Sinton Dairy Foods Company in Colorado Springs, Colorado, thrives as one of Colorado's largest dairies, combining old-fashioned service with new multi-temp truck and trailer distribution.
Now in its 121st year, Sinton is the last major privately owned dairy remaining in Colorado. It started in 1880, just four years after Colorado statehood, when two brothers, George and Melvin Sinton, bought a dairy and a delivery cart drawn by a pony named Santa Fe.
Today, Sinton depends on the Dairy Farmers of America cooperative for raw milk. It processes fluid milk, fruit drinks, and cultured products including cottage cheese and dip. It also purchases hard cheeses, butter, yogurt, and ice cream from other producers. For delivery, Sinton uses late-model trucks, tractors, and trailers. Straight trucks have combination milk and ice cream bodies with eutectic plate refrigeration. Newer trailers are equipped with Carrier Transicold Genesis TM1000 multi-temp units.
“We are one of the largest processing plants in Colorado,” says Bruce Heidenreich, Sinton's distribution manager. “We receive 10 to 11 tank trailer loads of raw milk every day. Each load is 5,800 gallons.”
Sinton's distribution runs seven days a week. Tractors and trailers supply branches in Denver, Pueblo, Gunnison, Alamosa, Walsenburg, Lamar, Flagler, and Canon City. Independent distributors handle Greeley, Sterling, Colorado City, and Trinidad. Besides serving branches, the trailer fleet delivers to supermarket, convenience store, and foodservice distribution centers, as well as military commissaries.
“Our biggest challenge is to meet tight delivery schedules at minimum cost,” Heidenreich says. “We believe we can do this best by utilizing equipment fully.”
MHC Truck Leasing, the PacLease franchise in Colorado Springs, supplies trucks, tractors, and trailers on full-maintenance leases. Sinton runs 10 Kenworth T800 tractors, operated by 21 drivers who work in shifts around the clock. “We slip-seat, but we try to keep drivers in the same trucks from day to day,” Heidenreich says.
Heavy Trailer Loads
Sinton uses 32 refrigerated trailers — a mix of 46- to 48-footers, primarily from Wabash National and Utility. Newer trailers are Wabash 48 footers. “Fifty-three-foot trailers don't make sense for us, because our loads are so heavy that we can weigh out in a 46-footer,” Heidenreich says. “In addition to palletized product, we load a lot of stainless steel carts. Each holds 80 gallons or 180 half gallons of milk.”
For convenience store, retail grocery, school, and restaurant delivery, Sinton runs 46 refrigerated straight trucks. Newer trucks have Kenworth T300 single-axle chassis with medium/low temp 20-ft bodies from Johnson Truck Bodies.
A big distribution challenge for Sinton is weather. Colorado temperatures range from below -20° F in winter to more than 100° F in summer. Temperature extremes are hard on drivers and trucks. “I've seen as much as a 70° F temperature variance in one day,” says Mike Snow, assistant distribution manager, who schedules transportation and oversees fleet maintenance.
“Dairy customers typically want product at their door every day at 6 am,” Heidenreich says. “That challenges any distributor in any climate. Meeting delivery windows is particularly difficult in Colorado between January and March. The first road that closes in a blizzard is Interstate 25, the main north-south highway along the Front Range.”
Though distribution delays may occur in bad weather, only a major storm stops the Sinton fleet, adds Snow. All tractors and trucks carry chains. Tractors also are equipped with automatic sanders. “We have one set of automatic chains for a driver based in Frisco, Colorado, who runs over Hoosier Pass every day,” he says.
Sinton's routes are mostly repetitive and all are one-day runs, unless severe weather necessitates that drivers spend a night in a hotel, Snow says. Sinton branches receive product from the Colorado Springs plant two to six days a week, depending on location and volume. For example, the Denver branch runs eight trucks and receives two trailer loads a day, six days a week. On the other hand, the Walsenburg branch, with one truck, receives two loads a week.
