Egg-static about safety

Oct. 1, 2007
No one will ever accuse Henry Woodward of being a chicken when it comes to investing in safety technology. Woodward is the fleet maintenance manager, Casa

No one will ever accuse Henry “Woody” Woodward of being a chicken when it comes to investing in safety technology. Woodward is the fleet maintenance manager, Casa Trucking, the distribution arm of Michael Foods Egg Products Company. With three terminals and a total fleet of 69 tractors, 62 tankers, and 150 temperature-controlled trailers, he oversees the company's transportation needs throughout the Midwest, Southeast, and Northeast.

Michael Foods Egg Products' list of customers includes a wide range of high-profile companies. Among them are Nestlé, Burger King, Disneyworld, and Freihofer's Breads. As maintenance manager, Woodward is responsible for making sure those customers, and many more, get their yokes and whites in a timely fashion for the making of everything from Kit Kat candy bars to breakfast croissants to cholesterol-free omelets to loaves of bread.

The company is a subsidiary of Michael Foods, a 75-year-old company that is a diversified food processor and distributor, with businesses in egg products, refrigerated grocery products, and refrigerated potato products. It is the largest global supplier of processed eggs. Michael Foods and its Egg Products division are headquartered in Minnetonka, Minnesota,

Michael Foods Egg Products is made up of Papetti's, M G Waldbaum, and MFI Food Canada. Papetti's, which dates back to the early 20th century when the Papetti family started a poultry business, merged with Michael Foods in 1997.

M G Waldbaum, founded in 1950, introduced the first extended shelf life (ESL) egg. The company was acquired by Michael Foods in 1990. In 2002, it purchased Canadian Inovatech, a leading manufacturer and exporter of value-added egg products, and renamed the business MFI Food Canada.

Casa Trucking is based in Elizabeth, New Jersey, at one of Michael Foods Egg Products' three egg processing plants. It has satellite operations at the other processing plants: Spring Glen, Pennsylvania, and Lenox, Iowa.

Similar operations

Each of the three trucking operations runs in a similar manner. “Fresh ‘nest run’ eggs are picked up at chicken farms and transported in refrigerated trailers to the processing plants,” says Woodward. “At one time we had our own birds, but now we contract with farmers for eggs.”

At the processing plants, automated equipment is used to crack the eggs, remove the shell, and empty the contents. The egg product is then processed as whole eggs, egg yokes, eggs whites, blends or salted yokes — a specially processed product that is shipped to a wide variety of bakeries.

These products are shipped to customers in refrigerated tanker trailers. Refrigerated trailers haul processed frozen and specialty egg products, such as prepared omelets and egg patties, either liquid or frozen, in various types of containers.

The removed egg shells are heated and pulverized, after which the material is loaded into dump trailers and given back to farmers to be spread out as calcium for fertilizer. At times the material is also delivered to facilities that manufacture asphalt — egg shells add texture to asphalt, and to companies that make tile — and egg shells are used for tile pigment. This transportation activity is provided by an outside company.

Each Casa Trucking operation has its own fleet of tractors, trailers, and yard tractors. All equipment acquisition is done by Woodard. To ensure that the trucking operation goes smoothly, he pays a great deal of attention to spec'ing equipment.

It is something he enjoys. Beginning his career in trucking as a mechanic, and moving up through the ranks to his current position, this 32-year industry veteran is a true nuts-and-bolts guy. Woodward loves trucks and equipment, and is constantly looking for ways to improve his operation while increasing the safety of drivers and his fleet.

Mixed specs

Overall, Casa Trucking has a fleet of 60 Mack Vision sleeper tractors and nine Freightliner FL 112 tractors with smaller sleepers. All equipment is assigned. There is a total of seven tandem-axle Capacity Trailer Jockey trucks.

The Macks are powered by 460-horsepower Mack Economy engines mated to Eaton Fuller 10-speed AutoShift transmissions. Axles are from Spicer; tires are from Michelin.

The FL112s have 425-horsepower diesels, 9-speed manual transmissions, and Goodyear tires.

Casa Trucking's refrigerated trailers are predominately Great Danes, followed by Wabash. Utility reefer trailers are being considered.

Refrigeration units are from Carrier Transicold and Thermo King. Removable bulkheads are used, depending on the product. All trailers have air-ride suspensions, mostly Hendricksons.

The trailers, a mix of 96 and 102 inches wide, are 12 feet 6 inches high and 46 feet 6 inches long. “The length is an oddball type spec,” Woodward says, “but I want the additional six inches to make room for load bars, plus it gives a driver a little more leeway for climbing into a trailer.”

The tanker trailers are 6,200-gallon sanitary/food-grade stainless steel models from Walker Transport. The trailers are pre-cooled to 32 degrees by running water through the inside. They will maintain that temperature to within two degrees for 24 hours.

Trade cycle on tractors is five years; 10 years for the refrigerated trailers. “We don't have a set trade cycle for the tanker trailers because they seem to last forever,” says Woodward.

In total, Woodward manages 69 drivers — 26 are based at the Elizabeth, New Jersey, facility; 31 in Spring Glen, Pennsylvania; and 12 in Lenox, Iowa. There are no team operations. Drivers are typically are on the road three nights per week.

