Keep Those Glass Trucks Rolling
Transportation Experts Offer Tips for Saving
Money in the Long Haul
by Megan Headley
Although gas prices may actually have dropped recently-down 2.4 percent
in November following a 3.1-percent decline in October according to the
Bureau of Labor Statistics' Consumer Price Index-most companies still
want to save money in the cost of transporting products. Sometimes, a
smart investment can be a good way to save.
"Over the years it has been forgotten by many companies-they invest
in high tech machines to make better products and increase service, but
they still transport the product they way they have for more than 60 years,"
points out Bryn Thompson, CEO of The Glass Racking Co., with U.S. headquarters
in Seattle. "Trucks are getting better so they can be smaller than
they have been in the past."
New vehicle options may not be the first place glass companies look to
save money, but it's worth taking note that investing in the right vehicle
can lead to savings in the long run.
First and foremost, be sure that you have the right truck and rack for
the right job, Thompson advises. "Many companies still run big trucks
with only small loads on for small trips," he says. "As customer
service has become as important as the product, companies need to look
at changing their fleet and running smaller trucks for the quick loads.
This will reduce running costs and speed up delivery time. We are seeing
more companies invest in small cab over trucks with 16-foot bodies; these
allow for easy turning in tight spaces and can carry up to 8,000 pounds
Thompson also suggests that larger outfits consider looking at a variety
of options in order to ensure they have a flexible fleet. "Companies
need to look at changing their fleet to suit the new trading conditions,
so a fleet ranging from vans to pickups, box bodies and full glass carriers,
will allow them to chose the right truck for the load on that day,"
Thompson also has a few words of advice when it comes to the specifics
of truck selection. Among them, he notes that "curtain side glass
carriers are more streamlined and reduce windage. This in turn reduces
fuel usage and costs-plus it allows the company to brand itself with a
|Saving with CNG
One of the first questions to ask when looking for
a new vehicle to help reduce fuel costs is just what kind of fuel
that vehicle will use. For Mike Kelley with TriStar Glass in Tulsa,
Okla., the answer is compressed natural gas (CNG).
According to CNG Chat.com, natural gas powered vehicles look identical
to gasoline powered cars and trucks, but run on the same domestically-produced
natural gas that powers home stoves and water heaters, and for 30
to 60 percent less than the price of gasoline. In addition, the
site says the amount of smog-forming emissions is near zero. In
smaller fueling locations and on vehicles, CNG is stored in thick-walled
steel, aluminum or composite tanks.
Kelley explains that he's been interested in natural gas vehicles
for a decade as a way to get off of foreign oil. "Then I found
out about these government auctions where they auction off surplus
vehicles and some of them are natural gas and that's how I got mine,"
It's not for everybody, but Kelley sees potential for CNG use to
grow in the glass industry. "We were planning on [using CNG]
but, being in a fabrication business, we need to use heavy trucks
and companies like Freightliner and Cummins Diesel are just now
starting to make natural gas heavy trucks. The problem with them
is those are pretty well all dedicated, so if you run out of natural
gas you're looking for a tow truck because you can't really put
it in a gas can," Kelley says. "Where I think the immediate
use could be would be for retail shops, because they're usually
not out on the highway. There are lots of different places where
they could put those specialized tanks, in between the As and different
places around the glass racks. They would also be a great candidate
for do-it-yourself fueling."
Kelley adds that do-it-yourself fueling works especially well for
small businesses. "The way all of those work is they're low-power
compressors so it takes them all night. The bad news is it takes
all night. The good news, every morning when you come in you've
got a full vehicle and you don't have to go to a station. You can
see that might not work so well for a consumer but it would work
outstanding for a glass shop," Kelley says.
He notes that most states offer generous tax rebates and incentives
for people who use CNG. To learn about your state's incentives for
natural gas vehicles, visit www.afdc.energy.gov/afdc.
Running on Empty?
One of the first questions to ask when looking for a new vehicle to
help reduce fuel costs is just what kind of fuel that vehicle will use
(see boxes to the right).
"Because of the greater distances that glass companies now travel,
the comparison between gas and diesel engines is now more common than
ever for light- and medium-duty trucks. The general rule is that if the
vehicle will travel farther than 35,000 miles per year it probably makes
sense to spend the extra money for the diesel engine. The diesel engine
is definitely more expensive but gets better fuel efficiency and will
have a much longer lifespan than a gas engine," says John Weise,
president of F. Barkow Inc. in Milwaukee.
"Today, with the price of fuel at the pump remaining high and the
addition of new diesel emissions requirements, the cost of delivering
glass has increased. Although diesel engines have more torque and power,
the higher cost of the new diesel engines compounded by maintenance and
repair costs have caused many of customers of rack builders, such as Unruh
Fab and others, to switch back to gas engines," says Robin Donker,
glass products manager at Unruh Fab in Sedgwick, Kan.
