For Gardenscape Transport, a first-class fleet is the only way to deliver quality goods to customers.
In business for more than 60 years, Gardenscape Transport was established as a private fleet in 1989. Today, the Gardenscape Transport fleet of 50 tractors and 150 trailers hauls the lawn and garden products produced by Gardenscape Inc. throughout the lower 48 states and Canada. It also operates as a for-hire trucking company.
Headquartered in Emlenton, Pa., – about 50 miles east of Youngstown, Ohio – Gardenscape is a family-owned lawn-and-garden supplier for the wholesale market.
The company supplies garden centers, retailers and growers with topsoil, potting soil, barks and mulches, sphagnum peat moss and professional mixes, decorative stone and other specialty products. Gardenscape manufactures and packages its products at nine facilities in Pennsylvania, Ohio, North Carolina, Florida and New Brunswick, Canada, where it operates its own peat moss farm.
“The Gardenscape Transport fleet guarantees our products will arrive on time and in excellent condition,” says David Kasmoch Jr., president.
While its primary role is as a private fleet, the company’s busiest seasons are in early spring when it is stocking garden centers and in the fall when ice melt and firewood products are shipped, according to Kasmoch.
“To improve utilization and reduce empty miles, we also backhaul raw materials for our own plants and we carry loads for a variety of shippers,” he says. “Among our year-round customers are food producers, and manufacturers of laminated roof joists, lumber and plastic pipe.”
The Gardenscape fleet of late-model Peterbilt tractors pulls a mix of vans, flatbeds, walking floors, dump trailers and drop decks.
The 50 power units are Peterbilt Model 377 and Model 379 conventionals. Trailers include Reitnouer flatbeds, Wabash freight vans and several types of specialized models, such as 13 units with walking floors manufactured by Peerless and Wilkens. Aluminum trailers were recently added in order to haul heavier loads.
Peterbilt tractors in the Garden-scape fleet are generally operated for five to six years and about 500,000 miles, Kasmoch says. Standard practice has been to run the vehicles in over-the-road service for four years and then remove the UniBilt sleepers and turn older road tractors into day cabs for another year or two of local service.
“We usually replace between five and 10 tractors each year,” Kasmoch says. “However, because we’ve been growing for the past few years, the oldest Peterbilt in our fleet today is a 1996 model. By keeping them longer and using them in local service, we effectively added 15 trucks to the fleet to handle expansion. This also means we can offer road drivers high-end premium models and still operate the best equipment on local runs.”
Eric Long, transportation manager and safety director at Gardenscape, notes that based on experience and satisfaction with the original equipment manufacturer’s vehicles, Peterbilt has been the fleet’s choice of vehicle make since 1991.
“The Peterbilt 379 is proving to be very durable and adaptable over the long term for us,” Long says, “and it offers our drivers very high levels of comfort.
“In particular, they are impressed with the interior and the UltraSleeper’s exceptionally quiet and smooth ride due to its Unibilt Cab Sleeper System,” Long says. “We’re also very pleased with the consistently high resale value of the Peterbilts, which means we can recoup a great deal of our initial investment at trade-in.”
While tending to stick with specifications that have worked for its operation in the past, Gardenscape has made a few changes over the years. Since 1992, Long notes, the carrier has specified Caterpillar engines, including the latest tractors with 475-HP C15 models.
In addition, Eaton has supplied transmissions to the fleet for many years, with 10-speed models now favored over the 13-speed units used previously.
With the advent of 2007 emission standards, the company decided to delay its 2007 purchases for a short while to see how well the newer engines perform, according to Long.
“We also decided to test a few Cummins engines in our operation to see how they compare,” he says. “Our preference, though, is to stay with our existing suppliers because we’ve had few problems and they have always stood behind us.”
Kasmoch notes that Gardenscape’s relationship with Hunter’s Truck Sales & Service is part of the reason the fleet specs Peterbilt products exclusively. Located just a few miles from Gardenscape’s headquarters, Hunter’s is the flagship location for a 66-year old family-owned group of Peterbilt outlets located throughout Pennsylvania and New Jersey. Bob Hunter, president and chief executive officer, has worked with Garden-scape for many years.
Gardenscape is more than just a loyal Peterbilt customer, according to Hunter.
“They are very smart customers,” Hunter says. “They know what they need and work with us so we can provide it. Our relationship with the carrier is excellent because they know their business, and they know that while there are going to be hiccups along the way, we’re here to help them resolve any problems that arise.”
Long is quick to point out several ways that the Gardenscape fleet benefits from its close working relationship with its dealer.
“Hunter’s Peterbilt shop is always ready to handle warranty and major repairs,” he says, “and they are also the source of most of our parts. They’re always very responsive to our needs.”
Long notes especially the Peterbilt TruckCare Connect program that the fleet uses to manage its parts inventory, including tires, which are sourced from General Tire on a national account. With the system, the fleet works with the dealership to maintain optimum inventory levels or to have needed items delivered the same day or the next morning.
“Hunter’s Peterbilt was also instrumental in helping us paint our trucks with the special three-color design that is part of the Gardenscape theme,” Kasmoch says. “We weren’t able to have that done at the factory so we ordered white trucks and the Hunter’s body shop did a customized paint job using green metallic paint and our design.”
On a daily basis, according to Long, Gardenscape’s main shop staff of four technicians performs preventive maintenance and handles some repairs. Routine maintenance and repairs on trucks and equipment is also performed by company technicians based at plants in North Carolina and Ohio.
Gardenscape Transport also recently expanded its maintenance facility in Pennsylvania. While it’s now using its original shop for some bodywork and to maintain heavy equipment, such as front end loaders used at its plant, the carrier has opened a new 8,000-square-foot garage with three drive-through bays and a pit for undercarriage work.
When David Kasmoch Sr. and Edna Mae Kasmoch founded Gardenscape more than 60 years ago, they immediately established the goal of selling only premium materials and delivering them to customers in premium, company-owned and operated trucks.
Today, the family-owned and operated company, run by David Sr., Edna Mae, David Jr. and his wife Charlene, as well as their son David (Bud), remains a success because it has never strayed from those founding principals.
And the winner is . . . everyone
Attracting and retaining drivers has never been a problem for Gardenscape Transport, and a large part of the reason is the company’s fleet of late-model trucks, according to David Kasmoch Jr., president.
“We see the Peterbilts we operate as a driver recruitment tool,” he says. “We don’t usually have a problem attracting drivers because we offer them good pay, benefits and steady employment, but with these trucks in our fleet we don’t even have to advertise, not even when demand for drivers in our area is highest. Many of our drivers have been with us for more than 20 years.”
Gardenscape also has a special way of rewarding drivers called the Gardenscape Driver of the Year contest. In it, the full-time, over-the-road driver who accumulates the most points based on performance measures such as revenue earned per week, fuel economy, customer complaints, preventable accidents, and cleanliness of the truck (inside and out), wins the exclusive use for one year of a premium, highly customized Peterbilt Model 379X.
Features of the Peterbilt Model 379X, powered by a 550-HP Caterpillar engine, include polished aluminum fenders, grille bars and centerline hood trim as well as a coordinating “Peterbilt oval” grille and air cleaner intake screen and chromed exhaust stacks.