Over the Christmas holidays, the Salvation Army’s bell ringers raise money to help fund its disaster and human-relief efforts.

But considerable dollars also come from its daily pick-ups of donated household and office goods that are delivered to warehouses for sorting and refurbishment. These items are then resold in its Family Stores. For this, SA employs a fleet of medium-duty trucks.

Henry Filoteo began buying new trucks to eliminate breakdowns.

Henry Filoteo began buying new trucks to eliminate breakdowns.

Using modern vehicles, the operation now is marching along strongly in its western territory, which includes California and several other states. But it wasn’t always so, says Henry Filoteo, director of production. Breakdowns were causing drivers to miss pick-up appointments.

“We bought used in hopes of saving money,” he says. “At one time we were running five different brands – some old, some even older. Our maintenance costs were killing us. We had to have spares on hand in case a truck couldn’t make it out of the yard.”

Filoteo convinced superiors to change strategies and begin buying new Kenworths.

“The dealership I was dealing with in the Bay Area (NorCal Kenworth) made every effort to help us in any way they could with our truck problems – none of which, by the way, were KWs,” he says.

In the Los Angeles area, he bought T270 and T370 conventionals, then successfully tried K270 cabovers in the  more congested Santa Monica. For San Francisco, Oakland and Sacramento, he went with higher-capacity K370 cabovers.

The change not only cut maintenance headaches, but also allowed the organization to downsize its fleet. Since 2009, the number of trucks has been cut from 425 to 305.

“It’s been a combination of running trucks that are reliable so we don’t have to have spares on hand, along with moving from 22-foot boxes to 24- and 26-foot boxes for the majority of our trucks,” Filoteo explains. “Plus, we now have a new material roll-off system in our trucks, so we reduced the time to load by 40%.”

Maintenance costs have been slashed. In one 50-unit fleet, costs for servicing and repairs plunged from $440,000 in a two-year period to $159,000 for the following two years.

All the trucks are highly maneuverable, which speeds productivity in urban areas. The K-series cabovers are especially nimble because of their compact yet roomy cabs and tight, 55-inch wheel cut. The cabovers’ BBC dimension is 42.6 inches shorter, which helps in tight quarters or provides room for a longer box in the same overall length.

A typical truck now makes 30 stops per day, allowing the Salvation Army to keep those appointments and gather the money-raising goods.