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Delivery Fleet Customizes Trucks to Better Navigate Streets

November 2013, by Amy Winter - Also by this author

Matagrano Inc.'s customized Kenworth trucks can better maneuver through the streets of San Francisco to deliver beverages.
Matagrano Inc.'s customized Kenworth trucks can better maneuver through the streets of San Francisco to deliver beverages.

For Matagrano Inc., a beverage distribution company serving the counties of San Francisco and San Mateo, delivering to 6,000 customers on a weekly basis has its challenges.

Although the short distances keep the trucks’ mileage low (averaging 5,000 to 7,000 miles per year), the narrow, hilly streets of San Francisco make it hard to unload deliveries, make U-turns and navigate the 7-square-mile city.

About 20 years ago, the company became the first distributor to use 16- and 18-wheel tractor-trailers instead of a traditional 12-bay beverage truck. “They said it couldn’t be done to deliver with tractor trailers,” says Frank Matagrano, co-owner, noting that a tractor trailer has a tighter turning radius than the 12-bay trucks.

The city even accommodated the larger trucks by creating a loading zone, from which the trucks could deliver to 10 to 15 accounts in the immediate vicinity. Now all beverage distributors use tractor trailer rigs for their deliveries in San Francisco, Matagrano says.

Nonetheless, Matagrano’s bill for tickets due to double parking can be as much as $1,400 a month. “It’s the cost of doing business,” he says, adding that his drivers pay for other types of violations such as parking in a red zone or in front of a fire hydrant.


Dealer Help

In the last few years, the Matagrano fleet has migrated to the Kenworth T370 (33,000 lbs. GVW) along with a handful of the larger Kenworth T660 with 45-foot trailers.

While the drivers love the new trucks and fuel economy improved by three to four gallons, the T370 has a wider turning radius than the model it replaced. This is where his dealership, NorCal Kenworth in San Leandro, stepped in.

The dealership not only changed the type of tires on each truck to improve the steering radius, it also made other accommodations for Matagrano’s specific needs such as changing the position of a battery box, making modifications to the fuel tank and painting the visors, window trim and a bumper to match company branding.

“We have never had a dealer that was so knowledgeable about an appropriate truck for its use,” Matagrano says.

Matagrano even uses one of his customized Kenworth trucks for his other venture — hauling grapes from his vineyard to four different wineries.

To cycle fleet, the company took part in a grant program from Bay Area Air Quality Management District — with the assistance of NorCal Kenworth, who helped Matagrano better understand how to qualify for the grant.

Through this clean air initiative, Matagrano has been able to get rid of 15 older trucks and use the grant money — $35,000 for a two-axle truck and $55,000 for a three-axle — to help buy six new cleaner-burning diesel Kenworth trucks, says Matagrano.


A Striking Look

Celebrating more than 40 years in business, the Matagrano team pays close attention to its drivers, who in turn take pride in the appearance of each of the fleet of 50 trucks. Management does monthly ride-alongs with drivers to improve processes and increase safety.

The company offers quarterly barbecues and prize drawings worth up to $8,000 for meeting worker’s comp and fleet safety goals. In turn, drivers wash the trucks every other week and wax them.

Painted in bold red, the trucks feature the company logo in gold leaf lettering. And some of the trucks include red Budweiser body trailers, creating a striking look.

“Every day, tourists come up to our drivers and ask if they can get their pictures taken with our trucks,” says Matagrano. “That says something about the quality equipment we run and the colorful graphics splashed on the rigs.”

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