Refrigeratedtransporter 2004 Transam Web

Leading edge

May 24, 2013
TransAm combines skilled staff, advanced technology to provide outstanding refrigerated customer service

Companies that want to be industry leaders constantly look for ways to provide their customers with more innovative products and services. That is certainly true for TransAm Trucking Inc.

A major refrigerated truckload carrier based in Olathe, Kansas, TransAm Trucking uses leading-edge technologies to squeeze maximum performance and efficiency out of its 1,400 tractors and 2,400 refrigerated trailers. The willingness to innovate extends throughout the company.

Taking a proactive approach is critical to the company’s long-term viability, according to Russ McElliott, president of TransAm Trucking. Part of the goal is to ensure the efficient use of resources and reduce environmental impacts without compromising service quality, competitiveness, and profitability.

He adds that TransAm Trucking employees are encouraged to embrace creative thinking and focus on the future as much as they focus on the present. By incorporating the innovative ideas of its employees, TransAm Trucking ensures business sustainability for the long-haul.

Founded in 1987 with 70 tractors and 100 trailers, TransAm Trucking quickly outgrew its first terminal in Kansas City, Missouri. After moving to a new home base in Olathe, the carrier also added a terminal location in Rockwall, Texas.

Aggressive effort

From the very start, the refrigerated carrier worked aggressively to improve fleet performance and efficiency.

The carrier has a proven history of exploring and adopting industry innovations, such as auto-shift transmissions, auxiliary power units, and tractors with aerodynamic enhancements. The carrier’s efforts to conserve energy and lower greenhouse emissions have been recognized by the Environmental Protection Agency’s SmartWay Transport Partnership.

Innovation isn’t just skin-deep. One of the most important steps taken by the company was the implementation of load optimization software that helps the carrier provide outstanding on-time pick-up and delivery service.

The software analyzes data including load origin and destination, transit time, empty miles, and the driver’s available driving hours and home time needs. Finally, the system determines the best truck to ensure that the load reaches its destination on schedule.

TransAm Trucking also outfitted its entire fleet of tractors and trailers with the R:COM fleet management solution from Blue Tree Systems. McElliott says the system’s ability to provide truck-specific routes with turn-by-turn directions alone has reduced operating expenses by $500,000.

“Fuel and administrative costs are down, and our communications costs dropped by more than half,” he says.

“We’re seeing fewer cargo claims. The R:COM In-Cab Solutions in our trucks paid for itself in slightly over a year, and the Temperature Management Solutions for our trailers paid off in less than a year.”

As fuels costs climbed in recent months, the R:COM system continued to pay dividends. System developer Blue Tree crafted algorithms that use a wide range of data (including altitude, fuel temperature, and ambient temperature) to provide precise fuel economy statistics.

Blue Tree’s Fuel Auditor program compares the amount of fuel burned by each truck in the fleet to the amount of fuel purchased. Data on fuel purchased can be imported from electronic fuel cards, on-site pumps, or typed in manually from receipts. The data is shared through reports that can be used to coach drivers on ways to improve fuel performance and driver more safely and productively.

Overall, the tractor side of the system monitors driver performance and vehicle location, communicates engine and operational data, provides turn-by-turn directions, and manages electronic logs. Trailer monitoring includes real-time data for refrigeration unit faults, return air and discharge temperature reporting at five-minute intervals while loads are in transit, and recording of trailer door openings.

Young fleet

Part of being on the technological leading edge includes running a relatively young tractor fleet. The average age of TransAm Trucking’s tractor fleet is 16.8 months.

The carrier just placed an order for 1,000 of the brand new aerodynamic Kenworth T680 that was introduced in March at the Mid-America Trucking Show in Louisville, Kentucky. The tractors were spec’d with a drivetrain that includes 485-horsepower PACCAR MX 12.9 liter engines, Eaton Ultra-Shift automated transmissions, and Dana tandem-drive axles. The T680s have 76-inch sleepers.

“The new Kenworth T680 is a very impressive truck,” says McElliott. “We especially like the T680s fuel efficiency, visibility, and new dash and sleeper layout. We also have confidence in the MX engine, and we look forward to excellent results from the T680 and MX engine combination.

“The MX and enhanced aerodynamics of the new Kenworth tractors have delivered a 10.5% improvement in fuel economy, and that has really helped us offset the additional cost of the emission control technology. The reliability and drivability of the MX engine also contributed to a 12% to 14% improvement in our company’s driver retention rate in 2011.”

Gary Moore, Kenworth general manager and PACCAR vice-president, says: “This order is an excellent way to launch Kenworth’s most aerodynamic truck ever. “TransAm also was instrumental in our PACCAR MX launch in 2010, when they purchased 1,000 MX-powered Kenworth trucks.”

The TransAm Trucking fleet currently includes 500 Kenworth T660s and T700s powered by the MX engine. Those tractors also have Eaton Ultra-Shift transmissions and Dana tandem-drive axles.

Refrigerated trailers are from Utility Trailer Manufacturing. The 53-foot-long 3000R reefers have Thermo King refrigeration. Newer trailers have aerodynamic side skirts that are credited with a 7% savings in fuel costs.

Maintenance program

An aggressive preventive maintenance program keeps the fleet in top running order. Mechanics at TransAm Trucking’s two terminals strictly adhere to the preventive and predictive maintenance schedules.

If a problem does occur over the road, TransAm’s Road Assist personnel are trained to diagnose the issue and get the vehicle back in service quickly and safely. Operations personnel monitor all breakdown situations and are prepared to dispatch another tractor-trailer rig to swap the load and make sure the shipment is delivered on time.

It’s all part of the effort at TransAm Trucking to make sure the customers always get the very best service. ♦

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