First Class

Winter 2013

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Up in a Down Market Peterbilt Model 337 fleet and a custom spec gets 10+mpg for glass business I n the midst of the recent economic downturn, business was booming at RF Supply Inc. of Bradenton, Fla. Starting in 2008, sales volume nearly doubled annually for the fabricator and distributor of glass closet doors, mirrors, slider doors and similar products. Competitors folded. And when they did, RF Supply successfully pursued new business opportunities with a vigor, and often acquired the tools and assets of their former competitors. Business was great and spirits were high. But among those assets they acquired was a piecemeal fleet of medium-duty trucking equipment, some of it more than a decade old. While the 10 trucks of various makes had served their immediate purpose, by 2011 company management decided the fleet had become a liability. Downtime was a recurring problem. The cost of repairs grew, as did the lost business due to 16 l FIRST CLASSCLASS delivery equipment being in the shop instead of the road. And perhaps no greater drain on the company's margins occurred than that experienced in fuel efficiency. One of the Class 7 trucks delivered a paltry 4.2 mpg. None of the fleet did better than 6 mpg. Convinced they needed a total fleet upgrade, RF Supply invited local dealers and OEMs to make their pitch. One stood out from the start. "Peterbilt listened to us," says RF Supply Vice President Mike Hoelle. "You could tell that they were going to be different." Custom product Hoelle has some knowledge of differentiating from the competition. Focusing on product quality and high-level customer service, RF Supply's success was due to its ability to adapt to a changing market, he says. "We diversified. And we didn't overextend ourselves. We made our processes better and our product better." But what wasn't better was the fleet. Besides the financial bleeding caused by mechanical failures, the equipment simply wasn't representative of the suddenly upgraded RF Supply company brand and image, and Hoelle knew it. So when he and fleet manager Daniel Williams began sitting down with manufacturers, they had a long wish list that started with getting better fuel economy. "When it came to fuel economy, I had an idea, in terms of rpm and engine size, where we needed to be," says Williams, who has a background in truck specification from a previous job managing truck rental equipment. "Most of the companies listened to me and said, 'Well, here's our standard flavor. What you see is what you're going to get.'

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