|to their legal weight without
having to run back and forth across the scales.
In keeping with the times, they started out 2004 by ordering 11 new Kenworth tractors from Kenworth Sales in Missoula. The trucks are equipped with Cat ACERT 475 engines, 18-speed transmissions, 14,000-lb front and 46,000-lb rear axles. Hanson plans on a four-year trade in cycle with the new trucks. They were ordered with just that thought in mind.
"The trucks are spec'd for the work that we do and for resale value," Steve says. "With the business as competitive as it is today, and as tight as margins are, maintenance costs are a huge factor. You'll spend $60,000 on a good used tractor and within two or three years you'll spend another $20,000 on the motor, transmission, and differentials. The down time is a killer. Hopefully within four to five years we will be out of the new tractors here."
"Having similarly spec'd trucks will also help with controlling our parts inventory," Chris adds. "If a truck breaks down all the mechanics will know what's in it."
Color will be the only distinguishing factor for the new rigs. The senior drivers were given the privilege of selecting the individual paint colors. Hanson's toyed with the idea of continuing with their standard gray fleet color, but learned from the Kenworth dealership that they would increase resale value by giving each truck its own personality.
| "A driver
is allowed to pick the color is going to take a little better care
of 'his' truck," Chris says.
"The weight limits in Montana have changed over the years. When we first started this business, you could haul 96,000-lb. gross with a 48-foot, three-axle trailer," Steve points out. "Today we are running some 53-foot, four-axle trailers with lift-and-steer rear axles that can haul 104,500-lbs in Montana. With that same trailer, I can do 102,000 pounds in Canada and 105.000 pounds in Idaho with spread axles."
About 35 percent of Hanson's business is hauling materials between the United States and Canada. Along with differences in weight limits and equipment regulations, Steve has found that the biggest challenge in doing international trade is hiring drivers who are legal to go across the border. Increased national security has made the crossings tougher.
"You have to be squeaky clean to go back and forth across the border," Steve says. "We have to have a manifest for every-thing that goes across the border and every once in a while they will stop one of our trucks at the border and make them un-tarp."
Jarrod Kramer, who operates a super-B combo running in and out of Canada, says it's not as tough to get out of the states as it is to get back in. "Drivers are expected to have their birth certificate and drivers license," Kramer says. "(The boarder patrol agents) are doing a lot more truck inspections and have a
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