The notion that a well-appointed fleet could help draw the best drivers is a familiar concept at Tennessee Commercial Warehouse. After all, driver retention and recruitment are primary reasons the Nashville-based warehousing operation, logistics provider and carrier has been a committed Peterbilt partner since the late 1970s.
But Scott George, the third-generation president of the company his grandfather founded in 1948, says there’s another group of people very impressed with the TCW fleet and the company’s unique management of it: TCW’s clients and customers.
“Customers and prospects see our trucks and the way we operate and think, that’s the type of professional operation we need to be associated with,” says George. “They’re impressed with our company drivers, the way they appear, all in uniform. And they’re impressed with our equipment and the way it stands out and performs so reliably. Sometimes they come to us and ask, ‘What can we do to partner together?’”
“We’ve just found a spec that maximizes our reliability. It’s such a rarity that we have breakdowns that cause a late delivery.” –Scott George, CEO
The fleet stands out for good reason. In the intermodal world in which TCW is a major player, non-premium, million-mile tractors that have seen better days are common. But the TCW fleet of 300 tractors is comprised entirely of Peterbilt Model 579 day cabs, and not one of them is more than 24 months old due to an accelerated trade cycle that ensures maximum uptime and premium performance for TCW and its customers. The steady influx of new equipment also ensures everyone benefits from the latest in trucking technology such as SmartLINQ, the remote diagnostics system that is standard with all Peterbilt models equipped with a PACCAR MX Engine.
If that sounds like a formula for an oversized cost of ownership, think again, counsels George and his director of maintenance, Troy Basso, who says it’s instead a strategy for maximum cost efficiency.
Growth has been on a steady clip at TCW in recent years, measuring better than 15 percent annually since 2010, according to George. As a result, the company has opened a new terminal in Spartanburg, S.C., bringing their total of inland terminals to nine to complement their two major port terminals.
George notes that a number of their international customers are manufacturers employing just-in-time logistics to maximize the efficiency of their operations (the PACCAR Engine Company, located in Columbus, Miss., is among them). As a result, the vast majority of TCW’s cargo is highly time-sensitive, thus bolstering the case for reliable Peterbilt Model 579s equipped with PACCAR MX-13 Engines.
“We’ve just found a spec that maximizes our reliability,” says Basso. “It’s such a rarity that we have breakdowns that cause a late delivery. It happens because this is trucking. But not often.”
“Our customers depend on that reliability,” adds George. “Just-in-time inventory replenishment is critical to their success. Breakdowns simply don’t fit that world very well, so we do all we can to ensure reliable performance. Peterbilt helps ensure we can deliver it.”
The 475 company drivers slip-seat their rides at TCW, so the all-Model 579 fleet must be available for multiple shifts in a day. A single unit can run as much as 20 hours in a day, thus challenging Basso to efficiently manage preventive maintenance — a task TCW recently brought in-house.
Basso believes the performance of the next-generation PACCAR MX-13 as well as improved aerodynamics of the Model 579 have contributed to a 0.25 mpg fuel economy improvement over previous models TCW operated. But achieving aerodynamic performance can be a challenge given the gap between the cab and a typical intermodal container load. And what Peterbilt didn’t try to sell Basso was as telling as the refinements that Peterbilt offered him to improve performance.
“They told us that gap from the power unit to the trailing unit was too substantial to overcome and in that particular configuration, aerodynamics couldn’t further maximize fuel economy improvements,” says Basso. “I tell you what, that impressed me as much as anything. We do our due diligence, but it was very clear to us that they just weren’t going to sell us anything if it wouldn’t help us succeed.”
“Peterbilt regularly validates that trust bond that we’ve developed with them since the first Peterbilt we brought in here,” adds George. “The spec that we have collaboratively developed with Peterbilt for our application is really the best we’ve ever run in terms of reliability and efficient cost of operation.”
That spec also offers weight-savings that prove very important to shippers in TCW’s line of work. TCW’s logistics and warehousing network results in drivers being able to operate in day cabs, running inter-terminal routes. Subtract the weight of a sleeper and factor in innovations such as the composite graphite iron used in the MX-13 engine block, and TCW offers a payload advantage of up to 6,000 lbs. over other carriers.
Experiencing the benefits of the next-generation MX-13 and other technological innovations are just one of the advantages of TCW’s 24-month, 300,000-mile trade cycle. Another is a secondary market hungry for TCW’s like-new equipment, which brings late technologies to the secondary market.
“We do very well there,” says Basso. “It all contributes to a minimized cost of operation and ownership for us. And we’re also better able to take advantage of the latest in safety technologies. As a result of our communication with Peterbilt, we no longer feature bolt-on safety technologies. Our lane-departure warning systems and forward crash avoidance are factory installed, and that saves time for us as well.”
It all contributes to a trade strategy that George acknowledges is unique.
“If this weren’t such a reliable product, we might not be going down this road,” says George. “But now we’re proactive in maintenance, rather than reactive. Ninety percent of our services are PMs, tires and lightbulbs, and we run our trucks as hard as anybody.
“It certainly helps keep our equipment utilization high,” he adds. “We’re running smoothly. And Peterbilt has helped get us there.”