using national accounts or T-Chek System payment cards and all tire service on the road is handled by Bridgestone, Goodyear or Michelin.
“Gypsum Express has a group of hard working technicians who are dedicated to providing the best service to help keep our drivers safe and our equipment on the road,” Wight says. “With our equipment, our maintenance programs and our skilled technicians, our vehicles are always maintained to the highest standards.”
High standards for service have always been part of Gypsum Express, which traces its roots to Gypsum Wholesalers, a building supply business founded in 1976 by John Wight in Oswego, N.Y., with a pickup truck and a borrowed trailer. In 1982, Gypsum Express began operating with a single tractor and a flatbed trailer. Today, the company has 14 terminals in 10 states and more than 750 employees. Its large scope of operations covers the lower 48 states and the provinces of Ontario, Quebec and New Brunswick.
“Our signature trucks are designed for maximum payload and reliability so we can provide productive and cost-efficient services to our customers,” Wight says. “With our equipment, drivers and maintenance services, we continue to haul more payload than our competitors in less time, making us a more desirable option for customers.”