Miller/Coors Distributor: ‘Side Loaders Way to Go’
When Ted Hudson talks about delivering beverages off a truck, he brings a little more perspective into the conversation than your average Operations Manager, the position he currently holds for Bonbright Distributors, a Dayton, OH-based distributor of Miller/Coors and a slew of other brands, including imports and crafts.
That’s because before he took this job, Hudson spent 14 years as a driver in a route sales system. “But our portfolios got so big that driver-sell went out the door in favor of pre-sell,” he explains. “You can’t afford to put anything on that truck that is not accounted for or pre sold, because every inch of space is needed to carry all the brands in the warehouse.” Bonbright offers 150 beer brands in about a thousand different packages – “20 packages for Miller Lite alone.” For that reason, “Side loaders, by far, are the way to go.” In fact, the only beer that does not go on a Bonbright side loader is draft; kegs are delivered via rear-load trailers.Bonbright delivers across 8 counties to several thousand accounts representing virtually every retail format, and “side loaders are the most versatile units we can buy,” says Hudson. “Compared with straight trucks or tractor trailers they drive better, turn better, stop better – they do everything better. With side loaders we get all the beer on the truck and the driver can unload the right beer in the right order at the right stop. He has easy access to all the beer.” During the holidays, when the route count escalates, Hudson may use some of the company’s draft trucks to deliver hand-built orders that are shrink wrapped on skids to the back dock. “But building separate orders for each account takes so much more time that it’s really not cost effective in a 100% pre-sell system,” he explains. “Side loading is the natural way to deliver.”
(Editor’s Note: A nationwide analysis conducted by Mickey Truck Bodies using capital, operational and refurbishment cost data from 20+ customers, found that distributors can lower per-case delivery costs to convenience stores by 4-6 cents versus rear loaders. Contact your Mickey representative for details of the study.)
Bonbright’s fleet consists primarily of 18-bay single axle side load trailers, which it has been buying from Mickey Truck Bodies since 1998. “We’re pretty much all Mickey,” says Hudson. “They make a quality product and offer it at a fair price. And they always give us what we’re looking for in terms of special bay configurations and weight limitations.”
That last part is particularly significant since Bonbright delivers to such a diverse base of retail footprints, including convenience and drug stores, supermarkets, small “mom-and-pops” and warehouse clubs. “In a delivery system like ours, where we service all accounts from the same truck, Mickey’s custom bay configurations are critical,” according to Hudson. “We put the heavier orders on the bottom of the bays and the smaller ones on top, and let the driver ‘stack down’.” Some of the routes include warehouse clubs and require wider bays to hold skids.
“Mickey has always delivered what we need, when we need it,” says Hudson. He relates a “case in point” earlier this year when the distributor procured another beer brand and needed an additional trailer to carry the load. “They came through without a problem. They are always willing to work with us. It’s good to know they’re there for us when we need them.”