When it comes to demanding operating conditions, Redbank Transport’s trucks and drivers have it much tougher than a typical linehaul or over-the-road fleet, and in some ways even harder than many vocational operations. “We do a lot of off-road work hauling coal, fertilizer, road salt, construction materials and demolition debris,” explains Co-Owner Dave Jackson. “Backing up on a hill and going around curves to get to where parking lot engineers say a curb is needed can be challenging.
“Inclement weather can make maneuvering our trucks especially difficult,” Jackson continues. “If we’re trying to get into a place where it just rained all night the ground can get quite soft. I’ve experienced it myself. In fact, it can be downright dangerous at times.”
Jackson should know. The self-described co-owner, secretary and occasional driver for Redbank Transport wears many hats at the family run business, which was founded by his father, John B. Jackson Sr. Jackson manages the company with his brother and two sisters.
Based in Cincinnati, Redbank Transport operates 60 trucks and tractors throughout the tri-state area of Ohio, Indiana and Kentucky. Supplemented by about 50 owner-operators, the fleet specializes in moving aggregates and other construction materials for commercial and residential customers. Its hauling services also include dirt removal, scrap metal transport, steel-bed dump trailer service, and moving sand, gravel and limestone.
Currently in the Redbank Transport fleet are 30 tractors, including six Peterbilt Model 579 and five Peterbilt Model 386 units, five Kenworth T800s, and 14 Sterling and Freightliner models. The fleet’s 30 dump trucks include eight Peterbilt Model 567s, seven Kenworth T800s, and a mix of Freightliner, Western Star and Sterling units. Redbank’s trailer fleet is made up of 50 Travis-Alumatech frameless models, 10 East trailers, and a number of steel bed versions, including some Fruehaufs.
“We normally trade in trucks every five years, but after 2007, when new emissions compliant engines were mandated, we didn’t buy any new units for eight to 10 years,” Jackson relates. “Now, we’re replacing vehicles as needed and in some cases an owner-operator will buy a used truck from our fleet and come to work for us.”
For new vehicles, according to Jackson, Peterbilt is the fleet’s preferred nameplate. “Everything we buy has extended component warranties so we can keep them for longer periods of time,” he adds. “At the same time, maneuverability, fuel efficiency and driver comfort are the main factors that influence our specification decisions.
“The performance and reliability of our equipment are our biggest considerations,” Jackson continues. “Most of our drivers are paid on a percentage basis and they’re out there hustling all the time. They are not just sitting around waiting for the clock to strike quitting time.”
In dump operations, Jackson explains further, trucks are usually loaded both ways. “Our drivers average up to 400 miles a day because the quarry is located far away from town,” he says. “Fuel consumption, while not as big an issue today because of the relatively low cost of diesel, is one key to our profitability, and profits are what let us buy trucks that keep drivers as comfortable as possible.”
For maneuverability, driver comfort, fuel efficiency and safety in its type of operation, Jackson notes, drivers need to be able to always keep the truck in the right gear. A longtime proponent of automated manual transmissions, Jackson first experimented with AMTs in 2012 on four new dump trucks. Today, Redbank Transport is running eight dump trucks with Eaton UltraShift Plus VCS models, four sleeper equipped tractors with UltraShift Plus VHP models and two of its day cab tractors are equipped with UltraShift Plus MHP models.
Seeing big improvements
“When we first looked into automatic manual transmissions (AMTs), it was because we wanted to improve our fuel mileage,”Jackson says. “We liked the results and we’re now averaging 5.67 miles per gallon in those trucks, which is a big improvement from what we were getting previously.
“When we initially specified the AMTs as well we had some drivers with back soreness issues and bad knees,” Jackson adds. “Those drivers now welcome the opportunity to jump into a cab with no clutch pedal and the ease of operation they have with the automated manual transmissions.”
As for maneuverability, Jackson reports that Redbank transport worked with its Roadranger representative to fine-tune the UltraShift AMT gearing so its trucks perform exactly as needed. Most importantly, he adds, the fleet’s drivers have the versatility they need at all times because the transmissions feature automatic, manual and low modes that offer them full control, creep mode for low-speed maneuverability, and auto neutral and an Intelligent Hill Start Aid, which prevent roll-back and roll-forward while launching on grades.
The comfort factor
Supplier support goes a long way at Redbank Transport. “One of the reasons we’ve settled on Peterbilts as our new vehicles is that our dealer, Peterbilt of Cincinnati, is a family-owned business that has always provided us with the comfort of knowing we will be treated like family,” Jackson says.
Redbank Transport also uses its local dealership to supplement its in-house maintenance operation, which includes two shops with a total of ten bays that are staffed by a team of 11 technicians around the clock. The fleet also relies on Peterbilt of Cincinnati’s parent organization, the Larson Group of dealerships with 17 locations in seven states, for road calls and other service and repair needs. “Without the support we get from our suppliers,” Jackson says, “we couldn’t efficiently and safely provide the equipment our drivers to need to meet the demands of our market, or serve our customers effectively and profitably.”