Regardless of what type of fuel you're using, there's one thing that buyers
should do before any purchase.
"Talk to experts before buying," Thompson says. "Talk to
the companies that manufacture the glass racks before you buy a truck,
van or pickup as they will help you with the correct one, resulting in
better efficiency and running costs."
There's another expert out there that can advise in efficient vehicle
selection. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) offers a program
called SmartWay, its collaboration with the freight transportation industry
that helps freight shippers, carriers and logistics companies improve
fuel-efficiency and save money. Launched in 2004, SmartWay® is an
EPA program that reduces transportation-related emissions by creating
incentives to improve supply chain fuel efficiency.
SmartWay partners agree to assess freight operations; calculate fuel consumption
and carbon footprint; and track fuel-efficiency and emission reductions
annually. In exchange, EPA ranks and publicizes partners performance on
the SmartWay Partner List. Superior performers earn the SmartWay Partner
logo. Participation in SmartWay helps shippers and logistics companies
choose more efficient carriers, assess optimal mode choices and reduce
their transport carbon footprint. Also available is the SmartWay Finance
Program, which funds competitive grants to establish national, regional
or state financing programs that provide financial incentives (e.g., low-cost
revolving loans, rebates, etc.) to vehicle/equipment owners for the purchase
of fuel-saving and emission-reducing technologies.
A SmartWay Transport Partner since 2009, JEB has replaced nearly its entire
fleet of trucks, with completion of this monumental undertaking targeted
for the end of this year. The new vehicles are equipped with selective
catalytic reduction (SCR) and diesel exhaust fluids (DEF). Both of these
technological advances will increase fuel-efficiency while reducing emissions.
The upgrade to the new fleet not only benefits the environment but serves
as future cost savings for the company and its customers.
"Participation in Smartway's Transport Partner program offers topic
related web conferences that have greatly enhanced my knowledge of the
new technological advances in fuel efficiency and the methods in emission
reduction," says Barry Blumenfeld, fleet manager for JEB. "Many
of our freight transport accounts are also Smartway Transport Partners,
which helps in our mission to provide eco-friendly shipping."
Planning the Route
For companies not looking to make an investment just yet, there are simpler
ways to improve your transportation efficiency. Chief among them is planning
their route in such a way as to minimize the area covered.
"Too few companies plan their route trips and deliveries well enough,"
Thompson says. "If they change a few things around and maybe not
go not till the afternoon for some areas, they will be able to load the
rack better and spend less time returning back to the depot to collect
glass or windows."
"Glass dealers have expanded the geographic area in which they search
out work largely because of the down economy and partly for growth opportunities,"
Weise points out. "I have found, in our Barkow archives, glass delivery
routing instructions from the late 1800's. At the time, glass was laid
flat on a horse drawn wagon with the top piece being the first delivery.
The most efficient delivery route was planned out so that the bottom piece
of glass was the last delivery."
Donker notes, "We maximize rack space to accommodate as many needs
as possible in a single glass carrier, thus allowing our customers to
operate and maintain one vehicle for daily deliveries instead of having
to send out two or three different trucks for deliveries." Planning
ahead is still likely the simplest and most effective way to reduce transportation
costs. However, today's technology makes it simpler yet.
"Almost every glass truck we see these days has a GPS on the dashboard.
The GPS is not 100 percent accurate, but is still very helpful,"
Loading the Truck with Options
Glass rack suppliers naturally have a number of tips for selecting the
"Many customers are installing a second glass rack on the passenger
sides of their van whereas in past years the driver side only configuration
was more common," Weise says. "The enclosed glazing bodies are
also very popular to help eliminate multiple trips. Every tool and supply
needed may be kept on board out of the weather and away from thieves with
the glass on the outside rack."
Weise also notes that aluminum and stainless steel are now the most popular
materials for glass racks. "They are lighter and more durable than
painted steel while being easier on the trucks suspension, braking system
and fuel efficiency," he says.
For Thompson, aluminum racks are the way to go. "Use more T6 extruded
aluminum racks on all size glass carriers," he advises. "This
reduces weight, which reduces fuel use, which reduces costs."
Michael Frett, sales representative with MyGlassTruck.com in Glassboro,
N.J., agrees, noting that 6061 T6 aluminum construction reduces rack weight.
According to information from the company, single-sided racks are a fuel
saving alternative to double-sided models, while slim, aerodynamic profile
eliminates wind resistance. The company also aims to provide racks for
fuel-efficient vehicles such as the Ford Transit and Freightliner Sprinter.
