Since dairy cows never take a day off on the farms of central Alberta, Canada, neither does Brian Trelenberg's Peterbilt.
An owner-operator from Nitsu, Alberta, Trelenberg runs two milk routes with his Peterbilt Model 379. His routes often start before 4 am, and temperatures down to -45 degrees F can be there to greet him as he walks out to his truck.
He grew up on a nearby dairy farm that his older brother still operates. Moving into milk hauling in 1984, Trelenberg has been picking up milk at many of the same producers, from family-size farms to multi-barn operations, since he began. He has chosen to operate a Peterbilt Model 379 on his routes for most of the 16 years he's been in business. In doing so, he's defied some local conventional "wisdom."
"This is the perfect truck for dairy, but there were people who told me I shouldn't run a Peterbilt for milk hauling," says Trelenberg. "I disagree."
Milk hauling has several characteristics, and Trelenberg has found that Peterbilt brings a key benefit to each.
First, milk hauling is a relatively low-mileage business. Trelenberg runs no more than 250 miles a day, much of it on rural gravel roads. He makes as many as 12 stops in a day, idling at each stop while he fills his triaxle stainless steel tanker, capable of holding up to 31,000 liters of milk.
Given that operating pattern, it's rather remarkable that Trelenberg posts fuel efficiency numbers better than seven miles per gallon. "I remember when I used to get into the high 5s and thought that was pretty good," says Trelenberg.
Backing Up a Challenge Despite all the stops, the only dock Trelenberg sees all day is at the final stop, when he delivers his payload to the processing plant. The rest of his stops involve backing up to the milkhouse along tight, curved driveways and around assorted farm machinery.
"Here's another reason I like a Peterbilt," says Trelenberg. "The 50 degree wheel cut is so handy. People in other trucks with the setback axle couldn't make that cut. And I get the ride that they don't get."
At each stop, Trelenberg is responsible for obtaining a milk sample, tasting it, and connecting their tank to his. The nature of the travel means Trelenberg has a foot on the clutch and a hand on the shifter more than most drivers.
"That's why I run big power," says Trelenberg, who specified a Caterpillar 3406E at 475 horsepower in his present Model 379 and expects to spec Cat power up to 550 horsepower in his next. "I don't shift gears nearly as much as when I ran smaller engines."
Lively Loads Trelenberg also specs a Peterbilt air leaf suspension to keep him comfortable in the cab and help keep him moving when the Alberta weather presents a challenge. "I have a live load back there, especially when it's about halfway full," he says. "It moves around, but this suspension package is perfect to handle it.
"I have 12,000-lb front axle ratings, 40,000 on the rear, with the ratios at 3.70 and I'm running small rubber-22.5". It provides me a good combination of highway gearing to get some legs at the top end and good lift to get out of the mud or through big snowdrifts. When we get a big snowfall, I'm usually the first one in the morning making tracks through it."
While dairy operations on his routes may sparkle inside, the roads there and the driveways outside them aren't as clean. Trelenberg washes his truck and trailer daily. "That's why the aluminum cab on my Model 379 is just great," he says. "Steel wouldn't stand up to repeated washing like that. Those cleaning solutions can be tough on a surface."
But perhaps the single most important reason Trelenberg will continue to work in a Peterbilt is dependability. In 16 years, he's yet to miss a single stop on his routes. o