Poultry Professionals thriving after 30 years – Imler’s Poultry

Fleet Manager

Aug 3, 2020

The times truly have changed.

With the novel coronavirus upending lives, and the economy, the country can feel almost unrecognizable today from what it was only a few months ago. And, more broadly, transportation equipment has evolved over the last few decades, along with many of the faces, routes and sites seen over the road.

“We service our customers different than anybody else,” said Fred Imler II, co-owner and president of Imler’s. “If we mess up an order, we don’t say, ‘Well, your next delivery day is Monday.’ If we mess the order up today we take care of it today, whether it’s running a special trip or whatever. The only thing we have to offer that nobody else has is service, and that’s because of the dedicated employees we have and our family tradition.

“We’re going to take care of the customer.”



Imler’s origins


Bryan Imler, 45, who oversees all aspects of the business after focusing on sales and purchasing for many years; his father, Fred Imler II; and his grandfather, Fred Imler Sr, run the 117-year-old company together. Fred Imler II recently turned 64, and he said his dad, who recently reached 87—both were born April 30—still loves beating him to work. They’re driven by passion for what they do, and long-standing pride in the company’s history.

The business traces its origins to 1903, when Leff Imler, Fred Sr’s great, great uncle, operated a general store in Rainsburg where he traded with local farmers. Fred Sr’s grandfather purchased the business in 1915, and three years later moved it to downtown Altoona—where they operated for nearly 100 years.



Consulting drivers


Fred II said 30 years ago that discussing specifications with drivers before and after vehicle purchases made Imler’s a better place to work. That hasn’t changed either. After all, no one knows the trucks and trailers better than the people operating them. The size of Imler’s vehicle fleet, however, is vastly different today.

The long-haul fleet now includes 32 sleeper tractors and 41 53-foot trailers, and the company deploys four day-cab tractors, six 42-foot trailers and 15 straight trucks for local distribution. So Imler’s combined fleet has grown from 30 vehicles in 1990 to 98 in 2020, with approximately 70 truck drivers behind the wheels.

All ’66 Corvette-yellow tractors are Volvos, and the majority boast “smooth-shifting” fully automatic transmissions Jim Gonter, Imler’s long-time transportation coordinator, says most drivers really like, although the company does have five 13-speed standard transmissions for the old-school drivers who appreciate the control, and all drivers are required to train on automatics and standards so they’re never stranded.



Fully accessorized


In line with making sure drivers are comfortable on the road, Imler’s also specs its sleepers with refrigerators and easily accessible microwave plugs. The company also pays for SiriusXM satellite radio and EpicVue satellite TV, ensuring drivers never are bored, even while taking the mandated 10 hours off under new hours-of-service rules. The EpicVue package includes a satellite dome mounted on top of the tractor, DirecTV receiver, 24-inch flat screen TV, mounting and cabling equipment, and local area antenna.

“(Fred II) always tells me, ‘Jim, whenever you spec out a truck, spec it like it’s something you want to drive,’” said Gonter, who added that ownership quickly approved the luxury when they discussed it two years ago.

The trucks also feature Verizon Connect electronic logging devices (ELDs), Ex-Guard grille guards, on the tractors and straight trucks, and Lytx DriveCam cameras.

The grille guards have proven invaluable in mitigating costly damages to trucks, Gonter said. “Nowadays, with the cost of repairs, just the headlights on these trucks are $1,000, and with those guards on there, if you hit a deer or even if you’re in a slight accident, there hardly ever is any damage done to the truck,” he maintained.

The front- and cab-facing Lytx cameras help ensure accidents never occur. The cameras always are recording what is in front of the truck, Gonter said, but they save only 12 seconds of video when there is a triggering incident, like an accident or hard brake, with 8 seconds before the incident and 4 seconds afterward. “You can see exactly what the driver’s seeing out the window, plus you can also see the driver, and what he’s doing,” Gonter said.

“We had one incident down in Maryland where a car pulled right out in front of our truck,” Gonter recalled. “It was a pickup, and our truck tried to stop but it caught the back end of the pickup. Well, their insurance company came back and said your truck ran into our driver. I said ‘No, your guy pulled out in front of our truck.’ So we were talking, and I said, ‘Well, I’ll send you the video.’ I sent him the video and a few minutes later the guy called me back and said ‘Don’t worry about it. It was totally our driver’s fault.’”



Booming operation


Imler’s delivery area now includes Pennsylvania, Ohio, New York, New Jersey, West Virginia, Virginia, Maryland and Washington DC, representing a 250-mile radius from Duncansville. The company employees around 180 people, and they stayed busy during quarantine, even as many of Imler’s peer companies—and Fred II’s long-time friends—have struggled, primarily because most of its business is with retail customers, like meat markets and grocery stores, instead of restaurant and foodservice companies.

Employees have continued to come to work. Fred II says their customers’ ability to see how they operate, and put faces to voices on a phone and names in an email, is another key to their success. Protection still is a personal decision (except where mandated by government) but most employees have worn masks and gloves, and drivers are advised to proceed with caution in areas with high concentrations of coronavirus cases.

