In a day and age when good drivers are as hard to come by as uncongested highways at rush hour, it's more than luck that has enabled Bozzuto's Inc. to attract a pool of top-notch drivers who take pride in their jobs and their vehicles. And Bozzuto's is doing everything it can to ensure the trend continues.
For starters, the company believes in spec'ing its fleet equipment not only for durability and longevity, but also, and perhaps even more importantly, for driver safety, convenience and retention. It's one of the reasons Bozzuto's has been buying Sterling day cabs fully equipped with creature comforts like air ride cabs and the best driver's seats available.
Located in Chesire, CT, Bozzuto's is a wholesale distributor of food and household products to grocery stores, from Maine to Ohio to Maryland. Founded 60 years ago by Adam Bozzuto, today it is run by his son Michael.
“Business really took off in the late '90s,” says Bob Hamilton, who was hired a year ago to direct the company's fleet maintenance program. The fleet has grown from 40 trucks just eight years ago to more than 150 power units traveling an average of 98,000 miles year, delivering roughly 230 loads a day to customers.
Why such rapid growth? The Bozzuto name, Hamilton points out, has become synonymous with good customer service. “When our sales people go to talk to potential new clients, that reputation follows them.” Keep in mind, he says, “all this is contingent on the performance by the staff here at Bozzuto's.”
Hamilton says the 156-tractor fleet is over 90% day cabs. “Prior to 1999 we spec'd Sterling's predecessor, the Ford heavy-duty A-line truck. This year we added 20 new Sterlings with MBE-4000 engines and 25 new Kenworths with C-15 Cat engines to the existing fleet of 105 Class 8 tractors equipped with Detroit Diesel Series 60 engines.” Bozzuto's also operates over 300 trailers.
The fleet has no set trade cycles, so when spec'ing equipment it looks for heavier duty components that will hold up for the long term. “We also spec for driver retention. Drivers are a critical piece of our business and we want them to take pride in their vehicles,” says Hamilton.
Bozzuto's is currently looking at changing from an Eaton Auto-Shift transmission to the newer two-pedal Eaton Ultra-Shift, which Hamilton notes will eliminate the clutch pedal, making it even easier for drivers to operate their trucks. “One of our biggest concerns is the increased traffic volume…and the safety issues this presents for our drivers. We believe driving in heavy traffic is a major contributor to fatigue. If we could eliminate a portion of the driving task, like shifting, our drivers could focus more readily on their driving environment.”
In the maintenance department, Hamilton says they run a 24/7 shop with a crew of just 12 technicians, soon to be increased to 15. Oil change intervals are set at 20,000 miles, but Hamilton notes the shop has just implemented oil sampling “to see if we're on track with that schedule. With the new fuels coming out, we're going to have to be on top of our game when it comes to oil change intervals to make sure we're not jeopardizing our power equipment.”
A relatively new program that is showing very positive results is what Hamilton calls the Tire Team. Ten team members, including two vendors, conduct a variety of tests on the fleet's drive, steer and retread tires. “Through the efforts of this team,” he reports, “we've been able to successfully modify our breakdown strategy on tires and we've reduced tire costs by 15%.”