WINNIPEG, Man. –Lost among all the doom and gloom surrounding the Canadian vehicle manufacturing sector is a success story in which a Winnipeg trucking company has played a vital role.
New Flyer Industries is a major manufacturer of heavy-duty transit buses, with assembly plants in Winnipeg, Man. as well as facilities in St. Cloud and Crookston, Minn. In its most recent financial filings, the publicly-traded company announced record third quarter revenue of $303.6 million -a 19% increase from the same period in 2008.
Business is booming for the bus manufacturer, which received orders for 541 transit buses in the third quarter of 2009 alone. The production of each bus begins at New Flyer’s Winnipeg plant, with the body (or shell) then shipped cross-border to the Crookston, Minn. plant 170 miles away for further assembly.
Handling the complex transportation requirements is Winnipeg-based Arnold Bros. Transport, which has effectively become an extension of New Flyer Industries.
Fred Arnold said the carrier’s relationship with New Flyer dates back to the early 90s, when the manufacturer placed an interesting request.
“They came to us with a need for a high number of trailers and a low number of trucks,” Arnold recalled. “It was more of a storage and distribution need than a transportation need.”
New Flyer needed not only a trucking company that could get its products from Point A to Point B, but a partner that could also manage that time-sensitive supply chain from one plant to the other.
“They needed to keep the assembly line of bus shells sequenced and timed in Winnipeg…it became very interesting because of the trailer-to-truck ratio,” Arnold explained.
Today, Arnold Bros. has a dedicated team of employees working exclusively on the New Flyer contract, managing about 17-20 deliveries per week between the two plants.
The team consists of three line-haul drivers, a shunt driver and an operations coordinator who works full-time within the New Flyer plant.
“We manage the logistics between the two plants,” Arnold said.
Shells are shipped aboard 53-ft. dropdeck trailers behind Arnold Bros. tractors with drone boxes that house parts and equipment. The shells are light -weighing just 10,000-12,000 lbs each -but Arnold Bros. had to custom-design the blocks the shells sit on, to ensure the cargo would not be damaged in-transit.
The fleet has about 30-50 trailers dedicated to the project at any given time; think of them as warehouses on wheels, ready to roll on a moment’s notice.
In the 19 years that Arnold Bros. has been handling New Flyer’s transportation needs, the manufacturer has doubled production at the Winnipeg plant.
Arnold was quick to point out the New Flyer deal is not representative of the trucking company’s operations as a whole.
The contract represents just one half of 1% of Arnold Bros.’ revenue, he stressed.
Yet, it’s another example of how trucking companies are stepping beyond their traditional roles and becoming -to borrow an often-used industry buzz-term -total transportation providers, managing the entire supply chain for their customers.