For retailers, on-time shipment and delivery of merchandise plays a crucial role in effective inventory management. Viking Freight, an LTL carrier based in San Jose, CA, is notorious for its 99% on-time delivery track record. Over 60% of Viking Freight's business involves retail deliveries. But meeting tight delivery schedules is just half the battle. As an LTL carrier, Viking is challenged with providing a range of equipment and freight handling systems to meet the varied needs of many different segments of the retail market.
“Larger retail companies today are looking for something better than just average transit times; most want just-in-time service,” says Mike Zanolli, vp-operations. “To meet these specific delivery time windows, the first thing that has to be in place is service centers that are close enough to the customers that we can get their deliveries to them in one or two days. “We have 70 service centers strategically located within the geographical area of our largest customers.
Zanolli also says that having the right tools to service customers is equally important. To facilitate deliveries, nearly 300 pieces of Viking's trailing equipment have Maxon liftgates, and all have rollup doors. In addition, drivers use hand-held Symbol Technologies computers to wirelessly transmit details of each shipment to the company's mainframe computer. Customers have access to this information in very close to real-time, Zanolli reports, since data is transmitted as events occur.
“We also do some unique things for shippers of hard to handle commodities. We're the certified carrier for the country's top two home improvement companies and these customers receive shipments of everything from buckets of paint to pallets of doors and windows. In an LTL environment this requires us to be somewhat creative in loading our trailers, since we're mixing them with other customers' merchandise, such as pallets of clothing,” Zanolli reports.
“To handle all these varied items, we equip all our trailers with tie rings that allow us to secure loads to the side of the trailer. We also use some portable pallet decks for shippers with commodities that can't be stacked on top of each other,” Zanolli adds.
Viking Freight, founded in 1966, is an operating company of FedEx Freight. The regional carrier operates in 13 western states, including Alaska and Hawaii. This month, Viking Freight — along with its sister carrier, American Freightways — will be re-branded as FedEx Freight.
The Viking fleet consists of 1,683 tractors, 767 of which are Kenworth T800 line tractors powered by Cummins ISX diesels, and 916 Freightliner FL 70 city tractors spec'd with Cummins ISC engines. The trailer fleet includes 349 48-ft. Wabash long vans and 6,380 28-ft. Wabash pup trailers. Viking runs doubles operations whenever possible for improved vehicle productivity, as well as some triples operations in states where they're allowed.
Rob Sessler, director of maintenance, says that Viking's newer trailers are all Wabash Duraplate models, which are designed with special sidewalls that allow for more cubic capacity inside the trailer. Kemlite translucent roofs are also spec'd for the line vans. “Our safety department did research on translucent versus aluminum roofs and found that having the additional visibility when loading and unloading freight lowered injury levels and claims costs,” he notes.
Viking uses 600 line drivers to move freight between its service centers and just under 1,100 route drivers for P&D routes to retailers.
“We also have 28 maintenance shop locations, two parts warehouses and three tire warehouses,” Sessler advises. “Having our own in-house maintenance, which allows for timely PMs and repairs, is another way we can ensure on-time deliveries. Our hallmark is service to customers and low claims.”