Spec’d for Success

Bulk carrier likes Peterbilt’s driver appeal, resale value

Dennis Gavin - Caledonia Haulers Business ProfileLike any good truck-fleet manager, Dennis Gavin wants to build his company and keep his drivers happy and employed. Increasingly during the past 20 years, Peterbilt has helped him achieve those goals.

Gavin is the president of Caledonia Haulers, a 110- truck liquid-bulk carrier based in Caledonia, Minn., a farming community in the state’s southeast corner. The company was founded in 1958 when six men – all hauling canned milk to a local Land O’ Lakes creamery – each invested $200 to secure a bank loan to buy a straight truck and tank for moving bulk milk between area farms and the creamery

This cautious beginning was followed by a similarly cautious initial expansion. Caledonia Haulers operated for six years before acquiring a tractor-trailer. By 1977, the fleet was composed of just seven trucks – five company-owned and two owner-operators – and it served customers in only four states. The first Peterbilt – a new, bright blue Model 362 – arrived in 1985, and it ushered in changes that are now the company’s hallmarks: aggressive growth, an official truck color and a brand preference. By late 2006, all company-owned power units will sport a distinctive red-oval nameplate. Gavin attributes part of the business’ success to Peterbilt. “We’re based in a town that has no major shipper,” he says. “Yet we continue to grow. Birkenau We provide good service, of course, but we also run a very attractive fleet. Our trucks get tons of compliments, and I’m sure they’ve helped us get in a lot of customer doors.”

First Class CoverApparently, the trucks have been equally helpful in keeping drivers between the doors: cab doors, that is. The company’s turnover rate is below 30 percent, a number that Gavin considers excessive, but is actually far better than the industry average.

Gavin specs his trucks for maximum driver appeal. He starts with the Model 379, his personal favorite, and adds lots of chrome and stainless accessories, dual air cleaners and stacks, a 63-inch stand up bunk with sliding rear window and premium interior package. To ensure the biggest payloads, he also orders aluminum wheels and hubs, air tanks and cross members. His powertrain hardware includes Cat C13 engines, rated at 430 horsepower, Eaton Fuller 13-speed transmissions and rear ends geared at 3.55.

As if the “standard” version wasn’t alluring enough, Gavin allows drivers employed for at least 15 years to choose their own specs when they’re in line for a new truck. He says this is a popular perk among those reaching the longevity milestone, instilling a sense of ownership and boosting pride in the company. It also does wonders for truck values when the units are retired after five years of use.

“I sell most of the trucks myself and never have much trouble setting the price or finding buyers,” Gavin says.


Linda working with TruckCare ConnectTruckCare Connect helps Caledonia Haulers manage growth During the past decade, Caledonia Haulers has more than doubled in size and become a much more diverse operation with multiple ternimals. Managing such changes can be challenging, especially for a maintenance department responsible for an ever-growing inventory and the care of equipment that doesn’t regularly get through headquarters.

To assist in this effort, the company relies on Peterbilt’s TruckCare Connect software to track all aspects of its shop activities. Linda Vinson, maintenance office manager, says the system allows comprehensive monitoring of parts, service and much more.

“We can quickly access specific jobs, of course,” she says, “but we can also look at year-to-date repairs and costs for every truck in the fleet. “This information enables Caledonia Haulers personnel to identify and investigate service issues to determine whether they’re actually symptoms of bigger problems.

“It’s amazing how much stuff the system will track,” Vinson says. The company also relies on the system to facilitate parts ordering. google down The shop office runs daily reports, using “min-max” criteria for maintaining a desired level of inventory. When the number of a specific item reaches the low threshold, it’s automatically reordered through Peterbilt. Incoming parts either carry a barcode or receive one when they arrive. “Total control: that’s what we have with this system,” Vinson says.

Article found in the magazine First Class, Volume 26, Number 2.