Wilminton, NC: When Mike Ward bought a beer distributorship here in 1984, it came with $4 million in sales and what he called a Heinz 57 fleet of trucks. “Different makes, different capacities, different mechanical conditions,” he says. “Not very good.”
Today, the fleet and beer distributor has made a 180-degree turn when it comes to improving revenues and its fleet performance. Atlantic Shores Distributors topped $20 million in revenues last year with the assistance of a sharp looking fleet of 16 Kenworth medium duty trucks.
Distributing Coors, Heineken, Guinness, Pabst Blue Ribbon, and Red Bull, the distributor delivers to four counties surrounding Wilmington, all within a 65-mile radius. Through its 40,000 square-foot distribution center, pallets of beer go to grocery stores, and kegs of beer head to taverns on the backs of Class 7 Kenworth T370 tractors, mated to 28- to 42-foot dry vans.
The latest Kenworth T370 features the 2010 PACCAR PX-6 engine, rated at 325 hp with 725 ft-lbs of torque, driven through an Allison automatic. Completing the fleet are three Kenworth straight trucks with 24-foot, 8-bay bodies – delivering Red Bull. Two Class 6 Kenworth T270s, equipped with PACCAR PX-6 engines rated at 280 hp with 660 ft-lbs of torque and also driven through Allison automatics, make shorter hauls and deliver to convenience stores.
“When we got our first Kenworth many years ago, we put it in the fleet as a test,” recalls Ward. “The driver we had assigned absolutely loved the truck and he soon became the envy of all the other drivers. The truck just performed beautifully, had improved fuel economy over what we were driving, and we received excellent service from Cooper Kenworth, and their salesman, Dixon Baxter. It led us to standardize with Kenworth and the company’s medium duty product lineup.”
Ward says he’s been especially pleased with the 2011 Kenworth T370 with the PACCAR PX-6 engine optimizing selective catalytic reduction (SCR) technology.
“The truck isn’t even broken in yet and we’re seeing a 6 percent improvement in fuel economy,” he says. “We have the same driver, running the same route as he did before and he’s now getting 6.7 mpg as opposed to 6.3. He typically runs maxed out in weight and makes six- to eight stops to grocery stores per run. Doing the math, that equates to at least a $2,500 fuel savings we’ll see each year with that truck.” (On the designated route, the truck will average 65,000 miles per year.)
Across the board, Ward says the visibility and maneuverability of the Kenworths “are far superior to other trucks we’ve operated. That’s really critical to our operation and we love the fact that the new Kenworths we’ve been getting have the optional curved corner windows. Those, combined with the sloped hood and short turning radius of these trucks make them just outstanding for our operation,” he says. “With our convenience store business, our guys are getting in and out of tight spots – making up to 20 stops per day. Our tractors, used for our keg business, make about the same amount of drops.”
While maneuverability is a plus for Ward’s operation, so is flexibility, something that’s provided by the Class 6 Kenworth T270. “The truck is not only a workhorse, but it gives me versatility for my employees. Since you don’t have to have a CDL to operate the trucks, we can rotate different guys behind the wheel. I can even drive the truck. This gives us a lot of flexibility. Plus, it allows any of our warehouse people to give trucking a try," says Ward.
"If they like being behind the wheel, and they want to do it full-time, they can go on and get a CDL and then move behind the wheel of our larger trucks.”