by Tim Brady, Business editor

The purpose of “Spotlight on an American Trucker” is to bring our readership to life, by putting names and faces alongside their successes. If you know of a small or micro business that utilizes trucks in the course of doing business that you’d like us to feature in “Spotlight on an American Trucker,” please send their contact information to tbrady@writeuptheroad.com.

northcoastOwner: Michael D. Collins, president; Kathy M. Collins, vice president
In business: Since 1977
Location: Peru, NY
Website: www.northcoastcartage.com

North Coast Cartage focuses on regional hauling within a 500-mi. radius. It has permits for Canada and the Lower 48, hauling everything from office furniture to powdered milk; newspaper inserts to motorcycles; and mulch to dog food and appliances.

Do you run regularly scheduled routes or on-demand delivery?
Over 37 years, our traffic lanes and customers have changed many times. At present we pick up at the Electrolux warehouse twice a week and do an overnight northbound delivery to Vermont. Southbound loads vary weekly. We also have time between the two trips to do a third, if we can find a round-trip that works.

How is maintenance handled?
We handle light maintenance such as grease jobs, oil changes, wiring problems, worn airline replacement, air chamber replacement, and pressure washing.

What challenges do you face with maintenance?
I use my Cummins Engine Road Relay, backed up by my Rand McNally GPS, to track routine maintenance and a pop-up to alert me when it’s time for preventive maintenance services. Second, I try to carry everything I need to do a small roadside repair. Major repairs are handled at outside shops, preferably one that’s local and we’ve used before.

How do you minimize downtime? Mileage/time intervals on preventive maintenance?
I put OTR free time to good use by checking tire air pressure, greasing the truck & trailer, putting on my jumpsuit and going under both units to look for anything that needs attention, etc. We perform grease jobs every 7,500 mi.; oil changes every 15,000.

Do you stock parts or purchase as needed? If you stock parts, which ones?
I try to stock many parts to ensure simple things don’t delay departure and affect delivery, e.g., engine oil, rear & trans lubes, oil test kits, ATF, washer fluid, antifreeze, spray lubes, heat gun, propane torch, grinders, drills and bits, assorted air tools, 60-gal. air tank, air filter, cab air filter, and assorted electrical parts.

How do you ensure good tire mileage?
I check tire pressure often, and don’t let tires get more than 3-4 lbs. out of spec. I watch wear patterns closely and rotate as determined by tire depth and wear patterns.

How do you determine when it’s time to replace a truck/trailer?
Normally, when I approach a million miles on my tractor, I’m looking to order a new replacement. Unfortunately, the new tractors have dependability problems, and being a one-truck operation, having my truck down for an extensive time would ruin our reputation for on-time service. I’ve had to rethink this and am trying to stay on top of the maintenance of our tractor (which is rolling up on a million miles), seeing if we can get a few more good years out of this one.

Specifications for your trucks? Do you purchase used and customize them? Or order new trucks built to your specs?
In the past, I’ve always purchased new, preferably with specs I ordered. I want a good turning radius, slippery sides for good fuel mileage, fuel-efficient tires, midrange power, double bunk, auxiliary heat and cooling, stationery fifth wheel set to perfectly balance the weight so there’s no need for a sliding fifth wheel, air ride suspension, and air ride cab.