COMPETITION WATCH: Apps Transport replaces a third of its fleet with new Peterbilts

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BRAMPTON, Ont. — Apps Transport Group has taken delivery of the first of 17 new Peterbilt 386s the company has ordered.

It’s a significant investment for Apps, as the order represents about one-third of its entire fleet and the switch to a premium truck is somewhat uncommon for a city cartage fleet.

Rob McDonald, president of Apps, told the company was unhappy with how its EPA07 generation vehicles were performing and decided to start with a clean slate when transitioning to EPA2010 technology with selective catalytic reduction (SCR).

“We had a lot of trouble with the early emissions engines, that was the primary problem we were having,” McDonald said. “There were a lot of breakdowns, a lot of issues and a lot of stuff that seemingly couldn’t be resolved. We did a lot of investigation and it seemed that as they moved from the (EPA07) to (EPA2010), there was a significant improvement in the entire process. The truth is, it was industry-wide. We had all the OEMs come in and we said: ‘We are not and never want to be in the truck repair business, we are in the freight delivery business.’ We want to provide as trouble-free a service to our customers as possible. I want a truck where the driver gets here in the morning, does what’s required, turns the key and does the job until the job is done.”

Local dealer Peterbilt Ontario Truck Centres, “put by far the best package together,” McDonald said.

The 386s, with 450-hp Paccar MX engines and automated transmissions are a heavier-spec’ than others within the fleet and will be given to dedicated drivers handling heavier loads.

“For an LTL carrier, it seems like overkill. But we move a lot of freight to Western Canada on an intermodal basis and some of those loads can be 60,000 lbs, so we figured we’d go heavy,” McDonald explained. “The assignment of trucks is based, for the most part, on the lanes guys run. If you run a lane where you’re picking up loads of canned goods for shipment to Western Canada via rail, you’re going to have a heavier truck. The assignment of the trucks was based on requirement and nothing else.”

Apps plans to keep the trucks for seven years – at which time they’ll have about 500,000-600,000 kilometres on them – and then determine whether to trade them in or continue running them, based on the condition they’re in. It has spec’d features such as automatic shutdown to reduce idling and keep the hours on the engine as low as possible.

“Our target is around seven years, then it’s decision time,” McDonald said of the projected lifecycle.

McDonald said drivers are excited about the acquisition and those who’ve been assigned one of the new trucks “have big smiles on their faces.”

However, he said the purchase was made for practical reasons, in an effort to drive down repair and maintenance costs, and not to project any particular image to drivers or customers.

“We do what we do because we’ve decided it’s the right thing to do,” McDonald said. “Whether or not that portrays an image is secondary. We bought the trucks because we know they’re very well built, they’re trucks the drivers like and we have great commitments from Paccar and Peterbilt on the warranty and service. How that reflects in the marketplace…maybe it helps a little bit, but that wasn’t our rationale for doing it.”

Asked whether it could backfire and indicate to shippers that the company is doing too well, McDonald laughed and quipped: “If anybody says we’re making too much money, I can shoot that down!”

A second round of premium truck orders is planned for later this year, if the economy holds up and the trucks perform as expected, McDonald said.

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