KAG fleet specs target efficiency,
Apr 1, 2008 12:00 PM
Kenan Advantage Group (KAG) supports its ethanol logistics operation with a tanker fleet designed for maximum efficiency, reliability, and safety. Tank trailer specifications also were optimized for hauling biofuels.
The fleet of more than 3100 power units and 4100 trailers is dispersed among KAG subsidiary carriers including Advantage Tank Lines, KAG West, Bulk Express Inc, Kenan Transport, Klemm Tank Lines, North Canton Transfer, Transport Service Co, and Petro-Chemical Transport. Vehicles are based in 35 states.
The job of determining the best trucks and trailers for the diverse KAG operation falls on R J Molder, vice-president of fleet services. In addition to the rolling stock, Molder also manages fixed assets.
Keeping up with the fast-growing company has been one of the biggest challenges for Molder. In a relatively short period of time, KAG completed six carrier acquisitions and 17 private fleet conversions. Molder and his maintenance team did an outstanding job of integrating the acquired fleets into the overall KAG operation.
Their efforts played a critical role in helping KAG build the largest fuel operation in North America. In 2006, the KAG system distributed approximately 21 billion gallons of refined petroleum products through a network of 77 terminals and 93 satellite locations.
Building a seamless transportation network through acquisitions is no easy feat, according to Molder. “When you bring a new company on board, there are definitely some people issues to deal with, and you have to make the people in the acquired company part of the process and create buy-in,” he says. “If you don't create buy-in and you try to force a square peg into a round hole, you're not going to accomplish your mission. It's not a dictatorship. We're here to work with each other. At the end of the day, everybody wants to get the job done and the mission accomplished.”
One of Molder's missions has been to develop standardized specifications that unify the diverse fleet and promote efficient operation. Most of the components specified on KAG vehicles were selected through extensive product trials.
Molder notes that component tests last anywhere from six months to two years. Equipment is tested 24 hours a day, seven days a week. While component performance is a critical part of the specification process, Molder and his team also take into consideration factors that include safety and customer support.
“We can determine which components work best and which don't,” Molder says. “However, customer support is one of the key factors in product selection. We think of the vendor/customer relationship as a partnership. Products must be backed up with customer support. That, at the end of the day, is paramount. Pricing is a consideration, but we dig deeper than that to find out about the vendor's field structure for product support. That is what determines the true low-cost provider.”
Using that approach, KAG has standardized its specs on Peterbilt, Mack, and Freightliner tractors that are replaced on a 700,000- to 800,000-mile schedule. Molder and his team work hard to limit tare weight for a tractor-trailer/truck-and-trailer combination to 24,500 pounds.
Peterbilt and Freightliner vehicles have Caterpillar C13 engines, and the Macks get the Mack MP7. All of the trucks and tractors are specified with Eaton Fuller 10-speed transmissions.
Components designed to minimize vehicle service requirements include Oil Purification System's OPS-1 engine oil filtration system. Installed on 500 tractors in the fleet, these units extend oil change intervals to 120,000 miles and are saving the carrier $239,800 a year.
New KAG power units are being specified with Bendix roll stability as part of the fleet's aggressive effort to prevent rollovers. Other running gear includes aluminum disc wheels and Goodyear and Bridgestone tires.
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