Fleetowner 4541 Bailey

Shifting priorities

Oct. 13, 2014
The right specs keep vocational fleet operating at peak efficiency

Like many fleets, Yoder, IN-based Bailey Trucking has faced the challenges associated with replacing older vehicles in its fleet. “In the past, we would trade in or sell about 10 trucks every year and purchase new models as replacements,” says Jerry Bailey, owner. “However, the ongoing series of diesel engine emissions standards has been steadily increasing the cost of new units. These days, we’re keeping trucks longer than we ever have before and in some cases opting to have engines rebuilt.

“The cost of fuel is also impacting our cash flow,” Bailey continues. “We use about a tanker load of fuel every three days, and the cost of fuel has tripled since 2007. A load that cost $11,000 before now runs more than $30,000, and in many cases, we have just 15 days to pay for the fuel instead of the 30-day terms we had previously.”

Jerry Bailey has been in the construction fleet business long enough to see those changes and the impact they have on his company. He founded the company that bears his name in 1981 with four trucks. Today, Bailey Trucking operates 55 Freightliner, Sterling, Volvo and Kenworth tri- and quad-axle trucks with 15-yd. dump bodies. The fleet hauls stone, sand, gravel, asphalt and other construction commodities for homebuilders, general contractors, and asphalt companies within about 50 mi. of Ft. Wayne.

Looking for fuel savings led Bailey to consider changing specifications on new trucks he has been buying. “We’re longtime users of manual and torque-converted automatic transmissions,” he explains, “but when we placed an order for new Freightliner trucks last year, we decided to take a look at the new Eaton UltraShift Plus automated manual transmission. After just six months, the fuel economy that we are getting, compared to the torque converter trucks, was 1.5 mpg better. With 55 trucks, that can add up to significant savings.”

Eaton UltraShift Plus automated transmissions complete all launches and shifts with a self-adjusting electronic actuator. The transmissions in Bailey’s fleet are a part of the Vocational Construction Series (VCS), all of which have an overall ratio of 20:1, deep reduction gearing and multiple high-speed reverse gears for extended backing operations.

Bailey also cites significantly less wear on tires as another area where he feels the automated gearboxes are helping reduce costs. “We use only premium Bridgestone and Continental tires,” he relates, “but while automatic transmissions have torque applied constantly to the tires, the UltraShift Plus frees up the wheels whenever you’re shifting gears. As a result, we’re seeing about 15% longer tire life with the Eaton transmissions.”

Bailey also believes the automated transmissions contribute to safer vehicle operation compared to manual gearboxes because their design allows drivers to have two hands on the wheel at all times. “At some job sites, we have to bring stone and sand into places that you might not be able to get to easily,” he adds. “Not shifting all the time puts less stress on drivers.”

Less stress on trucks is also one of Bailey’s goals. To eliminate worries about breakdowns, he notes, all of the fleet’s units are spec’d with the heaviest (rated) rear axles, suspensions and other components available. Complementing that is a comprehensive preventive maintenance program at the Bailey Trucking shop and a local network of dealers for repairs and other major work.

“We’re all about pleasing the customer and our drivers by getting in and out of jobsites as quickly and as safely as possible,” Bailey states. “With the right specs, we can face tough operating conditions and rising fuel and operating costs very effectively.”

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