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Effective maintenance, sound equipment choices help Oak Harbor Freight Lines operate efficiently

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Freight volumes are higher than expected, notes Dan Vander Pol, director of maintenance at Oak Harbor Freight Lines. “While that is certainly good news, it does put a lot of pressure on our maintenance department to keep equipment running efficiently and on the road,” he says. “We don’t have extra equipment; so, if we have a vehicle down, then we have drivers waiting and we have to rent a replacement to meet our customers’ delivery requirements.

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Oak Harbor “Like many fleets in the industry,” Vander Pol continues, “we’re having a tough time finding qualified mechanics. Our newest trucks experience a considerable amount of downtime due primarily to their emissions systems. If you look at our 2010 and newer tractors, 70% of their downtime is emissions related.”

Keeping the Oak Harbor Freight Lines fleet running is a network of six maintenance facilities, soon to be joined by a seventh shop now being built. “We try to service and repair as much as we can in our own shops,” Vander Pol relates, “but with 33 terminals, we also rely a lot on outside vendors. That’s working for us, though, because we have custom designed management software that we use to track everything that is done to our equipment, including cost per mile and maintenance labor efficiency.”

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Vander Pol also cites some effective choices that have been made to rebuild certain components, calling them time and cost saving decisions. “We have opted to use Kit Masters fan clutch rebuild kits because they have proven to be a cost effective alternative to new fan clutches,” he explains further. “They require less time to rebuild the fan hub, and have a longer life between rebuilds. They not only cost less than the original manufacturer’s rebuilt units; they also reduce our breakdown failures due to fan hub issues.”

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Yielding benefits

Evaluating new systems and components for suppliers also yields benefits for Oak Harbor Freight Lines. “We’re constantly testing new and yet-to-be released products to find what works best for us, and help manufacturers develop better products,” Vander Pol says. “For example, we have evaluated a lot of tires before making specification decisions. We have also tested several kinds of engine oil and recently switched to the one that proved to be better for extending drain intervals.”

The fleet also uses its supplier relationships to take advantage of opportunities to demo different makes and models of tractors and trailers. Today, the carrier fields 550 Freightliner, Kenworth, Mack and Volvo units. The latest additions to its fleet of 2,000 dry van trailers are Hyundai models.

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Headquartered in Auburn, Wash., Oak Harbor Freight Lines traces its roots to Oak Harbor Transfer, a company founded in 1916. It has been owned by the Vander Pol family since 1936 and has been known by its current name since 1942.

Today, the regional LTL operation serves more points directly in the northwestern U.S. than any other single carrier through its network of 33 company terminals in California, Idaho, Nevada, Oregon and Washington. Via strategic partners, Oak Harbor Freight Lines offers single source transportation services throughout the U.S. and Canada.

Ensuring stability

“Every one of our more than 1,300 employees is focused on helping Oak Harbor Freight Lines continue down the path of success it has been on for more than 90 years,” Vander Pol says. “Our mission is to be the premier transportation services company in our market by providing timely and reliable service that fosters customer loyalty, and by remaining profitable to ensure stability.

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“We are also intent on continually investing in technology, people, facilities and quality processes to assure that Oak Harbor Freight Lines will be able to meet customers’ needs,” Vander Pol adds. “That’s especially important today as freight volumes rise and we grow and add equipment.”

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