Recipe for success: good equipment and maintenance practices

From supplying the raw materials that go into bakery products to delivering freshly baked goods, those in the bakery business know timeliness is critical. For them, nothing short of the most efficient operation and dependable fleet of trucks will do.

That's one of the things that's kept Ottenberg's Bakery in Washington, D.C., going strong. The 130-year-old company delivers freshly baked breads six days a week to the food service industry throughout the mid-Atlantic states.

Ottenberg's currently leases its 71 delivery trucks from Penske. The fleet is made up of Freightliner MT 35 chassis with 16-ft. Grumman step vans customized to maximize interior volume and provide drivers with better interior lighting, since deliveries begin as early as 2 a.m.

According to John Glynn, director of sales, safety is a primary concern at Ottenberg's. To prevent loads from shifting forward, a grate-type material is used to separate the driver compartment from the cargo.

"The risk of injury to drivers' backs, ankles, and knees," Glynn says, "is reduced by keeping the maximum step height at the rear of the van 3 ft. up off the ground."

Vehicle maintenance is performed by Penske. To keep deliveries running smoothly, a fleet of spare trucks is kept on hand as substitutes for those being serviced.

The company is also very careful about how it sets up its routes and how drivers use their time. Roadnet software, developed by UPS, is used to help them schedule deliveries and plan the most efficient routes. Thirty of the company's 100 drivers work on a "swing system," covering parts of routes for regular drivers on their days off.

Dunkin' Donuts stores count on regular weekly deliveries of raw baking supplies from their regional distribution centers. The mid-Atlantic distribution center in Swedesboro, N.J., services franchises in eight states.

The fleet is made up of 53 tractors, including Mack CH models as well as some Ford Aeromax units, and 63 Great Dane trailers spec'd with Thermo King SB III refrigeration units. The equipment is leased from Ryder Transportation and AMI Leasing.

Mike Shive, distribution center manager, notes that the fleet has also recently rented three 22-ft. refrigerated straight trucks from Ryder on a trial basis for intercity deliveries and small specialized routes.

"The major challenge on the fleet side," says Shive, "is keeping the trucks maintained so delivery schedules are met. To prevent breakdowns, we work closely with Ryder and AMI, and follow a rigid preventive maintenance schedule."

In keeping with the industry trend toward the use of premixed frozen product for consistent quality, the Dunkin' Donuts fleet has moved from a two-compartment trailer to one that is divided into three parts. One section is dedicated entirely to frozen product.

On a larger scale, Keebler Co. makes deliveries of its baked goods throughout the 48 contiguous states. Headquartered in Elmhurst, Ill., Keebler has 54 distribution centers throughout the country.

Vehicle utilization, says Dennis Soch, fleet operations manager, covers everything from trucks used for city deliveries making multiple stops and putting on relatively few miles annually to longhaul tractors used in overnight operations.

To handle the varied distribution needs, the fleet at Keebler Co. is comprised of 579 Freightliner and Volvo tractors, as well as 581 trucks, including Chevrolet, Ford, Freightliner, and International units. Only 400 of the total trucks and tractors are part of Keebler's private fleet, the remainder supplied by Godfrey Transport, a for-hire company owned by Keebler. The fleet also includes 808 Great Dane insulated dry vans that are leased-financed from GE Capital Fleet Services.

GE Capital also handles expense reporting of the fleet's repairs, which are performed by outside vendors, since Keebler has just one maintenance shop. "We h ave online access to GE's data," Soch advises, "so we can review histories on our vehicles and know where our major expenses are occurring."

GE Capital is also currently developing a Web-based system of tracking vehicle expenses that will be an improvement over the current system and will go online in January. The Keebler fleet is a beta test site for them.