Dairy Farmers of America Inc., Mountain Area
Collects and transports milk from dairy farms in Colorado, Utah, Idaho and other parts of the West.
The Mountain Area of the Dairy Farmers of America (DFA) co-op is unique among the regions of the organization because it owns and operates a fleet of about 150 tractors and 300 trailers rather than relying on independent contractors. According to Steven Ciufo, Mountain Area Dept. of Transportation compliance director, this brings with it additional challenges and opportunities.
“We have a 24/7 operation with about 150 tractors, all Kenworths with mostly Cummins engines,” he says. “Our 255 drivers operate across most of the country. Because we have our own fleet and do most of our own maintenance, we were looking for ways to use technology to improve our efficiency and reduce fuel costs long before fuel costs began rising last summer. We are also working toward a 100% safe and compliant operation goal, so we were looking for ways to improve driver performance, to make it easier to do things the right way every time.”
In November of 2007, the DFA Mountain Area decided to test Zonar Systems' electronic fleet management system, a GPS-based tracking solution that also features an electronic vehicle inspection system.
“By the end of January/early February of 2008, our test was over and we began rolling out the Zonar system to the rest of the fleet,” he says. “One of the first things we discovered was how much time our drivers were spending idling while picking up or delivering milk, so we established a policy to limit idling to 13 minutes per trip under normal operating circumstances.
“The fuel savings results alone were simply astronomical,” Ciufo notes. “When diesel was about $4 a gallon, we cut our idling-related fuel costs from $17,000 per month to $2,500 per month, without doing anything else differently. We were actually saving money on fuel while the cost of diesel was still rising.
“Now we are also doing log book audits with Zonar, and we are up to 90% compliance,” he adds. “Matching the log books to the Zonar data makes it easy to sit down with drivers and coach them.
“The Zonar electronic vehicle inspection system has also been a huge plus for us. Some drivers feel like they wrote the book on trucks and trucking, but there is a lot of misinformation and partial information out there that is tough to change,” Ciufo says. “With the Zonar system, we've automated and standardized our pre- and post-trip inspections. Drivers carry their handheld scanners around the vehicle to electronic tabs at each of six inspection zones on the truck. When they ping the tab, it pops up a menu on the handheld listing everything that has to be checked in that zone.
“I also set a minimum pretrip inspection time of 15 minutes,” he adds. “I don't want to see anything under that on the inspection reports; if it takes longer, that is just fine. With our new system, our safety numbers have already improved. We feel like it is a good training tool as well as a good compliance tool, and our drivers like it.
“Since the system allows our transportation managers to monitor routes, we can more accurately predict arrival times at dairy farms and processing plants. I feel like we've just grabbed this by the reins and we've already made so much progress,” Ciufo says.