Dec 1, 2010 - 8 years ago
By Supply Post
It’s been said that without trucks, America stops. And, in the case of Murphy-Brown LLC, the slogan couldn’t be more true – especially for those who enjoy everything from their morning bacon to pork tenderloin for dinner.
As the world’s largest producer of pork products – taking 17 million hogs to market annually – the subsidiary of Smithfield Foods owns and manages 450 hog farms, plus partners with 1,500 independent farmers.
A fleet of Kenworth T800s keep the farms and packing houses running like clockwork. One hundred Kenworths haul 8-pocket bulk trailers with feed to farms dotting the Carolinas and Virginia. The company’s two other fleet divisions are comprised of live-haul operations where 65 Kenworth T800s move feeder pigs to nurseries and the top haul fleet of 77 T800s transport market hogs to processing plants.
“Every truck either hauls feed for our animals or the animals themselves,” said Al Searles, vice president of transportation for Murphy-Brown in Warsaw, N.C. “Last year we delivered 150,000 loads of feed and 48,000 deliveries of top animals to packing plants. It’s critical to have reliable trucks and that’s one reason we’ve standardized with Kenworth T800s. They’re very reliable and durable. Plus they hold their value. We typically utilize a FMV (fair market value) lease so the residual value is built in. There is always demand for Kenworths on the used truck market so that helps in adding value to the back end of our leases, keeping our payments low.”
The feed haul vehicles are worked hard – each averages 110,000 miles per year. In addition, 25 percent of the engine run time is spent at idle, running at 1,000 rpm to operate a PTO to offload feed with a 30-foot boom. “Many of the farms are also off the beaten path, so about 10 percent of our mileage is on rough roads,” said Searles. “The Kenworths hold up very well.”
While it’s essential to deliver feed on time, it’s even more critical for zero downtime in the live hauling sector of the business. “We transport pigs throughout the year – typically a 115-mile round trip from the farm to the packing house, or nursery,” said Searles.
“Since pigs don’t sweat, the only air conditioning they have is when the truck is running and air is circulated through slats in the trailer. So, if a truck is down, it’s really only a matter of minutes before our animals start to stress. So we do all we can to avoid those situations. We have emergency vehicles – ‘animal response units’ – on standby should that happen, but the best preventive measure we have is to run a quality truck to begin with and we feel our Kenworths provide an extra measure of protection.”
Recently joining the live-haul sector of the business are 12 Kenworth T800s equipped with the 2010 PACCAR MX 12.9-liter engine, rated at 430 hp, and driven through 10-speed transmissions. “We’ve been very pleased with the performance of the PACCAR MX engines,” said Searles. “They provide good power in a smaller lightweight footprint, and they’re extremely quiet. I’ve had some drivers tell me that they need to look at the gauges to see if the truck is on.”
According to Searles, fuel economy improvements look promising. “It’s still early yet, but the preliminary numbers we’ve been seeing shows we’re doing better in fuel economy. That will certainly help drive down our operating costs,” he said.
While Murphy-Brown has a standard spec for its trucks, Searles said that the company works with Cooper Kenworth on annual reviews to examine ideas to further improve productivity, drive down vehicle weight, and improve driver comfort.
“We have a great relationship with Cooper Kenworth and they’re very proactive in working with us to develop new ideas that might help our operation,” said Searles. “We will gross out in weight with feed or livestock, so saving weight is always in our best interest. We’ve added aluminum in many areas, plus the PACCAR MX engine saves us close to 350 pounds over some of the comparable horsepower, 15-liter engines we’re running.”