When developing his delivery service company, Christopher Northup of Professional Parts Group had the opportunity to streamline his small fleet from the beginning. “I wanted to do a different fleet model from my previous companies,” says Northup. “I came from companies that had thousands of vehicles and were always moving to the latest trends in delivery.”
Providing repair parts for body shops, a majority of the company’s fleet’s deliveries are used for insurance claims repairs — a business space that Northrup referred to as “largely underserved.”
“We specialize in an insurance-driven business,” says Northup. “It’s served by businesses selling repair parts, but no one has taken the time to dig into the metrics that the repair facility uses to get that repair done in a quality way and in a timely way.”
Starting in 2012 with a single Nissan NV 1500 cargo van, Northup’s company grew rapidly. He got his hands on 20 of the heavier duty 2500 models, mostly due to immediate availability. He has since added three Nissan NV200 compact cargo vans.
Simple and Scalable
As the company’s delivery fleet has expanded into five markets (Charlotte, N.C., Atlanta, Chicago, Denver and Tampa, Fla.), Northup has chosen to add only Nissan cargo vans to maintain a simple and scalable fleet.
In fact, Northup was inspired by Southwest Airlines’ model of using one airplane across its entire fleet. “What Southwest Airlines does is incredible — they have one airplane and they know that airplane in and out. We needed to find a delivery vehicle that we can do the same with.”
After checking out several cargo vans, including the Mercedes-Benz Sprinter and Ford Transit Connect, Northup decided the Nissan NV was the best choice for his fleet. Working with a local Nissan Commercial dealership, Professional Parts Group has purchased each of its 23 cargo vans.
Starting with high roof models of the NV1500, Northup’s fleet has since added some NV2500 vans. “We can use a 1500 in every instance,” says Northup. “The NV2500 vans are deployed for larger payloads.”
With the addition of the smaller Nissan NV200 cargo vans, “We are now slightly outside of the Southwest model, but we are staying with the same manufacturer,” Northup says.
Streamlining the Orders
Northup was well aware of the established fleet programs through the domestic manufacturers. But when he reached out to Nissan Commercial, he was impressed with the response.
The company sent a regional representative who worked closely with him to establish a credit facility, define the specs and set up the ordering through local Nissan Commercial dealerships, a challenge with a small fleet dispersed across the country.
“They got the business model; they got the premise of what we were trying to do using the Southwest example and they were all in,” he says. “We don’t have the people resources to manage a fleet or create orders. We needed a template where we could just make a phone call or send an email — essentially press a button to order vehicles — and that’s what they’ve done.”
Strict Preventive Maintenance
With an average of 270 miles per day, so far Northup hasn’t had any major maintenance issues with the Nissan vans.
Preventive maintenance has been key to helping preserve Professional Parts Group’s fleet. According to Northup, staying ahead of scheduled maintenance has provided an opportunity to extend drivetrain life and catch smaller repairs before a major breakdown.
“We’re going to analyze things at around 150,000 miles,” Northup said when referring to purchasing replacements.
Each van is installed with Nextel’s telematics software. Using vehicle diagnostics reports, managers monitor mileage and maintenance data every 15 days, according to Northup.
Additionally, Nextel’s GPS component pinpoints the location of each cargo van while en route. “We can tell a customer when a shipment is on its way,” says Northup.