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February 2004

The Million Dollar Fleet

Each month NPTC President and CEO Gary Petty writes a column in Fleet Owner magazine that focuses on the individuals, companies, best practices, and resources that make private trucking the force that it is in the American economy. Reaching more than 100,000 subscribers, three-quarters of whom are private fleet professionals, this column provides an excellent forum to communicate the value of the private fleet. Click here to view the archive.

Gary Petty | | Private Fleet Editor for FleetOwner Magazine
Gary Petty has more than 30 years of experience as CEO of national trade associations in the trucking industry. He has been the president and CEO of the National Private Truck Council since 2001.

The Million Dollar Fleet (

The private fleet of Bridgestone-Firestone North American Tire, LCC, is among the top 100 private truck fleets in the U.S. In the past ten years, the fleet has grown dramatically from 94 to 300 tractors, with 600-plus trailers. Customers receive weekly deliveries so they know when to expect their shipments.

While Bridgestone-Firestone’s 275 drivers are all leased, the turnover rate has been historically low. Many of them have years of service with the company, often as much as 20-25 years. In addition to keeping costs lower, this low turnover rate means customers see the same driver every week. The fleet operates as a cost center with the motto of providing the “best possible service at the lowest possible price.”

The fleet’s overriding purpose is premium customer service to tire dealers. Drivers, who typically make 8 to 10 stops per day, are the front-line “face and personality” of the company. And they do more than driveâthey load, unload, and interact with dealers, so good communications skills are important.

Under the new hours-of-service rules, this combination of driving and non-driving job functions could have costly implications for some fleets, but Bridgestone-Firestone believes the impact on its operations will be only nominal.

All the tractors in the fleet are leased. Monthly operating costs are benchmarked against common carrier rates to ensure that the “cost center” reflects real market prices. Bridgestone-Firestone prefers to backhaul its own products, but will supplement this service with for-hire backhaulâmostly inter-company products. Bridgestone-Firestone has seven distribution centersacross the country, including a new 750,000-sq.-ft. warehouse in Lebanon, TN.

The fleet recently switched from outsourcing to handling its own maintenance using “mixed” dedicated leased mechanics. Direct control over maintenance means the fleet can better serve vehicles and drivers.

One of the most impressive features of the fleet is the dynamic graphics that appear on its trailers. “Full-wrap truck graphics is a big priority for the company,” says Ron Tartt, CTP, general manager of the private fleet.

“We believe strongly in the ‘rolling billboard’ as a critical value statement to the public, our customers, and our drivers. The trailer graphics, which can change frequently throughout the year, speak volumes about our commitment to pride of brand and quality of product,” says Tartt.

The training and continuous performance improvement of key fleet personnel are important to Bridgestone- Firestone. Tartt encourages his leading managers to become certified through the NPTC Certified Transportation Professional (CTP®) program, and to frequently upgrade and expand their knowledge/skill base to be more valuable to the company.

The results have been impressive over time. Why is Bridgestone-Firestone a “million dollar fleet”? The fleet will spend some $40 million annually in operations alone. Some 1.5-billion pounds of freight are hauled per year by the fleet, as well as 9-million pounds of returned goods, 255-million pounds of replenishment stock, and 64-million pounds of for-hire shipments. The fleet delivers more than 232,000 shipments and runs over 28-million miles a year.

The Bridgestone-Firestone private fleet is a source of considerable pride for the company and an exceptional example of how private fleets so ably serve one of America’s well-known brands.

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