Oct 1, 2008 12:00 PM, By David A Kolman
Years ago, Maola Milk and Ice Cream used to operate a fleet of 20 three-axle daycab tractors and 60 refrigerated trailers. They were used to transport product from the New Bern plant to branch locations where the product is put into cold storage until loaded onto route trucks for customer deliveries.
It sold its tractors to Dairy Moovers, which operates next door and has the company handle the shuttle operations. This was done to better focus on route operations and to gain some efficiency.
Lawrance is standardizing the fleet's refrigerated trailers. As trailers are cycled out, they are being replaced with Hyundai Translead 47-foot HT ThermoTech refrigerated trailers with Carrier Transicold Ultra XL refrigeration units with electric standby.
The HT ThermoTech was chosen because of its “superior appearance” and heavy-duty design that provides greater durability and extended service life, says Lawrance. The Ultra XL refrigeration units were spec'd because of their reliability and temperature control with minimum service and maintenance. Plus, the built-in electric standby capability allows the unit to operate without having to run the diesel engine.
“By next year, we will have replaced most of our old trucks and trailers with new ones,” says Lawrance. “It's been a very challenging process.”
The dairy has a four-bay shop and four technicians. Most of the maintenance and service work is done on-site. At the branches, repair work is jobbed out. However, preventive maintenance is done by a technician from the plant in a dairy-owned service truck that visits each branch on a regular schedule.
Every three months, all trucks go through an all-inclusive preventive maintenance where everything is inspected, including all safety equipment, Lawrance says. Particular attention is paid to the curtain material, and all doors are checked for tightness. “Every little bit helps.”
Maola Milk & Ice Cream has fuel tanks on premises for reefer fuel and diesel fuel that it sells to Dairy Moovers. The dairy's trucks fuel on the road using a nationwide commercial network of fueling locations linked to an electronic purchasing, management, and reporting system.
Loading of trailers is done at a four-door loading area. Crates of stacked product are loaded onto a chain-drive floor conveyor that moves product to the appropriate trailers. There, a pushing machine drives the stacks into the trailer. Each stack is distributed evenly for delivery by loaders, then, secured for transport.
Three dairy-owned Capacity yard trucks shuffle trailers to and from the loading docks and the secured truck parking area.
Route trucks are loaded from a separate loading dock area. Drivers load their own trucks for the next day's delivery at the end of each day's run. Orders are pulled for the drivers and stored in a large cooler behind the loading area.
Route deliveries, many of which run six days a week, usually start between 4 and 5 am. Most customers have time-windows for scheduled deliveries.
“Our drivers, who we refer to as RSRs (route sales representatives), are assigned to routes,” says Lawrance. “This helps them get to know their customers, and that speeds up the delivery process.”
At one time, the dairy had independent contractor routes to handle certain geographical areas it didn't serve, but not anymore.
There are about 200 RSRs, including supervisors and relief drivers. The dairy has about 340 employees.
Because of the special nature of milk and ice cream trucks, the dairy maintains a number of spares of each type at branches just in case they are needed. “You can't just call up a truck rental company and find one of these trucks.”
Also new to the Maola Milk & Ice Cream fleet are six Ford F350 Super Duty pickup trucks with 8-foot slip-in insulated bodies from Hercules Manufacturing and Carrier Model Integra 40X refrigeration units that work off the truck engine.
These trucks, which can hold up to 85 cases of product, are used for emergency orders or for customers who have forgotten to order needed items.
The dairy also updated the mascot, Mooella, giving her a makeover into a “modernized,” friendly character, says Lawrance. Mooella is included on the new, brighter graphic designs for the fleet.
Driver recruiting and retention is not usually a problem at Maola Milk and Ice Cream, says human resources manager David Briley. “This is a good place to work and we treat our people well. There are opportunities for drivers to earn a good income and have a lot of independence.
“Working a route is like working for yourself. That's really the concept behind our routes,” he says. “Drivers are paid a base wage, plus commissions on their sales, with incentive bonus opportunities as well.”
When hiring (route sales representatives), the dairy seeks to find applicants who will be a good fit. Briley looks for someone who has a clean CDL and no criminal record and isn't afraid to work. Beyond that, he wants a “people person” who has good customer service skills and can handle frustration.
“The biggest reason people don't make it in route work is because it requires a lot of patience,” he observes. “Route salespeople have to deal with all types of customers, including those who are very busy and often agitated, as well as deal with the pressure of meeting store cutoff times and factors beyond their control, such as traffic and weather.
“The best route drivers understand that if the truck breaks down or the weather is bad, the day is going to be longer. They don't look at their watch. They quit rushing, do what needs to be done, and just roll with the flow.”
Some RSRs have been with the dairy 30 and 40 years.
Maola Milk & Ice Cream distinguishes itself from other brands, says Lawrance, because of a close relationship with dairy farm owners and a commitment to product quality. Freshness is assured because the modern, dependable fleet quickly and efficiently gets products to customers.
This formula works, as the business continues to grow within and beyond traditional service areas of North Carolina, South Carolina, and Virginia.
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