When it was launched years back, the BFNT private fleet was charged with duties that pretty much any carrier could have handled. But its full mission was soon realized — delivering top-shelf service at an economical price. With that prize firmly in mind, this fleet has distinguished itself through continuous innovation. The result: It now plays a recognized role within the company as a key component of its logistics operation as well as a driving force in its marketplace presence in the U.S. and Canada.

Ron Tartt, gm of the BFNT private fleet, says the fleet was started up back in the early ‘70s to replenish distribution centers with factory shipments. “It's evolved to where the best use of the private fleet is now seen as delivering to end customers. Common carriers mainly handle replenishment for us although our fleet will do so as backhauls, too. And we do for-hire back hauling — to help pay the fuel bill!”

“Our fleet saves the company money over running only with common carriers,” Tartt points out. “But the other advantage is service. We feel having a private fleet deliver to our stores and dealers gives us a clear advantage over our competition.

“Our customers know not only what day to expect their weekly tire shipments, but which driver will deliver them and about what time they will show up,” Tartt continues.

In line with its twin goal of delivering top-notch service at the right price, one of the fleet's major initiatives is “working hard with our supplier to get the best return from our onboard communications system. For one thing, it enables us to communicate back and forth with drivers via email,” Tartt reports.

“We've also moved to electronic fuel-tax reporting so our drivers are relieved of that paperwork. Looking ahead, we are considering a dispatch system tied to an automatic payroll system for drivers. And we intend to be in the lead with electronic driver logs to ensure we are running a safe, legal operation.”

BFNT fields 300 tractors, including day cab and sleeper units, and more than 700 trailers, most of which are 48-footers. The fleet operates out of seven U.S. distribution centers and their satellite domiciles, which enable hub-and-spoke distribution around the clock by slip-seating drivers.

“Three of the seven DCs now have our own captive shops that were put in place when the facility was built or expanded,” says Tartt, “Our preference is to be in control of our own destiny,” he adds. “We can provide good maintenance service and do it for less, too. And the morale of our drivers goes up when they experience the personalized service that comes with a captive shop.”

Clearly, BFNT does not take its over 400 drivers lightly. “We are happy to report our driver turnover runs to 15% or less,” says Tartt. “We keep them by offering good pay and benefits, premium equipment that's turned in about every three years, and routing that gets most drivers home every night or day and lets them run to the same places each week.”

Tartt is quick to add that those drivers and he are among a cast numbering “close to 600 persons that makes all this happen,” including dispatchers, transportation managers, technicians, loaders and corporate staffers.