First Class

Summer 2015

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Standardizing a fleet can be a chal- lenging task when acquisition is the pri- mary driver of company growth, such as that at Columbia Distributing, the ever-growing Portland, Ore.-based bever- age distributor that is already one of the nation's largest. At last count, 24 different truck mod- els, representing 10 different manufactur- ers, were at work in the Columbia fleet, totaling 488 power units. Such is busi- ness when the acquisition of smaller operations often includes the equipment of the acquired operation. And acquired fleet is required to hit the ground running to service the 112,000 square miles of territory the company covers in Oregon and Washington, with 750,000 annual stops and 6.7 million miles traveled. But for Director of Fleet Joe Braun, only one manufacturer — Peterbilt — handles his diverse needs in supplying new equipment to the fleet. Six different Peterbilt models now operate in the fleet, the most recent new arrival being the Peterbilt Model 220, fitted with 24-foot van bodies. The company also continues to take delivery on the medium-duty Model 337 to pull 28-to-37-foot trail- ers as well as the Class 8 Model 579 to shuttle 48- and 53-foot trailer loads of product in the efficiency-oriented hub- and-spoke distribution model. For obvious reasons, fleet standard- ization has its benefits, says Braun. Parts inventory and technician training is cer- tainly more efficient. Having a knowl- edgeable partner to help develop specifi- cations uniquely suited to the routes and duties of the equipment can also help maximize performance. Gear ratios and horsepower, for example, can be tailored to the equipment running routes through mountainous regions. An interesting payoff for Braun comes in seeing the needs he's identified real- ized in a product. Such was the case with the development of the Model 579, when Braun was among a group partic- ipating in various forums, focus groups, workshops and panel discussions steered toward ensuring customer satisfaction for Peterbilt's landmark aerodynamic specialist. "They showed us the prototype and we gave them feedback, telling them what we felt worked and what didn't work," says Braun. "We sat in the vehi- cles. They asked if we had specific wishes, what would they be? "Most definitely, they were listening to us, and they took what we said to heart, because the Model 579 is a great vehicle. The drivers who have them love them. "Similarly, we're very excited about seeing that happen again with a 12-bay delivery truck." FIRST CLASS l 19 Meeting Diverse Needs Model 220 makes its debut at Columbia Distributing "Image is very important to us — particularly with the rolling billboards we operate" — Joe Braun

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