The only things (somewhat) brighter than Tiger Trucking’s yellow vehicle graphics were the reflective yellow vests worn by those around them. But both were plentiful as the fleet celebrated its 35th anniversary – and cut a fittingly yellow ribbon to open a new maintenance facility in Johnstown, Ont.
The shop itself is run by Penske Truck Leasing Canada and Frigid, but is dedicated exclusively to the private fleet.
While still relatively rare in Canada, the business model is well established in the U.S. and is becoming increasingly popular, said Penske executive account manager Patrick Musacchio.
“Everything you see in the shop is the same as what you see in a full-service facility,” he told TruckNews.com, referring to the Johnstown location with two drive-through bays. “This allows us to not only grow our business but get right into the customers’ back yards and be able to support them with an exclusive, dedicated shop.”
The shop also builds on a decades-long relationship between Penske and Giant Tiger Stores, which initially only had a couple of vehicles based in Ottawa. As of this fall the retailer’s private fleet will have 150 power units, along with 400 trailers, 300 intermodal containers, and 60 chassis.
Musacchio admitted he was worried about how Penske would support the distribution center, since it was established close to an hour away from existing service facilities. Locating a dedicated shop right outside the distribution center’s doors was the answer.
“For us, it just made sense from a safety, environmental and people perspective to have that service done here, to save the miles, save the fuel, and have people doing productive work versus just shuttling empties back and forth,” said James Johnstone, head of transportation at Giant Tiger.
Rapidly growing fleet
That became particularly apparent during the operation’s rapid growth over the past few years, as it established itself as one of the largest private fleets in Canada.
“There was a noticeable drag once we hit probably 70-80 units,” Johnstone said, referring to the on-duty driving time invested in service appointments. “That time should be spent doing productive work and getting deliveries to our stores.
“Having our partners here to address issues, pre-or post-trip, to make sure that truck is ready to go back out and is safe is our number-one priority for us in terms of maintenance.”
Combining the efforts of two transportation partners will reduce downtime while also saving miles and fuel, said Paul Wood, president and CEO of Giant Tiger Stores. “That’s just another fantastic way to allow us to keep the costs low for the customer.
“That’s why we created Tiger Trucking 35 years ago … We figured out that we could do it more cost-effectively ourselves,” he said of the private fleet’s roots. “Now we’re sending our equipment pretty much from one end of the country to another. We’ve got a few more regions to get to, but don’t worry. We’ll get there soon.”