Paying dividends: Technology is transforming Berry & Smith Trucking

Paying dividends: Technology is transforming Berry & Smith Trucking

Technology that is helping transform the culture at Berry & Smith Trucking is resulting in lower costs, better fuel economy and less downtime

The goal at Berry & Smith Trucking Ltd. is straightforward. “We need to implement transportation technology that enables efficient, safe and fast customer service,” says Bruno Rempel, fleet maintenance manager. “That process requires that we foster a culture that makes everyone proactive about fuel conservation, safety and maintenance initiatives that reduce costs and downtime.”

Headquartered in Penticton, British Columbia, Berry & Smith is a truckload and intermodal carrier that operates under 48-state and Canadian authority. Its fleet includes approximately 24 company-owned tractors and 150 dry vans, flatbeds, drop decks and container chassis. The company also uses the services of 85 dedicated owner-operators and leases about 60 trailers.

 Berry & Smith Trucking Tractor Specifications

Models: Freightliner Cascadia, Coronado

Wheelbase: 244-in. sleepers; 220-in. day cabs

Engines: Detroit DD15, DD13

Clutch: Eaton Solo (Cascadia); Eaton Easy Pedal (Coronado)

Transmission: Eaton, 13-speed

Driveshafts: Meritor

Front Axle & Suspension: Meritor

Power Steering: TRW

Rear Axle: Meritor

Rear Suspension: Freightliner Airliner

Wheel Seals: Meritor

Brakes: Meritor

ABS: Meritor WABCO

Automatic Slack Adjusters: Meritor

Parking Brakes: Bendix

Wheels: Alcoa

Tires: Michelin

5th Wheel: Fontaine

Air Dryer: Bendix

Air Cleaners: Luberfiner

Fan Clutch: Horton

Batteries: Alliance

Starter: Delco Remy

Alternator: Delco Remy

Lighting: Grote

Seats: National

Paint: Dupont Imron

Berry & Smith Trucking Trailer Specifications

Models: Utility, Great Dane, Trailmobile

Length: 53-ft.

Landing Gear: SAF-Holland

Axles & Suspension: Hendrickson, Meritor; air ride

Oil Seals: Stemco

Brakes: Meritor

ABS: Meritor WABCO

Slack Adjusters: Meritor

Tires: Michelin

Wheels: Accuride, steel

Lighting & Electrical: Grote, Truck-Lite

Driving the “culture shift” at Berry & Smith, Rempel notes, is PeopleNet onboard computing, mobile communications and back office management systems. “One of the most important changes that partnering with PeopleNet has brought is how soon after introducing our owner-operators and drivers to the vehicle management systems they realized how they can have more control over their vehicles’ performance with respect to safety, maintenance and fuel economy,” he adds. 

Minimizing downtime
Berry & Smith requires owner-operators to allow the company to install PeopleNet solutions in its vehicles. “It’s easy for them to learn and is soon appreciated,” Rempel says. “For example, they see how fault code reporting keeps downtime to a minimum and how we can determine how serious an issue may be so we can prevent unnecessary trips to outside service providers. We prefer that our in-house maintenance group handles repairs to conserve costs, but if a problem needs immediate attention, we know where the vehicle is located and can refer them to the nearest service location.”

In an effort to turn around repairs as quickly as possible in those instances, Berry & Smith calls service centers ahead of a truck’s arrival and explains the nature of the problem. By pre-diagnosing an issue, Rempel believes the fleet’s trucks and drivers get priority treatment. He adds that fault code reports alleviate the driver from worrying about forgetting to mention issues.

Berry & Smith also has introduced a driver performance incentive program based on PeopleNet data on fuel economy, which has resulted in a 0.5 MPG increase on average, partly due to a reduction in idle time. “We use PeopleNet’s engine PerformX vehicle management platform to monitor our drivers and owner-operators for a performance-based bonus each month,” he explains. “The data includes MPG, excess speed, idle time, and mileage and fuel use.”

“Giving drivers online access to this information makes them much more sensitive about their performance,” Rempel continues. “Sometimes they call in to explain why their MPG is down. The reports are also valuable for helping drivers understand the need to change certain behaviors so their better results can be rewarded with additional incentive pay.”

The idle fuel used data in the PeopleNet system also showed Berry & Smith the need for APUs on long-haul company tractors. “It allowed us to calculate the payback period and validate the installation of units into these trucks by measuring savings,” Rempel relates.

Overall, Rempel says that Berry & Smith’s technology investment is paying for itself in reduced fuel consumption and lower maintenance costs. “Our equipment is running better and lasting longer,” he states. “Better driving behaviors reduce fuel consumption, and by using things like SpeedGauge in PeopleNet to monitor speed against highway signs and verify the reports with links to maps, we’re improving safety.” bruno rempel, fleet maintenance manager

Better fit
Berry & Smith also works with suppliers to test new technologies. “We’ve evaluated many software and integration pieces from PeopleNet and TMW Systems and their partners that have improved our processes and allowed us to work more efficiently,” Rempel says. “Having access to these solutions at their early stages allows us to be a step ahead of our competitors and helps tailor the product to be a better fit for our operation.”

The same approach is helping to streamline maintenance for the Berry & Smith fleet, which is performed by four technicians and two apprentices at the carrier’s main facility. “We use TMW’s TMT Fleet Maintenance software to work in real time and monitor repair activity and warranty,” Rempel reports. “Our mechanics have access to all repair history and use it for parts identification.”

With the TMT software, parts are ordered through requisition lists and target and trigger points are set on all stocked items. Rempel also points out that a parts usage report allows the company to isolate its top 100 parts and have different vendors bid on being its primary supplier. 

Over the years, Berry & Smith has grown; today, the company offers over-the-road dry van and flatbed truckload service, as well as intermodal transportation. It also has a freight brokerage operation. In 2006, it grew by acquiring MKS Enterprises Inc., a Calgary-based trucking company. Berry & Smith now has more than 180 employees and facilities in Penticton and Vancouver, British Columbia, and Calgary, Alberta.

Berry & Smith’s Penticton headquarters features an 85,000-lb. container lift and five acres of fenced compound, secured with modern surveillance equipment. The company also services other areas of transportation with the Penticton school bus contract and public transit contract. The bus division provides school bus service, maintains a fleet dedicated to the Penticton Transit System, and provides charters for sports teams, churches, conventions and shuttling.

On its website, Berry & Smith describes itself as “proactive in implementing up-to-date transportation technology designed to move commodities as efficiently, safely and

expediently as possible.” If you ask Bruno Rempel, the company is achieving that objective with the application of technology and by fostering a culture that embraces practices that help lower costs and deliver better customer service.

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