By Mike Sheldrick
AmeriFleet, a leading fleet logistics provider, has expanded an enhanced vehicle transport and hauler program that can provide faster and cheaper movement of customer vehicles to different corporate destinations. AmeriFleet CEO Rich Dennis, who instituted the new program in response to a number of market factors as well as requests from clients looking for new and better ways to move vehicles in highly-congested areas, such as the Northeast and California.
Key to the new program are the new “Hot Shot” vehicle transporters, which carry 3-4 or 5-7 cars. These are significantly smaller that than 10+ vehicles that can be carried by a standard tractor trailer. Up to 10 percent of AmerFleet’s customers request truck carrier services rather than driveaway service, Dennis explains.
“For these orders,” he continues, “we usually brokered the truck transport portion of the service to third-party auto haulers with whom our company has established relationships and service level agreements.” Several years ago, AmeriFleet had acquired a small fleet of 10-car haulers in order to better serve its customers.
But while the new system provided increases in efficiency and customer service, it was not entirely satisfactory, Dennis notes. “We found that the degree of geographic diversity in the truck carrier requests, the difficulty of quickly loading and offloading single units from a large hauler, and the challenges of large haulers moving in and out of our clients’ sites (office parks, residential areas), made the initiative less successful than we had hoped.”
Hence the move to the hot shot units. Beginning in mid-2015, a new 3-car “hot shot” vehicle hauler began operating in sections of the Northeast. In January of this year, a 5-car hauler was added on a Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Sacramento route. Three new 5-car haulers are on order with delivery expected by late April; there are also plans to operate out of the Orlando, Philadelphia, and Chicago/South Bend markets. Looking further ahead, the company also plans to add additional equipment in the Dallas/Ft. Worth area, as well as more West Coast-based units.
Smaller than traditional vehicle haulers, the “hot shots” and 5-car haulers are helping AmeriFleet react more nimbly by allowing one driver to quickly pick up — and then transport — the same number of vehicles it would take a team of drivers to accomplish without the haulers. AmeriFleet has been training some of its hauler drivers to operate these new units. The new initiative was developed after looking more closely at the traffic patterns of AmeriFleet’s driveaway deliveries and the ease of use and the flexibility of the smaller hot shot haulers.
“With 3-5 car haulers,” says Dennis, “we can more easily navigate restricted areas due to their reduced size over 10-car units. Plus, our driver can more quickly load/unload vehicles and have services done (detailing, in-route services like oil changes, titling, and registration) enroute and prior to delivery.”
This varies a great deal based on the orders. “Our driver can pick up and deliver directly without staging through one of our 68 locations, and can complete in-route services with little difficulty,” Dennis points out. Other times, haulers can make a pick-up that comes into the AmeriFleet system while the hot shot is on its way to a delivery, and drop that unit at one of the company’s locations for the local staff to complete any services and finalize a delivery.
Looking forward to seeing how the initiative plays out, Vice President of Operations Terri Stiffler, who has been managing the program, said she is encouraged by initial efforts, and eager to find other new ways to help customers as their needs change. “This is just the first example of a lot of great things we have planned at AmeriFleet,” Stiffler said. “And if the results so far are any indication, I think the marketplace will be both surprised — and pleased — with what we’ll have to offer.”