Volume 47, Issue 1 - January 2012


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."

Vehicle Selection
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 of load."

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 says.

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 mobile billboard."

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," he says.

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."

Smart Driving
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," Weise says.

Loading the Truck with Options
Glass rack suppliers naturally have a number of tips for selecting the best options.

"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 are touched."

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 mheadley@glass.com or follow her on Twitter @USGlass.

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No reproduction of any type without expressed written permission.