How one carrier saved fuel (surprise) and maintenance costs
05.20.12
XTRA Lease
Learn how one carrier saved on fuel and maintenance costs

​Dobbs Trucking was growing faster than it could get trailers. Its chief customer, a retail shipper, relied on the carrier increasingly more to haul products from its distribution center to their retail stores. 

But not only did owner Ron Dobbs find a solution to get reliable trailers, he surprised himself by saving on fuel costs, averaging .3 -.7 miles more per gallon, thanks to aerodynamic side skirts.

Growing fast

When the economy was putting the brakes on many trucking carriers, Ron Dobbs found himself in an enviable position. His company was growing.

Dobbs didn’t even plan on getting into business as a carrier. He was a long-time truck-driver, with more than 30 years behind the wheel. But when the opportunity arose in 2001, he took it. He set up shop in his living room and got into the business end of trucking.

“I was driving for us and had two other trucks at the time,” Dobbs recalled. “My wife dispatched us out of our home and kept us all loaded. We were dedicated to one company and they gave us some jobs to do. They liked what we did and gave us more and more work.”

Dobbs continues to provide dedicated service to that same customer. However, he now has a fleet of 25 trucks and 50 trailers and a brand new facility. Furthermore, much of this growth occurred between 2007-2011, when many small fleets were going out of business or scrapping to stay alive.

Running out of trailers

In 2011, Dobbs faced a problem – he ran out of trailers. His normal trailer supplier didn’t have the equipment he needed. But with more loads to move, Dobbs shopped around for another rental trailer provider.

His requirements were straightforward:  trailers that were reliable, low-maintenance and in good condition. After all, he had built his reputation on premium service and on-time deliveries. He could not afford roadside breakdowns caused by faulty equipment. Dobbs knew older trailers meant more maintenance.

“With older trailers, you need two mechanics, you need service trucks, because our trailers are on our customer’s site, and the mechanics would have to make service calls to fix them and spend the day over there,” he said. “The maintenance costs would be as high as the cost to lease new trailers. 

“I started in business by leasing older trailers that were worn out, and we had to do a lot of work to keep them running,” he added. “That was expensive.”

Finding a solution

Dobbs started with two rental trailers he thought he would need for about two weeks. Soon, he needed more. 

At that point, he began to discuss the advantages of acquiring newer equipment through long-term leasing, where the rates and maintenance package were more favorable, he said.

Dobbs says renting and leasing trailers have been “very valuable to me.” He prefers to operate trailers not older than five years.  The lease program has enabled him to acquire newer equipment he otherwise wouldn’t access. That newer equipment has taken the pressure off maintenance and costly breakdowns.

“One set of tires, a set of brakes and you’re virtually maintenance-free with XTRA Lease trailers,” he said.  “New trailers we get from XTRA Lease, we service them, check the tires and that’s it.  We don’t have to worry about it.”

Furthermore, Dobbs explains, he needed trailers that would hold up under any condition. “The product I haul…it can’t get wet,” he said.  “As a trailer gets older, it starts to get leaks, the coating wears off the floors and the wood absorbs moisture. I’ve decided I’m better off with leasing, which gives me access to newer trailers.”

Surprise! Lower fuel costs

One of the biggest surprises to Dobbs has been the fuel savings he’s getting through side-skirted trailers.  He admits he was skeptical at first.

“My first impression of the skirts was negative,” he said. “I thought, ‘This can’t make a difference. There’s no way these things can help.’ I had to see it to believe it, but the skirts made me a believer.”

Dobbs assigned one of the skirted trailers to a driver and asked the driver to pay attention to his mileage.

The result? Depending on weight, wind conditions and more, he determined the skirted trailers were producing an improvement of between .3 and .7 miles more per gallon than non-skirted trailers.

“That was a great difference,” Dobbs said. “There was enough of a difference that I would definitely recommend them. With fuel as high as it is now, it’s money in your pocket.”

Counting on Success

With XTRA Lease providing quality equipment that his company can rely on, Dobbs feels he can continue to focus on serving his customers. 

“It takes a lot of work to get the job done, but we’ve kept our nose to the grindstone and it’s paid off,” he said.