Support from Thermo King

Feb. 1, 2001
New Facilities Keep US Foodservice Fleet Rolling

New facilities providing 24-hour maintenance service keep US Foodservice rolling in Oklahoma City. US Foodservice and Central States Thermo King, its refrigeration dealer, both built new shops in Oklahoma City in 2000. The US Foodservice shop is part of a new 250,000-sq-ft distribution center.

US Foodservice owns its transportation equipment for better distribution control, says Mark Robbins, transportation director at US Foodservice's Oklahoma City distribution center. Preventive maintenance and most truck repairs are done in-house. However, US Foodservice depends on the Thermo King dealer for major refrigeration work and trailer repair.

"Service is everything in our business," Robbins says. "We deliver everything from lobsters to silverware, operating in a seven-state area. Our customers expect delivery on time and in good condition. We can't afford downtime."

That's why the US Foodservice shop hardly ever closes. It's open 24 hours a day Monday through Friday and open on weekends except from 3 pm Saturday to 5 am Sunday. Refrigeration service is available 24 hours a day for emergency repair. Central States provides a tractor to pick up trailers. It also repairs refrigeration units on site using Uptime mobile service trucks.

Because of US Foodservice's wide trade area, tractors and trailers ordinarily cannot be serviced weekdays. They typically return after 4 pm and must be loaded for the next day before midnight.

"We start loading trailers at 8 or 9 pm," Robbins says. "Shuttle drivers return, drop their 28- and 34-ft trailers, and depart with another load. Long-haul drivers pull 48 footers. It's very fast-paced. We don't have a lot of time for day-to-day repair or preventive maintenance."

US Foodservice is a subsidiary of Royal Ahold, an international food company with operations in both retail chains and foodservice. Ahold acquired US Foodservice in April 2000. US Foodservice recently acquired PYA/Monarch, a prominent distributor in the Southeast. US Foodservice is the second largest foodservice distributor in the United States. The distribution center in Oklahoma City previously was a White Swan location before White Swan and Unifax Inc merged in 1993 to become US Foodservice.

126-Trailer Fleet US Foodservice's Oklahoma Division operates a fleet of 109 tractors and 126 refrigerated trailers. Newer tractors are International 9100 series. The tractors are powered by Cummins N14 engines rated at 370 horsepower, driving through ArvinMeritor MO-15G10A 10-speed transmissions. Trailers are from Great Dane, mostly 28 and 34 footers for double and triple operations. About 20% of the trailers are 48 footers.

All trailers are multi-temps using Thermo King SB-III TCI SR Whisper Editions. US Foodservice divides them into three compartments with flexible bulkheads from Tempar and Donovan. The host refrigeration unit serves a 12- to 15-ft nose compartment at 10F. A remote evaporator mounted 16 feet back from the nose holds the second compartment at 40F. Dry groceries and kitchen supplies are loaded in the rear.

From Oklahoma City, US Foodservice serves restaurants, schools, nursing homes, and hospitals in Oklahoma, Kansas, Texas, Arkansas, Missouri, and parts of Colorado and Nebraska. US Foodservice runs an average of 75 routes daily, Monday through Friday. Most are one to two days. The longest is three days into western Kansas, Colorado, and the Oklahoma panhandle. Routes average 14 stops and 600 cases.

"We have 115 drivers, and 60% of them live in Oklahoma City," Robbins says. "The rest live where we have shuttle sites for our doubles - Wichita and Topeka, Kansas; Joplin, Missouri; Springdale, Arkansas; and Tulsa, Checotah, and Weatherford, Oklahoma."

Each day shuttles depart Oklahoma City with trailers for local delivery by remote drivers. They return with empty trailers dropped the previous day. More than 20% of routes have backhauls - rice, spices, chemicals - anything from vendors in the distribution area.

US Foodservice also runs 10 refrigerated straight trucks for produce delivery in Tulsa and Oklahoma City. They are International 4700s mounting Morgan bodies and Thermo King RD-II TCI units.

Focus on PM US Foodservice's maintenance focuses on finding time for PM and day-to-day repair in response to driver trip reports, says Phil Wickard, maintenance manager in Oklahoma City. Major tractor repairs are done by International. The International 9100 tractors were purchased under Diamond SPEC, the manufacturer's extended warranty.

The warranty covers all repairs for 200,000 miles or two years, whichever comes first. The bumper-to-bumper warranty covers everything except wear items such as clutches, brakes, belts, lights, and normal door and hood adjustments, Wickard says. An extended warranty covers engines and transmissions for 300,000 miles or three years; alternators, starters, and air-conditioners for 450,000 miles or three years; and drive axles for 500,000 miles.

"Diamond SPEC is a good program that helps reduce maintenance costs and downtime," Wickard says. "If a tractor breaks down on the road, International gets it repaired in a timely manner. The manufacturer guarantees that a service truck is dispatched to the scene, or that the tractor is towed to a nearby dealer shop."

Tractors are scheduled for engine oil and filter changes every 15,000 miles. Mileage is recorded by a Phoenix automated fuel system at the company's two-lane fuel island. "We key in the tractor number and odometer number every time a unit is fueled," he says. "When the mileage comes close to 15,000, we schedule a PM."

Tires are a major fleet expense. To reduce costs and prevent tire failure, US Foodservice checks tire pressure and measures tread wear every weekend.

Tires with excessive wear are dis-mounted and taken to T&W Tire, a Goodyear dealer and retreader in Oklahoma City. "We run 24.5" low-pro tires, using only new tires on steer axles," Robbins says. "We retread carcasses twice. After the first recap, tires are used on drive axles, and on trailers after the second."

Trailers are serviced every 90 days, and refrigeration unit oil is changed every 1,000 hours. One of the nine Oklahoma City mechanics is certified for refrigeration work. He handles all the unit oil changes. Another mechanic specializes in trailer maintenance and brake repair.

12,600-Sq-Ft Shop US Foodservice's 12,600-sq-ft shop is next door to the sprawling refrigerated distribution center. It sits on 40 acres. In addition to the fuel island, the shop has eight work bays, an upstairs parts department, a wash bay, and a storage bay.

The shop provides oil, antifreeze, and air from hose reels for quick access. Another labor-saving and environmentally friendly feature is a Flock Oil drain system. It connects all oil drains to a 500-gallon waste tank.

The warehouse has 97,700 square feet of dry storage and dock space. It has 98,140 square feet of cooler, freezer, and refrigerated dock space. Coolers occupy 26,233 square feet and freezers occupy 52,419 square feet.

Refrigerated and freezer areas are served by three Frick compressors in a fully computerized ammonia system. The warehouse has an under-floor glycol heating system to prevent floor cement from heaving. Warehouse inventory is typically worth about $13 million, although it may go as high as $15 million, Robbins says.

The facility has a 32-ft ceiling, accommodating six-high pallet racks. Cold rooms have Rite-Hite doors that use in-floor sensors to open automatically.

The new facility was built with expansion in mind. "Our company is the second-largest foodservice distributor in the country, and we are growing," Robbins says. "Our in-house truck maintenance helps us control expenses so that we can focus on future growth."

The shop was designed to handle a larger fleet than the company now runs, adds Willis Russell, vice-president of operations for the US Foodservice Oklahoma Division. The north end of the shop is designed for easy expansion.

About the Author

Foss Farrar

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