Safety focus

Woodward is always seeking to spec equipment for the maximum return in cost savings. When it comes time to spec new equipment, along with looking for components that provide the best reliability and lowest lifecycle costs, he specs his trucks for resale value. But “more importantly, we spec for driver safety.”

Moreover, he strives to eliminate time-consuming and costly accidents. He is always searching for components that can be spec'd on a new vehicle or added aftermarket to help lessen the chance of a driver becoming involved in an accident

Woodward began trying collision warning systems in 2001, about the time when these types of safety devices were first entering the commercial truck industry. Today he outfits his entire fleet with Eaton's VORAD (Vehicle On-board RADar) Collision Warning System. It uses radar technology to keep a driver aware of safe following intervals and warns of potential hazards ahead, such as a stopped or slow-moving vehicle, no matter the weather conditions.

He specs the system with the optional SmartCruise adaptive cruise control feature that helps a driver maintain safe following distances. While in cruise control, the feature maintains driver pre-set speed and following intervals to vehicles ahead, automatically downshifting the trucks' automated transmissions when necessary.

“With the VORAD system's side sensors, we have virtually eliminating right side accidents,” says Woodward. “The forward-looking radar and SmartCruise have helped reduce our rear-end collisions by roughly 90 percent.

“Before putting on the systems, we were having a lot of low-speed, minor fender-bender accidents due to congestion. The systems enhanced our drivers' ability to drive in those conditions.”

Always one to be at the forefront of safety, Woodward is currently investigating the benefits of equipping his trucks with electronic roll stability systems, and is looking at the Roll Stability Control (RSC) from Meritor WABCO. The system is designed to help maintain vehicle stability and aid in reducing tractor-trailer rollovers.

Integrated into a tractor's antilock braking system (ABS) architecture, the RSC continually checks and updates the lateral acceleration of the tractor and compares it to a critical threshold where rollover may occur. When the critical threshold is met, RSC intervenes by reducing engine torque and engaging the engine retarder, while automatically applying drive axle and trailer brakes. Frequently, activation takes place before the driver is aware of the need.

All of Casa Trucking's refrigerated trailers are spec'd with a retractable step system and a grab handle to make entering and exiting the trailer safer for drivers. The trailers also are outfitted with LED interior lights for improved lighting. “These lights make it easier for drivers to read freight labels, eliminate errors in securing cargo, and fill out paperwork,” says Woodward.

He equips his tractors with air-operated fifthwheels. “This allows drivers to quickly and safely control the uncoupling process from within the cab. We no longer have drivers suffering back injuries from pulling a fifthwheel pin.”

Evaluation checks

Woodward is just as committed to finding ways to improve his fleet's bottom line. He stays up-to-date on truck components and technology, and constantly tries new products.

By way of example, he is currently testing the Meritor Tire Inflation System (MTIS) by P.S.I. on a number of newly purchased trailers. It is an inflation system that monitors and maintains tire air pressure at a constant, proper level.

He has installed auxiliary power units (APU) — both Thermo King TriPacs and Carrier Transicold ComfortPros — on several tractors to see the impact on fuel economy and idle time. APUs provide climate control and power to run onboard electrical equipment for trucks without idling.

To assure that he is getting the best return on his investment in equipment specifications, Woodward has established a systematic schedule of detailed vehicle inspections and maintenance intervals. “All preventive maintenance and running repairs are done at our three facilities. Everything else is under warranty and gets sent out. Any road service is provided by GE Fleet Services.”

Casa Trucking maintains detailed records on vehicle maintenance, repair, and operation, and tracks on-the-road breakdowns and unscheduled downtime. “We periodically review our records to see if improvements can be made, as well as to ensure that current procedures are being followed, and adjust our maintenance procedures accordingly.”

Driver attitude

Along with spec'ing his vehicles for safety, Woodward works hard to hire safe drivers who have a minimum of three years of experience in transporting refrigerated products. Once hired, a driver goes through an extensive training program that includes learning the product line (some 70 products), as well as safe food handling practices.

“Our turnover rate is extremely low,” he says. Part of the reason is an effort by Woodward and his management team to work with drivers and make them feel an important part of the company.

“A couple of years ago the fleet was downsized. The past year or so we've been building it up again. We've had a big influx of Spanish-speaking drivers from South America who came from other trucking companies around the Elizabeth (New Jersey) area.

“When they got here, they had a real bad attitude because of how they had been treated elsewhere,” Woodward says. We spent a lot of time breaking them in to our way of doing things. It took a long time to convince them that we have an open door policy, and if they have concerns or problems, we want them to come forward and discuss things.

“We now have a great group of drivers. They know that if they come and talk with us, things are going to get done — whether it's here or in dispatch or in operations. It's a big improvement that took quite a while to accomplish. I couldn't have done it without the wonderful people I work with.”

Quarterly driver meetings are another part of the safety game plan at Casa Trucking. “We have a safety board that meets with everyone and we review all aspects of safety,” says Woodward. “A big part of the meetings is educating the drivers on the importance of using the tools we give them to be as safe as possible.”

With its strong commitment to safety, and to productivity and efficiency, Casa Trucking is sure to continue to excel at safe, reliable transportation of eggs and egg products.

View more Refrigerated Transporter news relating to trucking safety, trucking regulations and driver awareness.

About the Author

David Kolman

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