Remodeling the box

April 1, 2007
Manager: Sarah Cardwell Title: Procurement manager-North America Fleet: TDS Logistics, London, ON, Canada. Operation: Hauling parts to automobile manufacturers

Manager: Sarah Cardwell

Title: Procurement manager-North America

Fleet: TDS Logistics, London, ON, Canada.

Operation: Hauling parts to automobile manufacturers


TDS specializes in just-in-time delivery of parts to auto makers such as General Motors, a job that requires tremendous attention to detail, says Sarah Cardwell, procurement manager for North America.

“We're the link between the Tier 1 supplier and the OEM,” she explains. “We provide subassembly and sequencing on a logistics basis. Our delivery window, from receipt of parts to delivery to the customer, can be as [small] as one hour.

Even minute improvements in the logistics process — such as offloading part bins faster from truck trailers to production lines — can reap huge benefits. In 2005, TDS looked at redesigning its trailer interiors to accommodate special wheeled dollies loaded with parts, thus speeding up parts movement while eliminating a big source of trailer damage.

“Forklifts can do a lot of damage when offloading trailers,” she points out. “Trailers with wood side-panel liners, aluminum roofs, and hardwood floors with seams and bolts ended up ‘catching’ in the forklift. Since trailer damage from forklifts was excessive, leading to significant downtime, we went to seamless steel liners.”

TDS decided that the next step would be to take forklifts out of the equation altogether by switching to dollies. Yet to make the switch work smoothly, changes would have to be made to the trailer interiors.


TDS turned to its truck-lessor, PacLease Canada, since the firm had come up with spec'ing solutions for them in the past.

Peter Roy, national account sales executive for PacLease Canada, took the dollies-in-trailer concept to Daniel Canning, director of commercial products at Wabash National Trailer Corp.'s Canadian division. TDS had originally considered ordering 40 trailers, each of which would be loaded with a “train” of dollies. But Roy felt that two rows of the 48-in. dollies could fit side-by-side, cutting TDS trailer needs in half. Canning agreed, pointing out that 101.25-in. interior width of Wabash's DuraPlate trailer offered the space they'd need.

However, another problem arose in terms of length. “The length of the dolly trains would vary; some might be 15 ft, others 4 ft.,” says Roy. “We needed a way to secure varying lengths, as well as keep the trains separated safely.”

Canning came up with the idea of a recessed load track in the trailer floor, with each dolly secured to it with a simple “wedgie” — a triangular metal piece that locked the dolly to the floor but could be released with a simple pull, and a 24-in. high partition placed lengthwise between the trains to keep them separated. In less than a week they had a prototype up and running, and within a month, with the design bugs worked out, Wabash started building the trailers.

“Each DuraPlate trailer cost $6,000 to $7,000 more than a standard unit, yet TDS only needed 20 of them instead of the 40 initially projected; a new trailer can cost over $20,000,” says Roy. “It just shows what new ideas combined with a little back-porch engineering can accomplish.”

Maintenance Bay presents case studies detailing how fleets resolve maintenance-related issues.

About the Author

Sean Kilcarr | Editor in Chief

Sean previously reported and commented on trends affecting the many different strata of the trucking industry. Also be sure to visit Sean's blog Trucks at Work where he offers analysis on a variety of different topics inside the trucking industry.

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