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A Star to steer by.

A Star to Steer By

Efficient delivery fleet specifications keep Star Distributors on course.

"When you consider the size and scope of our operation," says Sal Emilio, vice president and general manager of Star Distributors, Inc., "you immediately realize how important an efficient and cost-effective delivery truck fleet is to our success. We have between 40 and 60 vehicles on the road every day, and each one of them is speced to operate as efficiently as possible.

"We deliver over 100 different products daily to approximately 3,700 regular customers, as well as many special events," the general manager continued, "Trucks that can carry a full day's load efficiently, and are easy and comfortable for our drivers to operate, are an absolute neccessity for us."

More specifically, the wide variety of products and high volume of goods carried by Star Distributors includes Miller Brewing Co.'s, Coors Brewing Co.'s and the Stroh Brewery's complete lines and many imported brands as well. Based in West Haven, CT, Star serves stores, bars and restaurants in Fairfield, New Haven and Litchfield Counties, covering more than one third of the state.

Hitting The Streets

Carrying pre-sold orders, Star's fleet hits the streets every morning starting at about 5 a.m. and return up to 12 hours later. The territory includes Interstate highways in often heavy traffic as well as the congested, narrow streets found in some of Connecticut's larger cities.

"We're purchasing about six to 10 new trucks each year," Emilio says. "The 40 or so trucks we use daily average two to four years old. Our secondary fleet of nearly 20 older vehicles is usually pressed into service during peak seasons, especially during the summer months and around holidays. Even during our slowest periods, however, we never ease up as there are always shelves to keep stocked."

Before long, every vehicle at Star Distributors will be no older than three years. At the same time, standardization of the fleet is underway with all recent additions consisting of Navistar International trucks. The distributor's newest equipment is a group of International Model 1954 conventionals with a 32,900-lb. GVW rating. The 218-inch wheelbase trucks are speced with International DT 466 diesel engines, rated 210 horsepower, Allison MT 643 four-speed automatic transmission and single-speed rear axle rated 22,000 lbs. capacity and geared for a 5.38 final drive ratio.

According to Emilio, power train specifications for the fleet are designed primarily with drivers in mind. "Today's drivers are a new breed," he states. "Improvements in vehicles, systems and components, along with many new technologies, have enabled us to make driving easier. And that, in turn, increases productivity. As we replace the older vehicles in the fleet, we're specing equipment to meet those requirements.

Proven Workhorse

"Forstarters, "Emilio explains further, "the DT 466 engine is a proven workhorse that operates very efficiently in stop and go service. We also began using Allison four-speed automatic transmissions about 10 years ago. That combination of components makes starting and stopping--and driving in heavy traffic--much less fatiguing on our drivers. And we're also saving quite a bit on maintenance," he adds, "especially on clutches, because of the smoother running drivetrain specs."

Emilio also points out other features of the distributor's Internationals that will help attract and retain good drivers. Included are low cab height--only one-and-a-half inches from floor to frame--and a bench seat that makes it easy to exit on the curbside. For added safety, according to Emilio, the trucks are equipped with S-cam air brakes powered by a Bendix 12 CFM compressor. A 1500-watt block heater makes cold weather starting virtually trouble-free and the cabs also feature a radio for driver comfort, air horns and an engine warning system to alert the driver to any potential problems.

"One fairly recent change we made," Emilio notes, "was to spec axles with higher capacities to help carry more product and ease the strain on the vehicle. Our newest trucks feature a reinforced L-frame with a 22,000-lb. rear axle and a 10,800-lb. capacity front axle. We're more than willing to spend a little extra up front for equipment that best serves our needs."

Nowhere at Star Distributors is that idea more evident than in the 12-bay all aluminum bodies the distributor purchases from Mickey Body Co. "We've tried some 14-bay bodies," Emilio notes, "but we find them hard to maneuver around tight city delivery spots.

