Change for the Better

Peterbilt trucks, PACCAR MX engine help Caledonia Haulers stay on top of an ever-changing business landscape

Dennis Gavin - First Class Winter 2010 EditionThings don’t often change much in Dennis Gavin’s small hometown of Caledonia, Minn., but you can trust that things change plenty in Gavin’s world when he steps off Main Street and into his office.

As the second-generation president of the firm his father started as a milk hauler 50 years ago, Gavin knows that each day he goes to work, he could be running a business far different than the one he ran yesterday.

“A couple years ago, we were hauling a lot of milk to Illinois,” says Gavin, who runs a 160-truck, all-Peterbilt fleet that will soon be powered by the PACCAR MX engine. “Today, not a drop. And we had a big producer in Michigan not long ago – nine loads a day. Today, it’s down to four.

“The industry changes,” adds Gavin, who notes that 40percent of his business remains milk hauling, with other food-grade liquids comprising the remainder. “There are bumps in the road. In order to success, you have to identify which lanes are working, and which are not. And you have to adjust and adapt.”

Despite the regular evolution of his business landscape, Gavin does have a very important constant on which he relies – Peterbilt trucks. The Caledonia fleet has been built exclusively with Peterbilts since the mid 90s. Today, the fleet is completing a transition to Peterbilt’s Models 386 and 387 and beginning a transition to the PACCAR MX engine. Gavin has 20 trucks ordered that will be powered by the PACCAR MX.

When Gavin was offered an opportunity to put some test miles on the PACCAR MX in a Model 386 this year, he decided to give it a try.

“Our experience with the MX has been fine.” he says. “Actually, it’s been excellent. Drivers have been telling us that the engine is very quiet, and with torque outputs up to 1,750 lb-ft, they’re happy with performance as well.”

The experience is Gavin’s first with the Selective Catalytic Reduction (SCR) employed in the PACCAR MX.

“I went to a couple of seminars where we talked about SCR,” says Gavin. “We had some questions there, but we’re definitely becoming more confident. The trucks have to re-gen less frequently so I think we will see some mileage improvement.”

Seeking mpg

With routes that extend coast-to-coast, Gavin made a decision to maximize fuel efficiency when he purchased Peterbilt Models 386 and 387 in 2006. While some of Gavin’s drivers were “long-nose diehards,” they soon took a liking to the new equipment, which started showing a fuel mileage return from the start.

Gavin also saw an opportunity to reduce chassis weight with Peterbilt’s long list of light-weight options. With spec’ing decisions such as the PACCAR MX and Super Single tires on trucks as well as trailers, the Caledonia fleet is realizing weight saving improvements as well as fuel efficiency improvements.

“We’re always working on our weight and mileage, and the PACCAR MX and Peterbilt’s aerodynamic trucks help,” he says. “What we’ve found is that we had to slow our trucks down to get the best fuel efficiency. Our mileage is really starting to come up.”

Drivers, meanwhile, began to embrace the comfort features of the Models 386 and 387, especially the senior drivers – drivers with 15 years’ seniority are allowed to spec their own trucks, and many have been pairing Model 386 with a 70-inch Unibilt UltraCab┬« Sleeper.

Meanwhile, Peterbilt benefits such as excellent resale value, a premium image and a strong dealer organization make his equipment one aspect of his business that he can rely on from day-to-day.

“We try to deal with fewer vendors and built stronger relationships with the ones we’ve got,” he says. “That’s one more reason the PACCAR MX engine makes sense for us, and we’ll continue growing and changing as our customers grown and change.”

What won’t change, however, is the makeup of the fleet. “A lot of people come in here and try to get us to look at different trucks,” says Gavin. “We like the Peterbilt equipment we’ve got and we’ll keep it.”

Article found in First Class, Winter 2010 edition, Volume 30 – Number 2.