Mack Hits the Spot with Lazer Spot

No one likes to wait. In the case of a well-known beverage maker, truck drivers would sit for hours while they waited to be unloaded. Drivers racked up a lot of idle time. Carriers noticed and started billing for those hours. So did customers, whose deliveries were running late.

Lazer Spot Enter Lazer Spot and its fleet of spotting units. Spotters are small specialized tractors designed to shuttle trailers around freight yards. They have a tight wheelbase for maneuverability, a hydraulic fifth wheel and a rear cab door for quick access. Within three weeks, the logistics firm had used its experience, rapid-response team and fleet of spotters to streamline the supply chain at two of the customer’s biggest sites. Performance rocketed and costs fell. Lazer Spot now serves six more of the company’s facilities.

The Atlanta, Georgia firm achieved those results by analyzing traffic patterns in the yard, drafting interchange agreements with carriers, implementing drop-trailer programs and delivering equipment within a tight timeframe.

“Trucking companies bringing trailers into big distribution centers or manufacturing facilities want to drop and go,” said Adam Newsome, President and CEO of Lazer Spot. “They don’t want to sit and wait. We found a need in the market that wasn’t being met, and we provide that service on a national scale.”

Success has come from developing best practices and adapting to customer systems. Since founding the company in 1996 with his father, Wes, and business partner Mike Boone, Adam Newsome and his team have grown the firm to 600 spotting units, 220 day cabs and 1,400 trailers, with 2,000 employees in 250 locations and 30 states.

Five years ago, Lazer Spot expanded again with a service that shuttles freight over short distances for its yard-management customers. That led to equipment shortages and problems, and headaches for Newsome.

“Unlike with trailer spotting, we hadn’t worked with dealers to come up with forecasts for the shuttle business. If we got the contract, we had to run out and buy whatever we could find in dealer stock and that led to some disasters. Through a friendship, I met Bob Wright, a vice president at Nextran Corporation (a Mack dealer) in Atlanta, and we got to talking. I said, ‘Hey, we really could use a good partner at the manufacturer level.’”

Just as Lazer Spot streamlined the supply chain for its customers, Mack and Nextran did the same for Lazer Spot. Wright standardized the specifications with Mack® Pinnacle™ axle-back models running 445 hp MP8 engines. The tractors feature mDRIVE™ transmissions with overdrive and Mack 12,000-pound-capacity front and 40,000-pound-capacity rear axles with Mack air ride suspensions.

To help customers meet their environmental goals, Lazer Spot recently took delivery of its first two compressed natural gas (CNG) Pinnacle models. The trucks feature 400 HP Cummins ISX-12 liter engines with 10-speed transmissions. Lazer Spot has eight more Mack trucks with natural gas engines on order.

The fleet is now 50 percent Mack and that percentage continues to grow.

“(Wright) helped us with a floor-planning strategy that worked for both of us,” Newsome said. “We don’t necessarily know when new business is coming in. Nextran will order trucks ahead of time. We don’t have to take them on day one but we now have the equipment available to service these accounts. That’s a competitive advantage with a customer that wants to start a contract with us in a few weeks.”

In addition to the equipment shortage, Lazer Spot had several other beefs with its old fleet, with reliability and fuel economy heading the list.

“Our legacy trucks were constantly going in the shop and we had to get rentals. As soon as we got the Macks, M&R (maintenance and repair) costs went down. The trucks we had were also getting terrible fuel mileage. We put about 180,000 miles a year on each truck—the engines never cool down. We were getting 5.8-6 mpg on the competitor trucks. We’re getting 6.9-7.2 mpg on the Macks. We had a six-figure fuel savings in the first year alone.”

And the reaction to the new trucks? “Driver satisfaction has gone way up, especially with mDRIVE,” Newsome said. “Now they fight over who gets to drive the automatics.”

That wasn’t always the case, he said.

“I had this impression that Mack was more of a manufacturer of logging and other heavy-duty trucks for tough environments. We didn’t look at Mack as a regional-haul player. A lot of drivers said what would work best at one of our tougher environments would be Mack, so we ordered 15 with a heavy-duty spec. Now everybody who thought that Mack didn’t make a good product for us is hearing all this good news, and it’s really changed the mindset of upper management. That doesn’t happen with a sales pitch. It comes from solving problems.”

Which is why Mack hit the spot with Lazer Spot.

“Mack has been a really good partner. Today, you couldn’t get us away from a Mack.”