Ready To Roll

"The specs for our latest bodies, and trucks, are the result of a good working relationship with Mickey Body and our dealer," Emilio continues. "Incidentally, we work out all the details we want to see on our vehicle long before the cabs and chassis are delivered to Mickey Body for final assembly. Our new trucks are ready to roll by spring when the weather heats up and beer sales traditionally increase."

Designed with a combination of 40- and 54-inch wide bays, Star's latest body specs call for the first two 40-inch bays on both sides to be fitted with hinged shelves for added flexibility. The third bay is 54 inches wide and is slightly wider to leave ample room for the driveline. Over the wheels are one 40-inch and one 54-inch compartment followed by a 54-inch bay at the rear. All bays have insulated doors--a requirement for carrying Coors products--and locking handles.

In addition to delivering products the Star fleet also picks up empties at each stop, returnable by law in Connecticut and delivers them to Scrapco, Inc., a sister company located adjacent to the distributor's main warehouse. "we're bringing in almost as many bottles and cans as we deliver," Emilio states. "Scrapco then sells the glass and aluminum for recycling.

"Most of that material is transported by rail car," Emilio continues. "About 80 percent of our incoming product arrives on a rail siding that runs alongside our warehouse, so we extended the line to Scrapco's facility next door. Each rail car, by the way, holds about the same capacity as 2-1/3 trailers. We still unload up to 10 trailers per day, as well as operate three tractor-trailers to make pick-ups on our own, but the rail cars are very productive and ease conjestion in the yard considerably."

Top Condition

Star's three Mack tractors are leased from and maintained by Ryder Truck Rental. At the same time, according to Emilio, the company's delivery fleet is kept in top operating condition by the distributor's team of three mechanics. Operating out of a shop on the company's property, the mechanics also maintain the company's lift trucks.

Emilio reports the monthly maintenance for the International trucks is performed according to the manufacturer's recommended procedures. Included are checks of all systems and components and an oil and filter change. A complete visual inspection of the vehicles, especially tires. is conducted weekly.

"We're able to find and repair many small problems before they become big ones," Emilio notes, "because of the thorough inspections carried out on our vehicles. And by assigning drivers to trucks instead of slip-seating, we also believe we're enhancing safety and reducing wear and tear. If you drive the same vehicle everyday, you get to know its characteristics, and you also take more pride in the way you operate it."

Running a sound, efficient operation is hardly new for Star Distributors. Owned and operated by the Gallo family, the company traces its roots to 1937 when Michael Gallo, Sr. began selling beer in Danbury, CT. In the early 1980s, Mike Gallo's son Tony began expanding the business by taking on the distribution of several small brands. In 1985, A. Gallo Distributing became the exclusive distributor of Coors for Connecticut's Fairfield and Litchfield Counties.

Shortly after the Coors line was added, Gallo made a bold move with an eye on expanding even further. In October 1986, he purchased Star Distributors and consolidated the two operations. "Going from being a small to a large distributorship had its headaches and heartaches," Sal Emilio says. "Our sales departments are still separated to keep the major lines independent and spread out the work for other brands. The delivery fleet, however, is one and the same.

"All in all," Emilio concludes, "merging vehicle, maintenance and driver operations went very smoothly. That's because we have good people throughout the operation who are willing to work hard to get the job done."

And as long as they're backed by a fleet equally competent to do the work it's designed for, there's little doubt Star Distributors will shine brightly well into the future.

PHOTO : The backbone of the Star delivery fleet is made up of International 1954 conventionals,

PHOTO : powered by International DT-166 diesels rated for 210 horsepower. Star has recently speced

PHOTO : 22,000-lb. rear axles and 10,800-lb. front axles to increase weight capacity and

PHOTO : strengthen the vehicle.

PHOTO : Sal Emilio, Star's vice-president and general manager.

Seth Skydel is the executive editor of DES magazine, a sister publication to Modern Brewery Age magazine. DES is widely known in the trucking industry as an information source for fleet equipment managers.
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Title Annotation:Star Distributors,Inc.
Author:Skydel, Seth
Publication:Modern Brewery Age
Article Type:company profile
Date:Nov 20, 1989
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