Milking New Efciencies

There’s never a day off at Eagle Transport. BOLT helps keep the work flowing.

Perhaps no one is in a beter positon to understand the importance of a feet management program than Howard Miller. Miller has worked for Eagle Transport for 13 years—11 as a driver and the past two as the company’s lead dispatcher. “I wouldn’t want to be without the BOLT System, I can tell you that,” he said. “I know how things worked without it from the driver’s viewpoint, and I know how simplifed dispatch and payroll are now, which benefts drivers, dispatch, and management.”

Eagle Transport, based in Goshen, Indiana, operates 22 tractors with bulk tankers and is dedicated to milk hauling. In business since 1991, it transports raw milk from farms and plants, with deliveries to producton operatons within a 350-mile radius of Goshen. The business never sleeps—cows must be milked twice a day, seven days a week.

“We never have a day of,” said Gene Shirk, vice president of Eagle. “Pick-ups and deliveries can be a large jigsaw puzzle. Things get adjusted all the tme based on milk producton and where processors want milk delivered. We also work with organic farmers. With organic and smaller farms, we may have to go to 20 farms for a full trailer load.

“All told, this is a high-stress business and it’s compettve,” he said. “Dairy farmers are all about costs, so margins are very thin. For milk transporters, the most efcient are the ones who stay in business.”

Before Eagle started with BOLT, it had a manual system using Excel spreadsheets. Constant phone calls were needed between drivers and dispatch to confrm deliveries, and routng for new pick-ups. It lef room for inefciency and errors, and it took a lot of manpower to manage the business.

Today, that’s all changed. In 2013, Eagle Transport began work with BOLT to transform its feet management platorm. Eagle installed Omnitrac ELDs and BOLT’s web-based platorm managed the data. That combinaton has led to a signifcant decrease in dispatch hours; a more efcient distributon system; robust productvity reports andrecord-keeping; and payroll that can be done in less tme with more accuracy.

“Managing our business is much less labor intensive now,” said Shirk. “It all starts by using BOLT’s ‘route builder’ feature, which was modifed for our business.”

The feature can build any number of repeatable inputs—same pickup, same deliveries, fxed pricing—as examples. BOLT then creates a menu for each farm to enter its producton and “current cow (milk producton) schedule.” This allows Eagle to create a three- to fourday schedule for each farm. Once the data is input, each load can be tracked from pending, to scheduled, to delivered.

Time-stamping at pickup and delivery, courtesy of Omnitracs, then comes into play, along with inputs from drivers. But schedules can vary once the truck is at the farm. Locatons can have thousands of catle, and cows produce milk two to three tmes a day. That means the “actual” schedule can vary up to an hour or more on any given day depending on by weather, feed, even music. Yes, cows can be serenaded. Only the cows know when they’re ready for milking. If there’s a “cow-driven change,” the driver enters it through Omnitracs or calls dispatch. This triggers an update to the scheduled program for the remaining planned period. Once milk is collected, weight data is entered into Omnitracs for DOT regulatons and liquid volume.

Then it’s of to the producton plant. Afer a delivery, BOLT makes assigning the next load easy. “I have visibility of when a driver is unloading and the number of driving hours that are available,” dispatcher Howard Miller said. “I can look at farm schedules and determine if our driver can pick up a load or drop the trailer so a second driver can make the delivery.” According to Shirk, this step is critcal: there are tght restrictons on how long milk can stay in the trailer before the entre load has to be disposed.

Since farms have contracts with large processors, which have a multtude of processing facilites, Miller said it’s not uncommon to have processors call and request a delivery change mid-stream.

Shirk and Miller use BOLT to manage a wide range of variables—including cow-driven changes.

“It happens all the tme,” he said. “And we’re ready for it. Due to the mult-day farm schedule and real-tme data from Omnitracs, we can execute a series of trailer swaps (drop-andhook process) to make an adjustment.” On occasion, a stand-by driver may be called in. “The key is dynamic scheduling,” he said. “We constantly monitor movements and what assets are available on an excepton basis.” Eagle also can visually monitor the loads. Omnitracs updates locaton, truck progress, and the current trip route every 15 minutes. The screen will change colors refectng “on tme,” “possibly late,” and “defnitely late.” “This gives us a level of customer service we never had before,” said Shirk. “We can always update our customers. They know exactly what is happening with their loads.” What’s more, BOLT gives Eagle informaton on what’s happening with its own business.

“The amount of data I can pull from BOLT is just tremendous,” said Shirk. “We know exactly when milk was picked up and delivered, the amount of milk in the load, and the work history for our drivers. We can see how many miles were driven empty versus loaded, and can now reward drivers with bonuses based on the informaton at our fngertps.” That informaton migrates into payroll automatcally. According to Shirk, he and his staf used to manually input trip reports and calculate delivery distances, then enter the informaton into QuickBooks. No longer. “We cut tme spent on payroll in half,” said Shirk. “Since BOLT built PC Miler into our feet management system we know the GPS calculated mileage driven. Our drivers know it, too—there’s never a queston on mileage.” Going into a fourth year with BOLT, Shirk said he couldn’t imagine going back to the old model of dispatch and record-keeping. “It’s been a transformaton,” he said. “You don’t have to be a large feet to reap the benefts of BOLT. They took the tme to work with us and understand our business. It also helps that their management team has a background in running trucks. They know frst-hand the challenges of running a feet. BOLT has been a great ft for us.”