For a carrier that differentiates itself by its old-school approach to business, there’s a lot that’s new happening at Central Transport (CT), the less-than-truckload carrier headquartered in Warren, Mich.
For one, there are a lot more employees around. In just five years, the CT workforce has grown by 50 percent to 5,271 at its nearly 200 service centers across North America.
And for the first time in the 70-year history of the family-owned company, a Peterbilt logo adorns the hood of the newest members of the 2,500-tractor fleet.
And according to a number of CT employees, that’s welcome news to customers, as well as CT’s service technicians, sales force and drivers.
CT delivered its first load in 1946 under the guidance of T.J. Moroun, whose grandson Matthew now leads the company in addition to overseeing the many ventures that have the Moroun family so deeply ingrained in the Detroit-area business culture. The yellow CT trucks have long been a familiar sight in the Midwest, and now have a visible coast-to-coast presence.
But until March, none had been a Peterbilt. That’s when 507 new Model 579s, in day cab configurations powered by PACCAR MX-13 Engines, began showing up at CT terminals.
Jeremy Cottrill, a lead shop technician working out of the Columbus, Ohio, terminal, knew that the purchases were driven by cost-of-ownership analysis. He didn’t expect to see, however, just how much of a difference new Model 579s could make.
“The big difference we see is fuel economy,” says Cottrill. “The best we were doing with the old equipment we had been running was about 6 mpg. We’re getting up to a 30 percent improvement with these new Peterbilts. So yeah, it’s a big difference — a major difference.”
Cottrill reports that even many “city” drivers, who will make up to 10 stops in a 200-mile day, are pushing 7.5 mpg. Line haul drivers, who will go 300 miles one way, drop a trailer and return with another, are more likely to realize the aerodynamic benefits of the Model 579, he says. And it shows in their even better fuel economy results.
“It’s just the way these trucks are set up,” he explains. “The aerodynamics, the engine, the idle monitoring and setting them to 62 mph like we do. We’re pretty impressed with the new trucks.”
Cottrill is additionally impressed with the serviceability of the Peterbilts.
“In my opinion, these Peterbilts are just a much easier asset to service and maintain,” he says. “These trucks, we just get them in and get them out. It’s a much easier product to work with.”
“It’s given us quite a prestige boost to have these new Peterbilts.” – Chad Langties, Account Manager
“The big difference we see is fuel economy…it’s a major difference.” – Jeremy Cottrill, Lead Shop Tech
“The whole tractor feels better than what I had been running.” – Gary Schoenhoff, City Driver
Starts with a handshake
The new equipment has made an impression among customers as well, according to account manager Chad Langties, who services customers around CT’s North Canton, Ohio, terminal. Langties reports that innovations such as density-based pricing, which more accurately reflects customer usage of trailer space than a skid-load model, are making an impression with customers, as is the new fleet equipment.
But it all starts with a handshake.
“We physically go in and shake somebody’s hand, as opposed to the text-and-email model of doing some of these things,” Langties says. “That enhances the relationship. Some of the regions I service are Amish communities and they do business very traditionally. We earn business with them by our reputation and word of mouth.
“And these Peterbilt trucks play a great role in that. They see the investments in equipment we’re making and to them, machinery is everything. Some of them even stop to take pictures of our brand new, bright yellow trucks, and they certainly talk about them. It’s given us quite a prestige boost to have these new Peterbilts in that market, and it’s really pretty neat.”
Central Transport drivers are also excited about the new equipment. Gary Schoenhoff is a city driver based in Effingham, Ill., and he noticed the Model 579’s standard air disc brake package right from the start.
“When I was pulling a heavy load with the old equipment, I’d almost have to stand on the pedal to come to a quick stop if I had to,” he reports. “On this tractor, I can feather it, and everything is balanced out. With the Jake brake, I can come down to the proper braking that I need to stop.
“The whole tractor feels better, and acts a lot different than what I had been running. It’s very comfortable and it’s well-built. It looks well-built, it feels well-built and it drives like it’s well-built.”
Schoenhoff is also happy with the drivetrain, featuring the MX-13 Engine and a Fuller 10-speed transmission.
“It climbs easily,” he says. “Some areas I go to have some hills and it does well there and doesn’t bog down.
“I never drove a Peterbilt before,” he adds. “This is the first time. My goal with this tractor is to get over a million miles on it, and I think it will do it with minimum maintenance.”
All told, the fleet change at CT has been well received.
“I was actually pretty excited to change,” says Cottrill. “Everybody seems pleased to be getting such a high-quality truck as these Peterbilts. It’s a great move forward for us.”