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Improving Performance

ABCO Transportation is addressing how to specify and maintain its refrigerated fleet more cost effectively and efficiently in several ways

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ABCO Transportation is addressing how to specify and maintain its refrigerated fleet more cost effectively and efficiently in several ways

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As a motor carrier that specializes in hauling highly perishable products, says Director of Maintenance Joe Egan, ABCO Transportation Inc. is understandably focused on specifying the most reliable and efficient refrigerated trailers and refrigeration units that the industry has to offer.

“We field 87 power units and 115 refrigerated trailers that haul flowers, meat and a variety of other food products in the lower 48 states,” Egan explains. “The entire fleet operates from one terminal in Dade City, Fla., which houses all operations as well as our fleet maintenance department. Our company’s operations department counts on us to make sure the fleet is ready to deliver on time every time, so reliability is of the utmost importance.”

The ABCO fleet consists of tandem axle, sleeper-equipped tractors from International Truck & Engine, Daimler Truck’s Freightliner and Volvo Trucks North America. The entire fleet of trailers is made up of 53-ft. Great Dane reefers fitted with Thermo King and Carrier refrigeration units.

Important factors

“The refrigeration units in our fleet have been dependable and cost effective for our operation,” Egan states. “For all of our equipment choices, quality, reliability and cost to maintain are the most important factors we consider when choosing equipment.”

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Egan is also quick to credit ABCO’s maintenance program and staff for contributing greatly to the reliability of the company’s equipment. “We operate one maintenance shop that we staff seven days a week with some of the most qualified technicians in the industry,” he says.

“Our preventive maintenance program is intensive,” Egan adds. “We need a quality PM program because our equipment is on the road for days and even weeks at a time. With our staff, we’re confident that our tractors, trailers and refrigeration units will perform as expected with little or no road failures.”

Major projects

Having joined ABCO earlier this year, Egan brought to the company over 30 years of experience in maintenance management. As soon as he joined the fleet, he was asked to begin work on several major projects.

At the top of the list was the company’s maintenance program. “We reviewed what we were doing and changed our preventive maintenance program to include a federal inspection during every PM,” Egan relates. “We also hired another technician so we could bring most repairs back into our shop. We now try to perform all repairs in-house unless it is covered under a warranty.

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“These changes have already reduced downtime and road failures as well as expenses,” Egan adds. “All of our maintenance costs are tracked using software that details cost per mile for tractors and trailers and cost per hour for refrigeration units.”

Another area Egan has focused on is the ABCO fleet’s tire program. “We have moved to national account tire purchasing to get price protection when our vehicles are on the road,” he explains. “We are also working with different tire manufacturers to specify the most fuel-efficient tires, and we’re testing some single wide-base drive tires to see if we can improve our fuel mileage with them. In addition, we have adjusted the fleet’s tire pressure to help improve fuel economy and tire wear.”

Purchasing opportunities

Purchasing programs were also on the list for Egan. “The things we look at when we purchase equipment include reliability, availability, warranty, service locations, quality and price,” he states. “One change we made almost immediately was to become a member of AmeriQuest Transportation Services, which gives us access to a lot of beneficial parts and equipment purchasing opportunities.”

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AmeriQuest, a provider of fleet management services, benefits ABCO and other truckload and private fleets by leveraging the purchasing power associated with over 700,000 vehicles in North America. The company’s supply management program, for example, includes more than 70 manufacturers of equipment, parts and supplies.

Fuel issues

Not surprisingly, another area that Egan has been focusing on at ABCO is fuel economy.

“We started looking at every tractor as it came into the shop and downloading vehicle data,” he reports. “The company then formed a fuel committee, which I chaired, and as we gathered more information we started seeing some alarming numbers related to fuel consumption.

“One in particular,” Egan continues, “was very high idle times that meant consuming a lot of fuel. We decided then that we had to look into using auxiliary power units and began reviewing products offered by several APU manufacturers. We ultimately decided to install Thermo King TriPac Auxiliary Heating/Cooling Temperature Management Systems as well as the power inverters the company offered, in order to give our drivers 120-volt power in their cabs. We are now seeing our idle times reduced to between two and five percent, and our drivers are very happy with the way the TriPac units operate.”

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Thermo King TriPac units are powered by a two-cylinder diesel engine and provide 13,000 BTU/hr of air conditioning through an AC evaporator and 7,500 BTU/hr of heat via a fuel-fired heater. Incorporating TriPac with engine coolant systems also provides engine block heat. The APU also features a 65-amp alternator to keep truck batteries charged and deliver 12-volt DC accessory power to the cab. 120-volt AC power is provided using an optional 12-volt DC to 120-volt AC inverter. All components are incorporated via a programmable microprocessor-based, backlit control panel that mounts in the sleeper compartment.

As the ABCO fuel committee was reviewing fuel economy reports, according to Egan, it also found several other areas that could be addressed to help the fleet save fuel. As a result, the company has lowered its ninth gear speed setting to 58 MPH to keep the engine running within its most fuel-efficient range. Most recently, a decision was made to lower the fleet speed limit from 68 MPH to 65 MPH for additional fuel savings.

Active encouragement

“We continue to download every truck’s trip data when a vehicle returns to Florida and consult with our drivers about driving habits,” Egan states. “For example, we are actively encouraging them to use cruise control to help increase MPG. Most importantly, though, we have found that our drivers are also looking for ways to improve performance.”

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That attitude, Egan concludes, goes a long way toward improving fuel efficiency, lowering costs and enhancing the quality and reliability of the service that the ABCO fleet provides. “When you have good relations and communications with drivers, local vendors as well as equipment manufacturers,” he says, “problems are solved and costs are down.”


ABCO Trailer Specifications

Model: Great Dane, 53-ft. reefer

Rear Frame: stainless steel

Rear doors: swing

Floor: aluminum

Logistics: one row “E” track

Axles & Suspension:Hendrickson, air ride; sliding tandem

ABS: Meritor WABCO

Lighting: LED

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