Manager: Dan Vander Pol

Title: Director of maintenance

Fleet: Oak Harbor Freight Lines, Seattle, WA

Operation: Oak Harbor operates some 2,000 trucks offering LTL and custom freight services.

Problem: Spending more on maintenance is anathema to most fleet managers.

Yet that’s exactly the strategy regional LTL carrier Oak Harbor Freight Lines began to contemplate initiating last year.

The company believed that higher maintenance costs, in this one instance, could actually save more money in the long run in terms of reducing cargo damage while boosting fleet productivity.

In this case, the problem centered on the removable “beams” the Seattle, WAbased carrier used to secure cargo within its trailers. “We found these beams were inefficient, costing time and money,” says Dan Vander Pol, director of maintenance. “Beams would be left at one location after a haul was finished and then have to be shipped back to the next location as needed.”

However, installing a permanent “double decking” beam system not only would cost a pretty penny upfront, it would add to the fleet’s maintenance costs.

“Maintenance to the trailers would definitely increase,” Pol explains. “But [cargo] damage costs can eat up a large percentage of a company’s profits if they are not monitored carefully. Ensuring our drivers have the best securement equipment available and are properly trained on the use of that equipment is critical for keeping these costs in check.”

Solution: Oak Harbor decided to use the Kinedyne Kaptive Beam “double decking” system to create a “second floor” within its trailers to more fully load them with freight. Pol says the traditional “floor load” only method of loading freight often filled a trailer to capacity before it reached the allowable cargo weight limit, meaning in some cases a truck was being driven only half-full. The tracks and beams within the trailer of the Kinedyne system provide drivers with multiple cargo storage and securement iterations, with the added benefit that the beams can never get misplaced as they are permanently installed in the trailers themselves.

“This system helped reduce our damaged costs as the second level provides a strong and secure alternative to stacking loads directly on top of another pallet,” says Pol. “We also no longer need to replace beams from being mistakenly left behind at a site. The unneeded beams slide to the top of the track and are properly stored out of the way at ceiling level.”

That’s a big deal as the removable loading racks used by Oak Harbor prior to adopting the Kinedyne system would stack up at inbound terminals and have to be shipped back to outbound terminals. And with 33 terminals scattered across the Western U.S., it resulted in a lot of shipping costs.

Permanently adding a system like this to Oak Harbor’s trailers significantly boosted maintenance work for each unit, such as adding more items to the shop’s preventive maintenance checklist as well as extra items for repair and service. Thus, the question Pol faced was simple: Would that extra maintenance expense be recouped from operational improvements? The answer, happily for Pol, was yes—and quickly, too.

“The payback in increased productivity is probably within one year over the cost of purchasing,” he explains. “Decreasing maintenance cost was not our motive in buying the Kinedyne system. We purchased it because of its stacking ability and the flexibility to get the most payload onto a trailer without damage.” Today, 50% of Oak Harbor’s trailer fleet is equipped with the Kinedyne Kaptive Beam system, with more units being retrofitted every day. And it also fits in nicely with the 90-year-old company’s belief in putting the best maintained equipment on the road.

“Buying quality equipment and maintaining it for the long term is our philosophy. We keep our trailers for 20 years, so when we spec a trailer, we spec it to last,” Pol explains. “I believe this system pays for itself in a year with productivity and decreased freight damage. The fact that we will get that payback 20 times over during the life of the trailer makes buying it—and maintaining it—a very easy decision.”