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Beverage distribution: It takes the right types of vehicles to meet customer demands

After A Day on the ski slopes and recreation areas west of Denver, skiers, snowboarders, and snowmobilers can usually count on finding local supermarket, convenience, and liquor stores well-stocked with their favorite Anheuser-Busch beverages. The Littleton, Colorado, sales and distribution center of Standard Sales Company, an Anheuser-Busch exclusive wholesaler and distributor, keeps those store shelves and coolers full with daily deliveries of 500 to 600 cases of beer and other alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages.

During the winter, many of Standard Sales' deliveries from the Littleton distribution center are to stores in communities near the Breckenridge, Keystone, Arapahoe, and Copper Mountain ski resorts. There are also beverage deliveries to stores in northern Jackson County near the Wyoming state border, and east to stores in Elbert County.

“Our sales region is the largest territory in our company and the most challenging geographically, particularly during the winter months,” said Matt Campbell, fleet manager for the Littleton distribution center. “Our trucks must handle pulling loads up hills and passes with 6% to 8% grades.”

The distribution center has 11 routes that vary in length and number of stops. Drivers are assigned to routes and specific trucks.

Deliveries are made five days a week, Monday through Friday. Occasionally, some drivers may need to work on Saturdays to make up for missed deliveries due to weather-related road closures.

Since many stores require deliveries be completed by 11 am, drivers start their days early in the morning with deliveries to supermarkets, corner grocery stores. and convenience stores. Then they continue with deliveries to liquor stores and bars, usually completing their routes by late afternoon or early evening.

Equipment variety

The Standard Sales fleet at Littleton is all Kenworth. The nine heavy-duty tractors and four medium-duty trucks are leased through Paccar Leasing (PacLease) and its local franchise, MHC PacLease. Also on lease from PacLease are 14 trailers of various sizes. All truck bodies and trailers are Hackney models.

The trailers use a Multiplex glycol refrigeration system to keep beverages at a constant temperature. Built expressly for Anheuser-Busch, the Multiplex system was designed specifically for refrigerated beer storage, with systems for draught coolers, repack rooms, trailers, and controlled-environment warehouses and facilities.

The Multiplex trailer system circulates food-grade anti-freeze (glycol) through a series of pipes through the trailer, Campbell explained. There is no hot condenser. Air is circulated across the glycol and through an air vent by a series of fans.

The heavy-duty T800s are all day cab tractors, spec'd with short wheelbases for better maneuverability in parking lots and on narrow streets. Eight of these are single rear axle models equipped with a Caterpillar C-13 diesel engine rated at 350 hp and 1,550 ft-lb torque, powered through a 10-speed Eaton-Fuller manual transmission.

The other tractor, a tandem rear axle model, has a Cummins ISX engine rated at 475 hp and 1,650 ft-lb torque, also backed to a 10-speed Eaton-Fuller manual transmission. It is mated to an insulated van trailer with a Waltco liftgate. The rig is used for bulk deliveries.

The other 13 trailers are side-loading beverage models. As with the straight trucks, each customer's order or a group of customer orders are built at the distribution center on pallets. The pallets are then loaded onto the trailer. The delivery person unloads the pallets at each customer.

This method saves time and increases efficiency by making it unnecessary for the delivery person to build orders at each of their stops.

Three of the four medium-duty trucks are Class 7 T300 models. These are spec'd with Cummins ISC diesel engines rated at 315 hp and 950 ft-lb torque with 6-speed Allison automatic transmissions.

The other is a T270 equipped with a Paccar PX-8 engine rated at 260 hp and 800 ft-lb torque backed to a 5-speed Allison automatic. A Class 6 truck, it gives Standard Sales the operational flexibility of putting a driver without a CDL behind the wheel.

The T270 is used for delivers to stores in Walden, Colorado, a small community 150 miles north of Littleton near the Wyoming state border. It burns less fuel than the T800 when making that trip every other Thursday, noted Campbell.

Delivery focus

Campbell said the Littleton distribution center leases trucks so that it can concentrate efforts on delivering beverages and not on buying and maintaining trucks. By leasing trucks, the center can also preserve the company's credit lines, enabling it to reinvest valuable capital resources in growing the business.

The Littleton operation started leasing Kenworth trucks from PacLease about five years ago, and has used the leasing company's expertise to acquire “mountain-friendly” trucks that can haul more beverages more efficiently, said Campbell.

Truck capacity is critical to Standard Sales, he noted, since Colorado state law limits the kind of beer supermarkets, convenience stores, and limited public events can sell. State law allows them to sell beer with no more than 3.2% alcohol by weight volume, or about half the potency of the regular beer sold at liquor stores.

Since customers tend to buy more “3.2 beer,” the wholesaler must be able to pack its trucks and trailers with more product.

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