“We are constantly looking at new technologies and suppliers who are offering cutting edge solutions,” says Eric Lawrence, president and CEO of Lawrence Transportation Co. “We are also involved in a few groups where we discuss equipment and share our experiences with others in our industry. This enables us to learn from others about what’s working and what isn’t.”
Based in Red Wing, Minn., Lawrence Transportation Company has been in business for more than 50 years. Beginning as a full-service lease company, the operation has expanded into dry and refrigerated for-hire freight hauling.
Today, Lawrence and its subsidiary companies also offer a wide range of supply chain, brokerage, vehicle rental, contract maintenance, risk management and warehousing and distribution services from several locations in Minnesota and adjoining states. Lawrence Transportation has been a member of the NationaLease system for many years. Lawrence NationaLease is headed up by Bill Schultz, president.
Purchasing and specification decisions at Lawrence Transportation are based quality, price and service, Lawrence notes. “We view vendor relations as a key part of our business and have been extremely loyal to our core suppliers,” he says. “We believe in partnerships because this is a tough business and it’s comforting knowing you have a strong base of vendors that will be there when you need them.”
Standard specifications at Lawrence call for Volvo tractors and either Great Dane or Utility trailers with a mix of Thermo King and Carrier Transicold refrigeration units. “Being in the leasing business means we are also running virtually any make and model of vehicle available,” Lawrence relates. “Our standard trade cycle for power units is five years or 650,000 miles, but with the recent decline in leasing, falling freight rates and lower values for used equipment, we have extended that life cycle by 18 months.
“We’re confident in doing this because we have an extremely strong maintenance program,” Lawrence adds. “The acquisition and utilization of our assets is extremely important, and that places a lot of pressure on our maintenance department to make sure our fleet is well maintained.”
Lawrence currently operates 13 service locations throughout the Midwest, employing 65 technicians and three regional maintenance supervisors. The Lawrence maintenance operation is headed up by Howard Ketel, maintenance director, who has been with the company for 30 years.
As a NationaLease affiliate and a member of AmeriQuest, the Lawrence maintenance operation is also part of a consortium of more than 120 independent truck-leasing companies with over 500 facilities across North America. That affiliation gives the company access to national programs with Volvo, Freightliner, Cummins, ArvinMeritor, Michelin, Bridgestone and Shell.
Technology plays a key role in the Lawrence Transportation maintenance organization. “We have had great success with the PerformX driver and vehicle evaluation tool from PeopleNet for monitoring engine performance, MPG and fuel usage,” Lawrence says. “PerformX monitors driver and vehicle performance by communicating with the engine’s data bus; the information is automatically delivered to us in customizable reports in the PeopleNet Fleet Manager program.”
PerformX also provides Lawrence with a management calculator to help set, monitor and track goals for vehicles and calculate savings from increased fuel efficiency, decreased idling, and lower over-RPM and speeding. The mileage and fuel usage data it pulls from the engine ECM makes it easier to track maintenance needs while diagnostic data offers the ability to monitor fault codes and avoid breakdowns that impact costs.
PeopleNet mobile communications and tracking systems on Lawrence tractors are also streamlining management functions for the company. “The systems’ PACOS Geofencing & Automated Messaging capability lets us track our equipment, which helps us provide better customer service by more accurately predicting delivery times,” Lawrence states. “Messaging streamlines communication between dispatching and drivers by automating what used to require phone calls. Now, driver phone calls are by exception rather than the norm.
“Another PeopleNet solution that saves us time and money is automated fuel tax reporting,” Lawrence continues. “With it we no longer have to manually track for each vehicle and state. The online fuel tax reporting system relieves the headaches we used to have with fuel, IFTA, mile and other state taxes, and it helps us track our fuel purchasing.”
Lawrence is also testing PeopleNet eDriver Logs to gain access to information it needs to better manage hours of service. The program’s summary of driver log records will help review performance, and a daily driver log report view available to drivers in real-time shows miles traveled, off-duty, sleeper berth, driving on-duty, total on-duty, total on-duty per the regulation, available driving, available on-duty and hours gained.
“We’re an asset based company,” Lawrence says, “and at the same time we’re a knowledge-based company. Technology lets us serve as transportation experts, and offer fleet management that starts at the top level of our company, and through strong lines of communication throughout our operation offer services that are focused on the needs of our customers today and their objectives for tomorrow.” FE
Lawrence Transportation Tractor Specifications
Model: Volvo VNL Integral Sleeper
Wheelbase: 215 inches
Engine: Cummins ISX, 450 HP
Clutch: Eaton Solo
Transmission: Eaton Fuller 9-speed
Front Axle: Hendrickson Steertek
Front Suspension: Hendrickson Airtek
Power Steering: TRW
Rear Axle: ArvinMeritor RT40-145; 3.58 ratio
Rear Suspension: Volvo, air
Wheel Seals: Dana Spicer Outrunner
ABS: Bendix; with traction control
Automatic Slack Adjusters: ArvinMeritor
Parking Brakes: Haldex
Wheels: Accuride; polished aluminum
Tires: 295/75R22.5 Bridgestone; R287 steer, M720 drive
5th Wheel: SAF Holland, air slide
Air Compressor: Meritor WABCO, 18.7 CFM
Air Dryer: Meritor WABCO System Saver, heated
Fan Clutch: Kysor
Alternator: Delco, 110 amp
Fuel Filter: Davco, heated
Block Heater: Phillips, 1500 watt
Lighting: Grote LED
Driver’s Seat: National Comfort Air
Fuel Tanks: 150-gallon aluminum
Paint: Dupont Elite