Focusing on fleet strategies

As global trade in foodstuffs and agricultural commodities grows, supply chains must become ever more efficient

ARLINGTON, VA. As global trade in foodstuffs and agricultural commodities grows, supply chains must become ever more efficient – carrying more goods at lower costs to keep prices down for consumers. That is going to be acutely felt at the trucking level, according to Tracy Rosser, vp—corporate traffic for Wal-Mart.

“Our fleet strategy mirrors our corporate and logistics strategies. We need to improve operational efficiency so we can keep costs down to remain competitive in the global market,” he explained here at the National Summit on Agricultural & Food Truck Transport, hosted by the Agricultural and Food Transporters Conference.

“When it comes to transporting food goods for our company, we focus on three things: service, freshness, and mileage reduction,” Rosser said. “We’re trying to control more of our freight and get more density in our lanes so we can maximize driver and asset productivity, thus keeping control of our costs.”

As an example, Rosser pointed to the major efficiency gains Wal-Mart has achieved for its private fleet of 7,000 tractors. These trucks haul goods from the company’s 39 distribution centers to its 1,075 stores in the U.S.. The company originally wanted to improve fleet efficiency by 25% within three years, largely measured by gains in fuel economy. Rosser said those targets were met within just one year by implementing suggestions from drivers, switching to new tractor specs and adjusting its truck operations.

“In 2006, we added APUs (auxiliary power units) to our vehicles to reduce idling, made aerodynamic improvements to our tractors, switched to more fuel-efficient tires and had our drivers adopt more fuel efficient practices largely suggested by them, such as progressive shifting,” he told FleetOwner. “We also now turn 96.5% of our trucks at the shipping docks in under two hours. Those changes helped us boost average fleet fuel economy to 7.1 mpg for all except two months last year – that’s how we achieved our efficiency targets.”

Rosser noted that Wal-Mart doesn’t plan to stop there. “By 2015, we plan to achieve 100% fuel efficiency gains for our fleet,” he said. “That will come not only from further improvements to the trucks and operating patterns, but from changes in our packaging as well, which will affect shipment weights.”

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