Ryder offers insights

Oct. 1, 2007
Ryder System manages a fleet of nearly 166,000 commercial vehicles of all types and sizes for thousands of customers. Headquartered in Miami, Florida,

Ryder System manages a fleet of nearly 166,000 commercial vehicles of all types and sizes for thousands of customers. Headquartered in Miami, Florida, it provides leasing, rental, and contract maintenance solutions primarily in the US, Canada, and United Kingdom, plus offers fleet support services, such as insurance, vehicle administration, and fuel services. In business since 1933, Ryder has grown to be a Fortune 500 global transportation and supply chain management solutions company with considerable experience with equipment.

Refrigerated Transporter's editor-in-chief David A Kolman spoke with two members of Ryder's Fleet Management Solutions team to gain some understanding of the company's strategies for getting the best reliability, dependability, performance, and lowest cost of operation out of its vehicles used in temperature-controlled transportation. The two were Adriano Melluzzo, vice president of industry sales, and Juliet Johansson, vice president of marketing.

Question: Obviously, the starting point for spec'ing new equipment is for a fleet to decide upon its expectations with, and requirements for, its vehicles. What are the most important considerations here?

Answer: Companies must evaluate how the current product has performed, both operationally and cost-wise. They should also consider how their business may change in the years ahead, and make sure any new equipment will be able to handle any additional capacity or new capabilities.

Another important consideration ought to be looking for new technology that will lower overall running cost and fuel efficiency. Items such as reliability, dependability, performance, and driver comfort are all important expectations as well.

Furthermore, it is a good idea, prior to equipment spec'ing, for fleets to review their current equipment specs, as well as maintenance and operating costs, to determine if the equipment is performing well, or if there are recurring problems or trends.

This is all the more reason for fleets to have a formal maintenance program in place so they can identify reoccurring problems and measure life cycle cost.

Question: What type of basic information do fleets need to determine when spec'ing a refrigerated/insulated truck body?

Answer: They should know such things as maximum weight and cube and know how the unit is going to be loaded/unloaded.

The recent salmonella scare has brought heightened awareness to spec the proper refrigeration unit to maintain optimal product temperature, which is critical with the current HACCP (Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point) regulation in effect. Companies are refusing delivery for product not within the set temperature parameter, and that can be costly to carriers, as well as to food manufacturers and wholesalers.

Question: A changing marketplace has created the need for more flexibility in delivery equipment. Are their advantages to trucks versus tractor trailer combinations?

Answer: Distributors, especially food distributors, are always looking for ways to best utilize their fleet. The trend in the foodservice business is to go with a tractor and 28- to 32-foot “pup” trailer combinations, in lieu of a traditional straight truck. This enables companies to carry more product and make more deliveries without the expense of additional drivers and vehicles.

Additionally, if the trailer unit is down for maintenance, it is much easier to replace it with another refrigerated trailer instead of replacing the entire truck.

Question: What are the chief considerations when deciding upon cab style?

Answer: The decision to go with a conventional or cab-over design is typically determined by a fleet's radius of operation. If deliveries are in such Metro Cities as New York, Boston, Los Angeles, or Chicago, a cab-over design is preferred because of its improved maneuverability and visibility.

For deliveries in suburbs or rural areas, fleets prefer conventional style cabs for driver comfort, as turning radius is not an important factor.

Question: What about transmissions?

Answer: Consideration as to which type of transmission to use can be a matter of fuel economy or driver demographics. Some of our customers have realized advantages to spec'ing an automatic transmission, including lower driver turnover, ability to attract “inexperienced” drivers, and in many cases, better fuel economy as operating parameters can be preset.

There has been a recent trend to have an automatic transmission spec'd in regional tractors.

Question: Have you had much experience with “green” (hybrid powered) trucks?

Answer: Hybrid truck offerings in Class 8 are relatively new. Several truck manufacturers are working on this technology.

Ryder is in the process of launching a line of “green” solutions called RydeGreen. RydeGreen equipment specifications and options will improve fuel efficiency, reduce emissions, and meet demanding US EPA standards.

In addition, understanding the significant impact driver behavior has on fuel efficiency, to complement the RydeGreen equipment, Ryder is extending its online driver training program to customers through Ryder Pro-TREAD. Pro-TREAD includes courses that are designed to improve driving skills and performance, and to teach drivers simple techniques to reduce fuel consumption.

Question: Have you found that on-board electronics and diagnostics help your customers develop better fuel economy and preventive maintenance practices?

Answer: There is a lot of potential for telematics devices to better manage an overall fleet, conduct maintenance programs, monitor deliveries, improve driver performance, and manage truck engine issues.

Ryder's web-based fleet management tool, FleetCare, offers secure, immediate Internet access to a variety of performance metrics, such as vehicle maintenance schedules, service calls, vehicle rental activity, fuel purchases, and more. Reports can be customized and sorted in a variety of ways to analyze information by location or vehicle.

Our customers have told us that they find the tool to be extremely valuable in helping manage and track their fleet performance by location. Scorecard reports are automatically delivered to sales and operations people monthly, giving them the ability to analyze fleet performance and make better business decisions.

We also are wrapping up a pilot program of RydeSmart, Ryder's onboard technology/telematics device. It can be used for everything from vehicle location and tracking to monitoring driver behavior to better understanding engine fault codes.

Question: Have you seen any particular maintenance issues or trends with regard to temperature controlled vehicles?

Answer: Typically, if a temperature-controlled vehicle is spec'd correctly in the beginning, and the unit is on a good “preventative” maintenance program, there are minimal maintenance issues to deal with. Working with truck manufacturers early in the spec'ing process should eliminate many issues.

Question: While all fleets want to spend as little money as possible when acquiring a new truck, doesn't it makes sense to look at the lowest overall cost of ownership over a vehicle's lifetime rather than initial acquisition?

Answer: Yes, when looking at the overall cost, fleets must look at “life-to-date” ownership cost. This will provide an accurate benchmark cost for the future. Often times, companies small and large will struggle with capturing life-to-date cost unless it is accurately recorded via a fleet management tool.

Question: Are there advantages to contract maintenance?

Answer: Absolutely. For example, many vehicles contracted under a Ryder Maintenance Agreement have a guaranteed maintenance cost. This helps companies to be able to better budget their fleet operating costs, with no surprises.

Outsourcing the vehicle maintenance also provides a fleet with the ability to focus on its business and improve customer service, rather than devoting time and resources to vehicle upkeep.

Question: Can you provide some advice on the types of questions to ask when shopping for a contract maintenance provider?

Answer: Some key questions to ask a contract maintenance provider:

  • Is the network of locations that will service your needs within your radius of operation?

  • How many technicians at the locations are certified to work on refrigeration equipment?

  • What is the tenure of their employees?

  • What percentage of the maintenance work is done in-house? What percentage is outsourced to a third party?

  • Does the maintenance provider measure customer satisfaction, vehicle downtime, reoccurring repairs, and overdue preventive maintenance? If so, have them provide you with a scorecard.

  • Can the maintenance provider give you access to their maintenance management tool to help you manage your fleet better?

  • Does the maintenance provider offer value-added services, such as availability of fuel, safety services, and driver training?

  • Does the provider offer access to a web-based maintenance information system?n

About the Author

David Kolman

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