In addition, company representatives note that its demountable glass racks
save fuel and extend vehicle life, since weight and drag are reduced when
vehicle is operated with rack removed.
"Aluminum continues to become more and more popular because of its
lighter weight. That lighter weight translates into either more gross
vehicle weight capacity for glass or a lighter vehicle, which translates
to better fuel economy," Donker says. She adds, "On larger bodies
and trailers, steel remains to be our workhorse, but in order to reduce
the overall weight of the body, customers have chosen to enclose with
lighter weight aluminum sheeting or our curtain-side tarping systems to
protect the products instead of solid steel sheeting."
What should not be a trend is the age-old advice to maintain your fleet
regularly. "Keep the fleet up to date, maintain the tires and engine;
this will result in direct savings," Thompson says.
Super Single Showdown
Before purchasing any new vehicle, it's important to do your homework.
USGlass recently received a letter from one manufacturer calling into
question another's recent product introduction.
Upon seeing the article about F. Barkow's super single tires (see
November 2011 USGlass, page 50), Rustin Cassway, president of MyGlassTruck.com
in Glassboro, N.J., wrote to USGlass: "This article is inaccurate
when you state 'payload capacity and gross vehicle weight rating remain
unchanged.' This is 100-percent untrue … Significantly modifying a
vehicle's wheel configuration from how it is manufactured is very
dangerous and may even be construed as illegal by violating EPA and
Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards. In addition, 100 percent of
the liability for any accidents, etc., may fall on the modifier (rack
builder) and not GM or Ford. This type of modification will also void
any factory warranty."
F. Barkow president John Weise replies: "Glass dealers who buy
or specify medium-duty trucks for their business continue to come
to the realization that GM widened their dual rear tired conventional
trucks in 2011, much the same way Ford widened their dual rear tired
trucks in 1997. The problem this creates is there is no longer enough
room between the outside of the tires and the federal width limit
(102-inch overall) for glass racks on both sides of the truck.
"Some glass dealers opt for an 'offset' body where they get a
full length rack on one side of the truck and two smaller racks on
the other side. The side with two racks has effectively one rack in
front of the rear tires and another rack over the rear tires. That
configuration does not sit well with everyone, especially storefront
glass dealers. Another solution is the tilt-cab trucks, which typically
have a narrow enough rear track but cost more up front," he says.
Weise explains that Barkow has recently partnered with a specialty
rim manufacturing company to supply the conventional cab truck with
"super single" tires, i.e. replacing the dual rear tires
with larger payload capacity single rear tires. "The rim capacity
and the tire capacity of the super singles are either equal to or
greater than the original equipment that came with the truck from
GM. The payload capacity of the truck is therefore not diminished.
The advantage of the super single tires is they are narrow enough
to allow full length glass racks on both sides," he says. "No
truck warranties are being voided. No emissions, lights or brakes
Cassway disputes Weise's assertion that "the rim capacity and
the tire capacity of the super singles are either equal to or greater
than the original equipment that came with the truck from GM. The
payload capacity of the truck is therefore not diminished."
According to Cassway, GM states that gross vehicle weight (GVRW) rating
will be reduced to a single rear wheel (SRW) rating.
Cassway states: "The main point is that, per GM, changing a vehicle
from dual wheels to single wheels lowers the vehicles GVWR down to
a truck with single rear wheels. In other words, using the super single
will not give you the increased payload capacity that a dual rear
wheel truck has.
"You should also note that GM states that if an upfitter chooses
to do this modification, then the upfitter is then responsible for
compliance to all Federal Vehicle Safety Standards," he adds.
Cassway concludes, "As a vehicle manufacturer we are very careful
to comply with all laws. Modifying a vehicle is a huge liability and
the final stage manufacturer (the body builder) must follow all the
guidelines set forth by the manufacturer …"
GM evidently is taking this issue very seriously, as at press time
the car maker had involved its legal department to provide a response
for USGlass. We will keep you posted on this issue.
Before You Drive, Check the List
Robin Donker, glass products manager at Unruh Fab in Sedgwick, Kan.,
advises that there are a few cost saving reminders for maximizing
safety and fuel efficiency, no matter the number of trucks operated
or material used:
- Do not overload a vehicle;
- Stay within gross vehicle weight rating guidelines of the vehicle;
- Evenly distribute your payloads on the glass racks;
- Minimize trips;
- Avoid fast starts and sudden stops;
- Regularly maintain your vehicles per owner manual requirements
to help with fuel efficiency and performance; and
- Regularly check tire pressure.
Megan Headley is the editor of USGlass. She can be
reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
or follow her on Twitter @USGlass.
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No reproduction of any type without expressed written permission.