Michael Darras, a 23-year Schneider driver who’s covered 3 million safe miles, was assigned to the specially decorated Freightliner Cascadia, painted in the carrier’s traditional high-visibility orange. His shirt’s green-and-gold colors appear to honor an even older Green Bay organization, the Packers of the National Football League.
Big orange trucks aren’t unusual in Green Bay, Wis., home of Schneider National Carriers. Even this one, loaded with the latest technologies and driver comfort features, wouldn’t be unique except that it’s the 25,000th Freightliner that Schneider has bought since 1998. So the builder’s executives went to Green Bay yesterday to mark its delivery.
Also there was the driver selected for assignment to it: Michael Darras, of Van Wert, Ohio, a Schneider driver for 23 years who’s amassed a stellar safety and performance record. He has covered 3.3 million miles and more than 20 consecutive years without a preventable accident.
The relationship between the industry icons began when Schneider shifted gears in its equipment strategy in 1998, moving from International and Freightliner cab-over-engine tractors to all conventional-cab Freightliners.
“Freightliner continues to be our provider of choice because of their consistent performance,” declared Rob Reich, Schneider’s vice president of maintenance and driver recruitment. “Our decision to buy from Freightliner 15 years ago was driven by the need to work with a manufacturer that was as committed to innovation, driver comfort, safety and fuel economy as we are.”
The Cascadia tractor has special decals and chrome accents celebrating the milestone, and is painted in the same color that Al Schneider used in 1938 when he founded Schneider Transport & Storage, an agent of Allied Van Lines, whose color was orange. The now multi-national carrier marks its start as 1935, when Al bought his first truck.
Yesterday, Schneider’s current CEO, Chris Lofgren, told Freightliner executives, “Thank you for this new addition to our fleet, for the 24,999 previous trucks that have rolled off your production lines, and for a tremendous track record of collaboration.”
Len Copeland, national account executive at Freightliner Trucks, returned the gratitude.
“When the order for the 25,000th truck came in, we knew it was important to come to Green Bay and say thank you, in person, to everyone in the organization,” he said. “This Freightliner was built with pride especially for Schneider, and I can tell you it’s had the orange glove treatment all the way down the assembly line.”
The special Freightliner is a Cascadia Evolution equipped with advanced aerodynamics, a 2013-spec Detroit DD15 diesel and the recently-released Detroit DT-12 automated mechanical transmission. It achieves up to a 7% improvement in fuel economy over previous models with first generation EPA 2010 engines and manual transmissions.
Schneider’s 25,000th Freightliner also has a Meritor Wabco OnGuard collision mitigation system with predictive cruise and roll-stability control, six-sensor anti-lock braking system, a standard horn-pad control system to keep the drivers’ hands on the steering wheel, and an Espar in-cab heater to reduce engine idling.
“The first thing I thought when I saw the truck was, ‘Wow!’” said Darras, its driver. “You can tell it got extra special treatment in production. It has so much more chrome than the other trucks I’ve had. I can already tell that it drives great and is very quiet.”
After the ceremony, Darras and the shiny new tractor got to work. His first load with it is taking him from Green Bay to Mountain Home, Ark.