“Our business has increased and continues to increase,” Fred II said while lamenting those who’ve been less fortunate. “We’re setting record numbers, as far as tonnage being shipped, almost every day. So our business is good.”

Imler’s also is diverse enough to withstand fluctuations in demand. It hauls commodity products for many different types of companies, including food and beverages, furniture wood and even clay sport targets. Imler’s sources most of its poultry from long-time suppliers in the Delmarva peninsula, and also brings in some from South Carolina and Georgia, and most of its beef and pork comes out of the Midwest.

“We still do business the way we did in the 90s, and even before,” Fred II said. “Every customer is still important, whether it’s the guy buying two cases of chicken or the guy buying trailer loads a week. We put a lot of effort into our service … but we can’t do that without the workforce we have. I’d put our employees up against anybody’s in the industry.”

Quality truck fleet management with a good strategy is a vital element for success in the trucking industry. These systems are necessary for communication, and processes are sure to succeed. There’s no doubt that the best semi-truck fleet teams are those that are effectively and efficiently managed, making a great fleet manager worth their weight in gold — and then some!  But what is it exactly that makes a fleet manager great? It all comes down to a solid fleet management strategy and reliable semi-fleet processes. In fact, these are essential to finding both short- and long-term success. If you’re in charge of a semi-truck fleet and are looking to build a fail-proof truck fleet management strategy, you’re in the right place. We’re here to give you some tried-and-true tips and tricks for developing a solid plan. With a little hard work and the right strategy, you will surely see increased profits, fleet growth, and a happier, healthier, and more productive crew. Keep scrolling to learn more.

5 Things to Consider When Developing Your Truck Fleet Management Strategy

If you want to develop a quality truck fleet management strategy, make sure to consider the following:
  1. Invest in a Fleet Management System — You could be the most experienced and focused manager, but you will still have difficulties staying organized and productive without a quality truck fleet management system in place. Managers of old used to rely on elaborate systems involving paper spreadsheets, filing cabinets, and more to run their business, but there are simpler ways to get the job done. Join the digital age by digitizing your workflow and operations; you’ll find that processes are optimized, and your team’s performance is improved! A good system will allow you to keep track of the best routes, maintenance schedules, driver and vehicle efficiency, automating various tasks (such as routing and scheduling deliveries, billing and invoicing, sending jobs to drivers, etc.) and more so you can maximize the potential of your fleet.
  2. Find Ways to Cut Maintenance Costs — It’s no secret that the economy is in an exciting place right now. Inflation is on the rise, and maintenance costs are not exempt. A solid semi-truck fleet manager must prioritize finding ways to reduce costs. Taking a defensive, preventive approach to maintenance is key. Improving fleet efficiency and ensuring that your rigs and necessary equipment are in tip-top shape and ready to go can help you stay ahead of maintenance issues. Consider utilizing a good fleet management system that can tell you about the vehicles’ engines and other diagnostic features to help extend the life of your trucks. These tools can help you quickly identify any problems with your trucks and avoid issues down the road when they become more serious, thus cutting maintenance costs. Another way to reduce maintenance costs is to base your trucks’ service schedule on accurate engine usage hours instead of an arbitrary calendar. This helps to eliminate unnecessary repairs and potential hours and revenue lost, allowing you to make the most of your fleet while still taking great care of them.
  3. Find Ways to Save Money on Fuel — As a fleet manager, it almost always comes down to budget. And one of the biggest portions (we’re talking between 50% and 65%) of overall operating costs is dedicated to fueling costs. As mentioned above, having a good management system and GPS tracking in place can help you develop an excellent management strategy. You’ll be able to monitor your drivers’ driving performance, habits, and behavior and monitor fuel usage, which directly affects fuel consumption. By tracking and analyzing this information, you’ll be alerted to issues sooner than you may have been otherwise. Moreover, tracking this info will keep you apprised of any safety concerns, such as aggressive driving. Addressing these issues will help you reduce operational costs associated with your fuel budget.
  4. Perfect and Optimize Your Drivers’ Routes — Customers and clients demand quick and on-time deliveries, so taking the perfect and optimal route is absolutely crucial. Your business’ reputation counts on it! Inaccurate arrival time estimates, delays, and inefficient routes will only lead to frustration. Hiccups and issues along the way are bound to happen and are an inevitable part of any industry, including trucking. But, by automating customer notifications and other processes, fleet managers can experience a lot less stress, allowing them to spend time and put their focus elsewhere.
  5. Prioritize Your Drivers’ Health and Wellness — One of the biggest parts of developing a good truck fleet management strategy is prioritizing your team’s health and wellness. Feeling isolated on the road comes with being a truck driver; it’s part of the territory. So fleet managers who promote a healthy work-life balance and positive mental health are typically much more successful.

Here are some ways managers can prioritize employees’ health:

Include EpicVue in Your Truck Fleet Management Strategy

Developing a truck fleet management strategy is essential to the success of your business, and EpicVue is here to help make it happen. EpicVue will outfit your fleet with premium in-cab television so your drivers can enjoy a bit of home on the road and catch up on their favorite shows. Contact EpicVue today to learn more.