Manager: Joe Littleton
Fleet: Little-Ton Sand & Supply, Indianapolis, IN
Operation: Sand and gravel supply business
Change doesn't come easy to a successful business, especially when you are talking about the family-owned variety with a long history spent figuring out what works and what doesn't.
Yet change is exactly what Joe Littleton and his brother John had in mind not long after they took over their family's business — Little-Ton Sand & Supply — in 1998. Their father had started the company back in the 1960s, and both brothers literally grew up amid distinctive red and white dump trucks hauling sand, dirt, stone and concrete to general contractors, demolition companies and any other firm needing such materials in the six counties surrounding Indianapolis.
“It's the only job I've ever had,” Joe Littleton says. “It's like farming. It gets in your blood and then it's all you want to do. I like doing it, though, and it was my dream to eventually take over the family business.”
Yet the brothers faced a perennial problem with their fleet of dump trucks, all Sterling-brand equipment: suspension issues. The style they'd used for years required frequent greasing and suffered broken springs at regular intervals, both costly in terms of dollars spent in repairs and revenue lost to vehicle downtime.
When the Littleton's dealer, Stoops Sterling in Fort Wayne, IN, suggested trying out the new TufTrac suspension back in 1999 — a sealed suspension that required no regular lubrication — both brothers remained skeptical, largely because they'd be the first fleet in the area to try it out.
“They told us to try the TufTrac; frankly, we were a little worried because we'd be spec'ing in on eight trucks. That would be a lot of trucks down if we had a problem,” Joe Littleton says, adding the company has driven only Sterlings since its inception.
In the end, the savings from eliminating suspension greasing won the Littleton's over, so they gave the TufTrac a try. “The TufTrac suspension is maintenance-free; that's what convinced us,” Joe Littleton says. It's also designed to maintain a uniform load over each wheel to retain maximum traction, making the vehicle more productive.
The first eight trucks the brothers ordered worked just fine, with no suspension problems, as did the next eight and the eight that followed. Currently, the company runs a fleet of 60 Set-Back L-Line trucks and seven Acterra trucks.
The maintenance savings with the TufTrac is a huge deal because Little-Ton performs most of its preventive maintenance and minor repairs in house.
Business has doubled since the brothers took over 10 years ago. They are buying more equipment and have on order 32 Set-Back L-Line trucks and eight Acterra models.
“These trucks help us succeed because they're cost-effective,” Joe Littleton says. “They are dependable, easy to maintain, and my drivers like the comfortable, roomy cab. We pay our drivers a little more than other companies, and we believe if you give your drivers good wages and good, reliable equipment to work with, they'll feel more appreciated and do a better job.”
Maintenance Bay presents case studies detailing how fleets resolve maintenance-related issues.