Great article that appeared in Peterbilt's First Class Magazine...
Worth the Weight
Peterbilt Model 379s give Watt & Stewart a competitive edge
Neil Watt and John Stewart offer their customers an excellent performance record, conscientious drivers, and time and money-saving value-added services.
But so do a lot of trucking companies. That is why the founders of Watt & Stewart Trucking had to look for an additional edge in their pursuit of specialty hauling contracts.
"We're very high on utilizing lightweight trucks to handle exceptionally heavy loads for customers," says Watt, president of the firm he and his brother in-law, Stewart, operate out of Claresholm, Alberta, Canada.
Competition from other trucking companies in that market is fierce, so Watt and Stewart would have to set their service apart. The easy solution was to give their customers better service at a better price. To do so would require that they scale a legal load that many companies would find impossible.
Watt and Stewart have been partners since 1978, when the two bought a tractor and worked as owner/operators between stints on a Canadian professional rodeo circuit. They paid off the truck in part from rodeo winnings and moved ahead with their dream of building a successful trucking business.
In addition to their headquarters in Claresholm, Watt and Stewart have a terminal in Montana and are exploring the possibility of opening another in the Southwest United States. The company now owns more than 30 trucks, all Peterbilt Model 379s, which travel throughout the United States and Canada.
"John and I have always agreed that the Model 379 was the truck for us," Watt says. In fact, the two company principals agree on much more. They still have a passion for the rodeo - "We have the scars to prove it," Stewart says - and they share values and beliefs that have built a foundation for their business.
They also believe that the "lightweight"business plan is the key to their firm's future. So far, the evidence supports them. They have begun to handle heavy loads for a major tire manufacturer. The contract is a prime example of how Watt and Stewart use their lightweight trucks to out service the competition and satisfy customers.
"We haul tires for the huge mining trucks in Canada and the Southwest U.S.," Watt says. "The tires are heavy, and most companies can handle only six at a time. But because of our lightweight specs, we can handle seven."
"Hauling an additional tire each load is an enormous benefit for the customer, as it has a dramatic impact on the customer's costs," Watt says. "It's like getting the seventh tire transported free."
Achieving this payload was the result of months of hardwork and planning. "We started from scratch, well almost from scratch," Watt says. "We knew we wanted to continue to work with Peterbilt and continue to purchase the Model 379. It's an outstanding truck that is durable, reliable and built light. Our drivers love the Model 379, too.
"While we wanted to make some changes, switching to a different truck wasn't one of them."
Pound by pound
"Getting rid of the first few hundred pounds was easy," says Stewart, who handles most of the spec'ing duties. "We went to a Cat C-12 engine. That saved us about 850 pounds, and we didn't have to sacrifice performance to achieve the weight reduction."
They also spec'ed 22.5-inch low profile tires. "We saved between 500 and 600 pounds per truck by switching from 24.5inch tires," says Stewart, who saved additional weight by spec'ing aluminum wheels and cross members.
"Then things got tougher," Stewart says. Aluminum wheels and other aluminum features put the trailers at their targeted weight of 8,000 pounds. "But there's only so much weight that you can take out of a trailer," Stewart says. "The only way to get lower was by taking weight out of the tractor."
Watt agreed. "We turned to Peterbilt for help.
"We asked for suggestions on where more weight could be cut," Stewart says. "We needed to make a lot of 'little stuff ' add up."
The suggestions from Peterbilt were plentiful. Watt and Stewart saved weight by spec'ing lighter battery casings and eliminating one of the Model 379's batteries altogether.They spec'ed aluminum fuel tanks that hold 190 gallons instead of 300. "It hasn't hurt productivity in the least," Stewart says. And they had the trucks built without a casing for the fifth wheel.
Virtually every component was scrutinized during the weight review. The diligence paid off. Watt and Stewart reduced the Model 379's dry weight by more than 2,000 pounds. As a result, they had a truck trailer package that could legally and consistently scale more than 50,000 pounds.
"Most importantly, we cut enough weight to handle the extra tire," Watt says.
The firm is accelerating its trade cycle so that the Model 379 with its ultralight spec package will soon make up 100 percent of the fleet.
"We can't tell customers that we can handle the loads only when certain trucks are available," Watt says. "We're working to get every truck in this fleet to this weight level. We don't believe we can be successful with a partial commitment."
Watt and Stewart also have learned that there is more to handling heavy loads than spec'ing lightweight components."We had to educate our drivers on how to place loads so they would distribute the load weight evenly between axles," Stewart says.
Once again, spec'ing came into play. This time, Watt and Stewart looked at how they could spec tractors and trailers to make sure the loads fit properly. "We concluded that the best way to keep the weight balanced was to spec 48 inch Unibilt sleepers," Watt says. For some loads, such as piping and trusses that measure more than 60 feet, the extra space allows the load to be supported over a longer area.
"We explained to our drivers why we were spec'ing smaller sleepers," Watt says. "They understood,and we also promised to spec standup bunks. That way, they get maximum space, and we can still handle the longer loads. It's worked out well."
The ability to handle the heavy hauls hasn't gone unnoticed. "We took some steel to a bending plant in Alberta," Watt says. "They asked our driver, 'How can you get all that in one load?' Before we knew it, we had a contract to haul the bent steel back."
It's not unusual for their drivers to help recruit new customers.
"We believe in hiring drivers who represent this company as well as John or I would," Watt says."They have shown their commitment to us time and again.We try to show our commitment to our drivers by putting them in quality equipment."
Watt says the Model 379s remind both customers and drivers of the company's commitment to quality.
"When one of our trucks pulls up to a customer's location, the first class appearance of the truck helps communicate that I'm a man of my word and their freight will arrive on time," Watt says. "And from another important perspective, because of our Peterbilts'reliability that same truck will make sure my driver makes it home for his kid's hockey game."
~ End of article ~
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