Competitive edge

Nov. 1, 2008
Competition is strong in the wholesale food distribution market. Having a newer, reliable, cost-efficient fleet can really make a difference in fostering customer goodwill. Phil Hernandiz, corporate transportation manager at Pitco Foods, says before his company turned to full-service leasing from local franchise Coast Counties Peterbilt PacLease, it was devoting a lot of time and money to managing

Competition is strong in the wholesale food distribution market. Having a newer, reliable, cost-efficient fleet can really make a difference in fostering customer goodwill.

Phil Hernandiz, corporate transportation manager at Pitco Foods, says before his company turned to full-service leasing from local franchise Coast Counties Peterbilt PacLease, it was devoting a lot of time and money to managing an aging truck fleet.

Pitco Foods was also experiencing a number of over-the-road breakdowns. “Each time we have a road service call,” Hernandiz explains, “depending on what the problem is, we can easily spend $325 to $350 just for a tow truck. Figure in another couple of hundred dollars for parts and labor and the cost of lost productivity, and it really starts to add up.”

The biggest toll of trying to operate and maintain an aging fleet, however, was on customer service. Hernandiz says something had to be done about missed deliveries due to vehicle repairs/breakdowns. “We started leasing with PacLease in 2006. This benefits us primarily because PacLease takes care of the maintenance, so we know our equipment is always in compliance and road-ready.”

Pitco Foods, based in San Jose, CA, is a private company established in 1982. It currently does business with over 500 supplier partners. “We work together to provide our retail and food service customers with the best selection of goods for their businesses,” Hernandiz says. “We carry primarily dry groceries. Our customers are owner-operators of a wide variety of retail businesses, such as small grocery stores, gas station/mini-marts, fast food restaurants and coffee bars.”

Pitco Foods serves customers throughout the Central Valley and Northern California. All deliveries are during the day. Hernandiz notes that transportation is done out of Pitco's San Jose and Sacramento facilities. “We also shuttle two trailers to the Central California Kenworth facility in Fresno each night, and drop and hook in the early morning.”

In addition to its delivery operations, Pitco Foods operates a cash-and-carry business out of its four warehouse stores, one each located in San Jose, Oakland, Brisbane and Sacramento. The stores are open only to customers with resale licenses.

“Our biggest challenge is meeting customer delivery timelines. We may have several customers in a geographic area that need their deliveries early in the morning,” Hernandiz says, “so instead of sending out just one truck to handle both customers' deliveries, we have to send two.”

The Pitco fleet currently consists of 15 tractors, 19 straight trucks and 16 trailers. The food distributor leases 17 Peterbilt Model 335 26-ft. trucks with GPT tuck-away gates from PacLease. Two of the 335s are equipped with refrigeration units to handle the small percentage of frozen foods and other perishables Pitco transports.

“Since most of our customers are small convenience stores and cannot accommodate a full pallet inside their premises, we spec'd the straight trucks to allow our drivers to break down the pallets in the truck and use the tuck-away gates to hand-truck the product from the vehicle to the stores,” Hernandiz explains.

“The drivers' role, however, is very labor-intensive. To reduce injuries, we began leasing Crown electric pallet jacks so drivers can take the full pallet on the gate to the street and maneuver as close to the store as possible, then break down the pallet.”

Pitco also leases five tractors from PacLease, including two Peterbilt Model 386s, one Peterbilt Model 385 tandem axle day cab and two Model T800 Kenworth tandem-axle day cabs. Tractor-trailers are used to shuttle goods from one company location to another, as well as to pick up product from suppliers.

The majority of Pitco's trailers are rented from either Penske or Ryder. The company also owns four Utility 48-ft. aluminum and two Utility 32-ft. dry vans, all equipped with Maxon BMRA-W-55 rail gates.

“Liftgates offer our 30 drivers the ability to be more efficient, which means they can make one more delivery during the day than they could otherwise,” Hernandiz reports. “Between the gates and higher horsepower engines that we now spec, we've experienced a 20% increase in driver productivity.”

About the Author

DEBORAH MCGUFFIE-SCHYHOL

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