Missed Destination Successful Step For Kings County Truck Lines Founder

Sept. 1, 2001
ONE DAY in the 1920s, Manuel Mancebo got off the train at the wrong station. However, stepping down in Tulare, California, proved to be a precursor of

ONE DAY in the 1920s, Manuel “Spike” Mancebo got off the train at the wrong station. However, stepping down in Tulare, California, proved to be a precursor of good fortune for the young man from the Azores.

Mancebo had left the Azores for the United States as several of his relatives had done. They were following other people who had sailed from the Azores, many of them men who in the 19th century signed on with American whaling ship crews. Mancebo didn't leave the Azores to sail the high seas. As luck would have it, he became involved in transportation by establishing Kings County Truck Lines Inc, now a thriving California foodgrade carrier. Customers include three large California dairy foods processors: Land O'Lakes, Kraft, and California Milk Producers.

Today, the company is operated by his descendants, Manuel Mancebo Jr, his son; Susan Sowash, his granddaughter; and Kary Mancebo, his great-granddaughter. They oversee the logistics of 1,000 vehicles that include tank and pneumatic trailers, refrigerated trailers, and vans. About 350 tank trailers are in the fleet.

When the company celebrated its 60th anniversary in 2000, it received the California Family Business Award, presented by the Institute of Family Business at the Sid Craig School of Business at Fresno State University. The award is sponsored by Merrill Lynch & Co Inc and recognizes successful companies with long-time family management.

Since the senior Mancebo established the company in 1940, it has grown to include additional businesses: Cal-Western Transport, MSM Inc, Fluid Transport Inc, Regency Transport, California Milk Transport, Liberty Transport, Silver Arrow Express, and K&M Paint & Truck Repair Inc.

Kings County, Cal-Western, and MSM operate from Tulare. Fluid Transport Inc is based in Los Angeles, Regency Transport in Chino, and California Milk Transport in Los Banos. All but three of the companies are foodgrade carriers: Silver Arrow Express is a leasing company; Liberty Transport, based in Corcoran, hauls biosolids in SmithCo side dump trailers; and K&M Inc is a paint and body shop in Tulare.

Products Hauled

Among products hauled are milk, cream, whey, juice, wine, foodgrade oils, liquid sugar, and flour. Transportation from farm to plant commands the major portion of company business, although products also are hauled from plant to plant. Sixty percent of Kings County's revenue comes from liquid milk. About 300 loads per day are hauled from farm to plant by Kings County, Cal Western, and MSM. Of that count, Kings County handles about 200 loads.

In California, the company covers an area from Turlock north to Los Angeles south, as well as into adjoining states. Terminals are located in Tulare, Turlock, Bakersfield, Los Angeles, Los Banos, Pomona, and Chino, California; Myrtle Point and Scappoose, Oregon; and Phoenix, Arizona.

“I guess it's not too surprising that Kings County became a foodgrade hauler since my great-grandfather began his career working in the center of California's dairy country,” says Kary Mancebo. “After he arrived in Tulare, he got a job on a dairy farm. Later, he bought a truck and began hauling milk.”

Mancebo Jr, like his father before him, entered the hauling business at a young age. In the early 1970s, he became president and chief executive officer, the title he continues to hold. Susan Sowash and Kary Mancebo also are active company executives.

Some of management extends across several of the companies. Other companies are autonomous. “They all have their own colors and logos to distinguish them as separate companies,” says Kary.

Driver training is centered in Tulare. Drivers have a commercial driver license with endorsements for handling single, double, and triple tank trailers. The safety department directs driver training, which includes company orientation and policies, Department of Transportation regulations, defensive driving, safety, and fuel economy.

Farm pickup drivers run regular routes and are required to have foodgrade handling certification from the California Department of Agriculture. They are trained in weighing and sampling product. Drivers must pass tests that are required for the first certification and every two years thereafter.

Dan Chabiel, vice-president of facilities and equipment, encourages driver input when specifying equipment for vehicles. Surveys are circulated among drivers for suggestions. One outcome was a specification for tractor right fender mirrors that drivers had requested to improve rear vision.

Drivers bid annually for routes they prefer. They pick up dispatch orders at terminals or at plants for plant-to-plant transportation, and use Nextel two-way radios to stay in touch with dispatchers.

Company fueling stations have Phoenix AFC Fuel Control Systems that use an electronic Durakey for entry. The driver enters truck, company, and driver identification numbers to start the fueling process. The system keeps track of fuel dispensed and records other information that is stored and transferred to the company's administrative program for data evaluation.

Chabiel oversees vehicle maintenance. The Tulare maintenance shop has four bays for body work, six repair bays, two service pits, and one wash bay for exterior cleaning.

Chabiel takes a hands-on approach with suppliers. The company participates in engine tests with Cummins and Freightliner. Kings County also uses the Cummins Insight program to diagnose problems in tractor engines.

For vehicle performance measurement, Chabiel installed dynamometer equipment with a roller assembly that simulates tractor running conditions while checking engine speed and horsepower.

Opacity meters are used to measure diesel stack smoke density in order to meet emission standards. Vehicles receive the test annually.

In the shop, a software program from Square Rigger Corp tracks preventive maintenance schedules and repairs. The program interfaces with a fuel usage program.

Chabiel gives a lot of thought to vehicle specifications. He has specified Alcoa forged aluminum wheels for more than 20 years. “They fit in with our specification philosophy of equipment that meets our needs for good looks, low maintenance, durability, and weight savings,” he says. “They save us about 558 pounds per unit, which lets us haul 65 gallons of additional legal payload per trip.”

Currently, the company runs Alcoa wheels on all of its 231 tractors and 98% of its tank trailers.

Air bags are now specified on all new Century Class CST112 tractors. Front wheels are set back to provide better maneuvering at plants and farms. “We have to sacrifice tire wear for this, but it's a plus for the drivers,” says Chabiel.

The company's high driver satisfaction rate is attributed partly to the use of Freightliners. Drivers like the Freightliners for their maneuverability; and the company prefers them because of their warranty service and reliability, says Chabiel. The carrier devotes one person to handle warranty administration.

The tractors have Cummins ISM11 370-horsepower engines and ZF Meritor 10-speed overdrive transmissions. Freightliner air-ride suspensions are specified. ArvinMeritor supplies front and rear axles, the latter with a 4.10 ratio. The antilock braking system is from MeritorWABCO. Con Met supplies aluminum hubs.

Stainless steel insulated tank trailers come from West-Mark with capacities of 6,750 and 7,000 gallons. They are equipped with L C Thomsen 60-TTF valves, including dust covers, and Olsen vents. Electric motors drive Tri-Clover and L C Thomsen pumps mounted on trailers for farm pickup.

All new trailers are equipped with Betts light-emitting diode (LED) lamps, and older units are being retrofitted with the lamps when they come into the shop for repairs.

The trailers have Hendrickson air-ride suspensions, ArvinMeritor axles, and MeritorWABCO antilock braking. Aluminum hubs are from Con Met.

The Meritor tire inflation system by Pressure Systems International (PSI) is specified to keep tires properly inflated. PSI uses compressed air from the trailer air system to inflate any tire that falls below a preset pressure when the trailer is moving.

All of the company's efforts for vehicle maintenance, driver training, and customer service have paid off throughout its history. Kings County has grown from one small truck to today's regional carrier. That's quite a record, considering that it all began from a mistaken step at the Tulare train station many years ago.

About the Author

Mary Davis