Expert Advice

Food distribution supplier relationships are helping fleet meet regulatory, customer demands

Gold Star Foods, Ontario, CA, has been leasing trucks and tractors for over 20 years because it allows the company to concentrate on delivering goods in a cost-effective, timely manner. “Full-service leasing also helps conserve capital resources for other projects, like the recent construction of a new main warehouse,” says CFO Greg Johnson.

Gold Star Foods

“We can’t justify committing the kinds of resources that full-service leasing companies have to manage our fleet,” he adds, “including their expertise in helping spec more efficient and productive vehicles, in meeting environmental and safety regulations, and in providing maintenance that keeps downtime to a minimum.”

Johnson points to the latest California Air Resources Board requirements for transport refrigeration units (TRUs) as an example. Beginning Jan. 1, 2013, TRUs that are compliant with the state’s in-use performance standards need to be listed on the “100%-Compliant Carrier List.”

Vehicle operators like Gold Star are now being encouraged to examine the list and act to clear up any discrepancies in their registration information. For example, U.S. DOT motor carrier numbers have to be correct and in some instances there are conflicts between serial numbers for registered TRUs and numbers supplied by manufacturers, requiring fleet attention.

“We’re a $200-million business, but we’re not experts in fleet management or maintenance,” says Johnson. “Especially here in California, it’s difficult to keep up with the latest rules, regulations and requirements that come with operating refrigerated delivery vehicles.”

Johnson says Gold Star needs to maintain its focus on supplying fresh and frozen goods as well as supplies to over 300 school districts throughout the southwestern U.S.

“Space is often at a premium at schools, particularly those in the more populated areas,” Johnson relates, “and many schools were built when there were no breakfast or lunch programs so they don’t have large pantries, coolers or freezers. Cafeteria workers must prepare and serve meals using fresh produce, frozen foods, breads and other items that we deliver that day.”

In turn, Gold Star must be able to rely on its fleet to make those deliveries. Currently, the operation includes 49 trucks and 33 tractors, all fielded under full-service lease agreements. There are also 45 refrigerated trailers, a company- owned mix of makes and models. Thermo King dealers service the fleet’s refrigeration units, and an independent repair service handles routine trailer maintenance and repairs.

Last year, Gold Star began doing business with Paccar Leasing through its local PacLease franchise, Rush Truck Leasing in Fontana. The deal with PacLease has brought 27 Peterbilt straight trucks and 10 Peterbilt tractors into the fleet in the past year.

Included are Model 337 trucks with Paccar PX-8 engines and Eaton automated transmissions, and Model 386 tractors with Cummins ISX engines and manual Eaton gearboxes. The trucks are fitted with 24-ft. bodies equipped with Thermo King refrigeration units and Maxon liftgate/ramp combinations.

An in-depth needs assessment by PacLease led to specification recommendations based on the company’s duty cycle and adds to the vehicles’ resale value at the end of the lease. Rush Truck Leasing also developed an on-site maintenance program for the fleet, while also providing 24/7 coverage and rental equipment assurances in the event of a breakdown.

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