A tough economy leaves little room for any kinks in the supply chain. That's why truckload carrier Larway Transportation of Barrie, Ontario, is focusing on improved trailer asset management. Larway operates throughout North America. Retail chains make up a sizeable portion of its customer base.
Martin Thiffault, sales supervisor at Larway, says the carrier is currently in the process of installing Fleet-Link asset-tracking modules from CSI Wireless on its retail trailer fleet. “The product allows us to better manage trailer utilization by showing us which units are moving and which have been sitting too long in a customer's yard,” he explains.
“We've been using the CSI Fleet-Link system since June, and what we've seen so far has been extremely favorable,” Thiffault says. Larway purchased its first 40 units from a local authorized distributor called GPS Pursuit. The devices were placed in trailers Larway uses in its cross-border operations so it could track inventory for a very large customer that receives shipments from Mexico.
The units are tailor-made to Larway's needs, and GPS Pursuit also offers the company a large range of reporting options. Now Larway has just purchased another 40 units for its retail business. Ten of the units have already been installed in these trailers. Thiffault projects the carrier will purchase another 20-30 units over the next year.
The CSI Wireless Fleet-Link unit is about the size of a small notebook, Thiffault says, and comes with a solar-powered backup option for when the batteries run low. It communicates using the MicroBurst cellular network developed at Aeris.net to provide seamless coverage throughout N.A.
“We deliver truckload shipments to large retail chains like Home Depot, Walmart, Costco and Sam's Clubs,” Thiffault explains. “With Fleet-Link we are able to determine the whereabouts of a customer's load at any given time. Eventually we plan to add a web access feature for customers so they too can know where their shipments are; this will eliminate all the phone calls we get from retailers checking on their deliveries.”
Larway Transportation's tractor fleet is made up of 27 Freightliner Classic sleeper units powered by Detroit Diesel Series 60 engines rated 400 to 500 hp. and 13-sp. double-overdrive Eaton Fuller transmissions for improved fuel economy. For driver comfort, dual air-ride seats from Bostrom and National Seating are spec'd. The “condominium-sized,” sleeper bunks, Thiffault notes, are very spacious and loaded with many accessories like refrigerators.
Every Larway Transportation driver is assigned to his own truck. There are both short hauls and long distance runs available, depending on a driver's preference. An average run is two to three days. Thiffault says about 50% of its business is within 500 miles of home.
In addition to Barrie, Ontario, Larway Transportation also has terminals in St. Louis, MO; Edison, NJ; and Laredo and Eagle Pass, TX. The two terminals in Texas are cross-dock facilities, enabling the carrier to bring freight in from Mexico using its own trailers. The trailers are removed from the Mexican trucks at the terminal and attached to Larway's own tractors for delivery in the U.S.
Larway trades its tractors every 500,000 km (approximately 350,000 miles) or about every five years. Since the Freightliners are under warranty for the duration of time they are kept in the fleet, Thiffault says it's important that maintenance and repairs are performed only at Freightliner-authorized dealers.
“The CSI Fleet-Link units have also proven to be a big plus to us in tracking maintenance miles for the trailer fleet,” says Thiffault. “We can tell if a trailer has done one trip or ten. By knowing the mileage of each trip, we can decide whether the unit needs immediate service or if it can wait until the next time it comes back across the border.”
This year Larway Transportation is celebrating its 20th anniversary. “Two of the biggest challenges today are high fuel and insurance costs,” Thiffault points out. “To offset these we need to be as productive as we can in all areas of our operations. CSI Wireless's Fleet-Link product provides a good way for us to make sure we are keeping our trailers full and moving at all times.”