Back in 2011, while seeking to further reduce fleet operating costs, Brock Ackerman, president of refrigerated carrier K&B Transportation, took a look at an automatic tire inflation system for trailer tires that he’d heard about.
It was practically love at first sight. According to Ackerman, he was so impressed with the potential the system held to produce savings from reduced tire wear alone that he “immediately decided to retrofit 150 units already built with the system.” Then he quickly went further, opting to buy systems to be installed on the 825 units remaining for that trailer build.
Based in South Sioux City, NE, the family-owned firm was launched with 25 trucks in 1987 by Brock’s father, Ken Ackerman. Today, the fleet numbers some 600 company-owned tractors and over 1,000 trailers, and ranks among the nation’s largest for-hire temperature-controlled carriers.
Ackerman relates that K&B’s service area roughly covers the middle third of the country, extending from Colorado to Ohio and Minnesota to Texas. He says K&B also provides service between that broad area and Georgia as well as to and from the Pacific Northwest.
No slouch when it comes to managing operating costs— the fleet currently reports an operating ratio of 95—K&B has realized a significant savings from implementing on its reefer vans the Meritor Tire Inflation System (MTIS) by PSI, according to Ackerman.
“It was a simple decision to make,” Ackerman recalls. “MTIS by PSI provides proper and uniform inflation of trailer tires. It’s the only system that automatically monitors and maintains proper inflation levels at all times. And that reduces tire wear, which lowers our operating costs.
“Thanks to the inflation system,” he continues, “we’ve recorded a $0.0084 savings in operating cost per mile from reduced tire wear.”
What’s more, Ackerman credits the inflation system for a reduction in tire-related CSA points as well as for the fleet incurring fewer emergency road calls due to tire failures.
In addition, he says because the system keeps tires inflated after a leak develops, “we can direct service calls to the vendor of our choice to avoid making higher-priced purchases that are not through our national accounts programs.”
Ackerman adds that having automatic tire inflation on its trailers also means the fleet “has the ability to fit tire repairs into the time frames that work” for its operations personnel around any given instance.
The automatic trailer-tire inflation system is “unquestionably the best investment K&B has ever made in an optional piece of equipment for a tractor or trailer in respect to return on investment,” Ackerman states unequivocally.
As it happens, automatic tire inflation isn’t the only way K&B is working to hold down operating costs on its reefer trailers. According to Ackerman, the fleet’s latest order for 53-footers calls for the Wabash National ArcticLite model, which incorporates standard features that maximize thermal efficiency and durability in a lightweight design.
Standard features that sold K&B on the ArcticLite include computer-controlled foam injection that eliminates sidewall voids for maximum thermal efficiency; high-density polyethylene flooring that reduces weight and resists corrosion; single-piece, Bulitex subpan that cuts weight and prevents water from entering floor insulation; SolarGuard material that prevents UV rays from being absorbed by the roof panel; and long-life LED front and rear marker lights.
K&B’s newest power units—Cascadias—are also spec’ed for operating efficiency. They are powered by 450-hp. versions of the 12.8L Detroit DD13 diesel to provide both “high performance and fuel efficiency” and further fuel savings. Driver comfort is provided by Impco ComfortPro APUs. Seeking to boost mpg is nothing new at this fleet. As Ackerman notes, K&B was first named a SmartWay Transport Partner five years ago.