Tractor-trailers run daily to distribution centers, club stores, supermarkets, and military bases. “We deliver to most Sam's Club stores in Colorado,” Heidenreich says. “We also serve Cub Foods, mainly in the Denver area. Another big customer is 7-Eleven. We deliver to their distribution center in Denver seven days a week. And one tractor delivers only to military bases, including Peterson Air Force Base, Fort Carson, and the Air Force Academy.”
On average, tractors log between 9,000 to 10,000 miles per month, and straight trucks run about 1,100 miles a month. Typically, Sinton trailers make one to four stops. Trucks make 15 to 21 stops per route. “We generally replace trucks every eight to nine years and tractors every five years,” Snow says. “We give our daily driver equipment condition reports directly to PacLease for them to handle needed repairs. PacLease does regular preventive maintenance and provides emergency road service.”
Sinton specifies tractors for driver comfort, safety, and efficiency. Kenworth T800s have Daylite doors with peeper windows on the curbside for better visibility, telescoping and tilt steering columns, and remote-control heated mirrors. The T800s are equipped with Caterpillar C-15 engines rated at 475 horsepower, Fuller FRO-16210C 10-speed transmissions, and Dana Spicer DS404 tandem drive axles with a 3.90:1 final drive ratio.
Trailer and Body Specs
Heidenreich, Snow, and Jeff Miller of MHC Truck Leasing work together to determine equipment specifications, Miller says. Trailers and truck bodies carry heavy insulation and use multi-temp systems to ensure product quality.
The 48-ft trailers are aluminum sheet-and-post construction and have Kemlite interior wall liners. They carry four inches of insulation in the nose, walls, floor, ceiling, and rear door. They are equipped with flat aluminum non-slip flooring, 12-inch-high aluminum scuffplates, and Todco PolarGuard overhead doors.
Sidewalls have three rows of logistics track spaced 20", 35", and 50" above the floor. “We secure heavy dairy carts with load bars between every three to five rows of carts,” Snow says. “Three carts fit across the width of a trailer; we can load 51 carts in our trailers.”
Sinton uses six-inch-thick bulkheads from Randall Manufacturing to separate temperature zones. The Carrier Transicold Genesis TM1000 has a host unit evaporator for the front compartment and a remote ceiling-mounted evaporator, 30 feet from the nose, for the rear. Sinton uses the front for ice cream, setting the nose unit at -20° F. The rear thermostat is set at 36° F.
Trailers have two 43-inch-wide curbside doors — one just behind the front radius, swinging open to the rear; and a second door 24 feet from the nose, swinging to the front. Each door has a grab handle and a pull-out step stowed under the door.
The 20-ft Johnson fiberglass-reinforced-plastic truck bodies use two compressors for their plate blower systems. They have a 4-ft freezer compartment and a 16-ft rear medium-temp compartment. A solid bulkhead separates the two. The front compartment has three -21° F Dole plates. The cooler uses a Dole Cold Wel PHO 80 two-fan, two-plate blower system. The thermostat for the second compartment is set at 28° F.
Medium/low temp bodies have six inches of insulation in the floor and roof and five inches in the front wall, five inches in the sidewalls of the low-temperature compartment, four inches in the bulkhead, floor, and roof, and three inches in the side and rear walls of the medium-temperature compartment. The 30- by 75-inch-high, pop-out rear door is centered and slides to the streetside. Trucks are equipped with a Waltco FSL-25, 2,500-lb capacity lifting tail gate.
Sinton loaders floor-stack the truck bodies. Some product is placed on steel-frame shelves mounted on the curbside and streetside walls in the medium-temp compartment. Drivers reach ice cream through 22- by 60-inch doors set 22 inches back from the front wall on both sides of the body. Milk unloads through a curbside door 30 inches wide by 72 inches high, located 30 inches aft of the bulkhead, or through the rear door if the lift is needed.
Dairies are judged by service and product quality, Heidenreich says, and Sinton does well on both counts. “We deliver high-quality products that are temperature-controlled throughout processing and distribution for optimum shelf life,” he says. “We use equipment that is reliable and driver friendly.”
Sinton is ready to deliver 24 hours a day, seven days a week. “Mike or I are in contact with an answering service at all times,” he says. “We also have well trained people at the plant on evenings and weekends.”