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Kenworth Customers - Gary Merlino Construction / Stoneway Concrete


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Fleet Owner  /  October 7, 2016

The construction market remains volatile, notes Ralph LoPriore, director of fleet assets and processes for Stoneway Concrete and its parent company, Gary Merlino Construction. “Wages are stagnant, and the cost of living is up,” he says. “Also, there isn’t a large backlog of jobs, and some projects are delayed waiting for permits and environmental concerns to be addressed.”

Business, equipment and industry issues such as more competition, a lack of new workers, the ongoing shortage of drivers, and safety and other regulations drive up costs as well. “It all adds up to an even greater set of fleet management challenges,” LoPriore states. “Profit margins are slim, and we’re being asked to do more and operate more efficiently with less.”

Stoneway and Merlino field a combined fleet of 85 transit mixers and 60 dump trucks. Based in Renton, WA, the companies include the Stoneway concrete supply operation, gravel pits, and a concrete recycling division. Gary Merlino Construction specializes in infrastructure work, much of it for the City of Seattle, Sea-Tac Airport, and customers such as Boeing.

One of Stoneway’s and Merlino’s biggest issues is driver retention. “We asked ourselves what we could do to augment our specs and use the trucks as a tool to retain drivers,” LoPriore relates. “In some cases, it was as simple as listening to what drivers say is important to them and adding comfort options to help improve morale.

“We also took a close look at how we can address operational issues by making more effective spec’ing decisions,” he continues. “One question was how to field a mixer with more payload capacity. Our customers always want more yardage with fewer trucks on the job, so we looked at how many times we sent out one more mixer with a small load.”

The answer? A mixer with more capa­city and enough power but without a larger engine. The solution? A seven-axle Kenworth T880 mixer chassis with a Paccar MX-11 engine, a pusher axle for weight distribution, and a setback front axle for a tighter turning radius and driver comfort.

“That combination provides the necessary horsepower-to-weight ratio and payload capacity,” LoPriore says. “These 12-cu.-yd., 80,000-lb.-GVW mixers can carry 4,000 additional pounds of concrete per load compared to a typical 76,000-lb.-GVW mixer with a 13L engine. Our mixers typically run six days a week, so the T880s can generate about $98,000 more in annual revenue.”

LoPriore notes that the newest mixers at Stoneway Concrete are equipped with Allison automatic transmissions for driver comfort and safety, tire pressure monitoring systems to improve fuel economy and lower maintenance costs, and air disc brakes to improve stopping distances. The company is also looking into outfitting its trucks with 360-deg. camera systems to improve safety on job sites. “They may cost $4,000 each,” he states, “but if they prevent one backing accident, they will be worth the investment.

“Too often,” LoPriore says, “we were making decisions based on what’s always been done before. We need to ask the right questions to understand our challenges. To remain successful, we need to deal with facts and make decisions that will deliver the best return on investment and a lower cost of operation.”

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