Built bulldog tough

Oct. 1, 2005
Nothing tests trucks like New York streets. Trucks in the fleet at Bartlett Dairy in Jamaica, New York, on Long Island take that test every day, and they

Nothing tests trucks like New York streets. Trucks in the fleet at Bartlett Dairy in Jamaica, New York, on Long Island take that test every day, and they keep taking it daily for 12 to 15 years.

Bartlett Dairy was founded in 1963 as a home delivery and retail milk route operating in the borough of Queens. Since then, it has grown into a major food and dairy distributor with operations in New Jersey and Connecticut as well as New York with sales approaching $100 million annually. The customer base includes foodservice outlets and supermarkets as well as New York City schools, the Archdiocese of New York, industrial feeding operations such as ARAMARK, and snack outlets such as Barnes & Noble bookstores and Starbucks Coffee. “We serve customers ranging from jails to country clubs and a lot of operations in between,” says Tom Malave Jr, president.

Incorporated in 1990, the company is now managed by the five sons, Tom Jr, Michael, Kenny, Jimmy, and Donald, of the founder Thomas Malave Sr. The five brothers each worked for other dairy operators before joining the family company that now totals more than 150 people. More than just a dairy distributor, Bartlett Dairy carries more than 800 additional inventory items including plastic utensils and paper products, cakes and other pastries, frozen fruit, juice, fresh baked bread and rolls, and a large line of freshly made soups widely used in restaurants.

Elmhurst's only distributor

Bartlett Dairy is the only distributor for Elmhurst Dairy, the largest milk processor remaining in New York City. The company facility is adjacent to the Elmhurst plant and is spread across four city blocks. Orders are taken until 3 pm, when they are transmitted to Elmhurst for processing to begin. Trucks are sent to the dairy to load milk for departure beginning at midnight. Product from the 800-item Bartlett inventory is then loaded at the company dock. All orders are presold at the time trucks leave on routes that may require from 14 to 35 stops. The relatively short order cycle usually puts milk on the road within eight hours of the time it arrives at Elmhurst for processing. Delivery goes on seven days a week.

In addition to the New York metro area, Bartlett Dairy serves customers as far away as Trenton, New Jersey; New Haven, Connecticut; and Binghamton, New York, as well as accounts in the Hamptons at the far end of Long Island. Planning is beginning for a second distribution location that will allow a larger trade territory.

The streets in New York, potholed, often narrow, can murder under-designed delivery trucks, Malave says. For the best chance of fleet equipment survival, Bartlett Dairy picks one of the heaviest trucks available for its fleet of 75 delivery vehicles. Almost the entire fleet is composed of Mack MR600 straight trucks mounting 26-ft refrigerated bodies.

Noting that the MR600 chassis is used by almost every municipality in the Northeast for refuse collection, Malave says it is the best truck available for city delivery applications. “We specify these trucks to stand up to rough streets and cramped delivery conditions,” he says. “In addition, we want to haul heavy loads in an environment that puts us up on curbs a lot.”

Loaded with fluid milk, 26-ft bodies carry a heavy payload. To cope with the load, Bartlett's fleet may be straight trucks, but it is anything but medium duty. The majority of the fleet uses axles with 20,000-lb capacity for steering and 44,000-lb tandem drive axles, providing total weight capacity of 64,000 lb. Although some of the older trucks are equipped with Mack five-speed manual transmissions, newer chassis use Allison 4500 RDS five-speed automatics. Latest Mack trucks use Mack AC-350 engines providing 350 horsepower.

While not as comfortable to drive as some conventional cab trucks, the low-cab-forward COE configuration of the MR600 makes delivery a slightly easier job, because getting in and out of the cab is more convenient. Drivers might rather have a conventional truck, but Malave notes that they take noticeable pride in the fact that the vehicle says Mack across the front. In addition, the big windshield provides great visibility, an important safety factor in congested city traffic.

Heavy loads impact fuel use

If the trucks have a major drawback, he says, it is fuel economy. With heavy components and heavy loads, fuel consumption is relatively high. Bartlett Dairy is lucky to average five miles per gallon, Malave says. That is not a precise figure, because refrigeration units pull fuel from the same tank as the truck engine.

Not only must Bartlett Dairy trucks take the punishment of New York City, they must do it for years at a time. Trucks are purchased with the idea that they will stay in the fleet for at least 12 years and probably still be in service after 15 years. “We set specifications for a long service life and usually get it,” Malave says. “Running a truck 500,000 miles before overhaul is common in this fleet.”

The fleet has a variety of refrigerated truck bodies with most of the older bodies purchased from Frank Siviglia & Company in the Bronx. For years, Siviglia bodies were the truck body of choice for dairy distribution in New York, because their FRP exterior skins were so tough. In recent years, Bartlett Dairy switched to another local body builder, George Hirn Company in Brooklyn. The five newest bodies, mounted on lighter chassis, were custom-built by Morgan Corporation. Those bodies use Thermo King RD-II units for refrigeration.

Many of the trucks are equipped with Thermo King TS-500 straight truck units supplied by Thermo King of Long Island. The switch to the units with scroll compressors began in 2001. Malave says the scroll compressors provide high performance at lower fuel consumption than older units and have lower maintenance costs. Bartlett Dairy chose the 50-series electric standby option for the high capacity TS-500 units. That allows trucks to be plugged in after loading so that the unit engine need not run to keep the load cool, saving money and holding down exhaust emissions.

Milk and frozen foods can be delivered in the same body on shorter routes. Bartlett Dairy uses Skinny Buns insulated bulkheads from ITW Insulated Products. A fan kit in the bulkheads moves air into the milk compartment holding temperature at 35° to 38° F while keeping the front compartment at or below 0° F. For longer routes, trucks dedicated to frozen food delivery are used.

About the Author

Gary Macklin

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