Its clear glass bottles are industry-unique; its Kenworth and Peterbilt trucks are eye-popping; its beer is award-winning. It’s the third largest brewer in Canada and Sleeman Breweries isn’t about to slow down.
After re-awakening its business license in 1988, more than 50 years after the last batch of Sleeman beer was produced, John Sleeman (the great-great grandson of the founder, John H. Sleeman) – took the family recipe book and began once again brewing beer.
As word of mouth grew, and mouths began to water, Sleeman Breweries expanded past its cream ale --bringing to market its Silver Creek Lager in 1989. In the early 90s, growth meant getting into transportation and two tractor-trailers were purchased along with a straight truck to handle deliveries in southwest Ontario.
“It’s grown wildly from there,” said David Parsons, who serves as distribution supervisor for Sleeman Breweries. “Today we’re the third largest brewer in Canada and we’re owned by Sapporo International. In addition to our flagship beers from Sleeman Breweries, we brew Sapporo for sales in Canada as well as internationally. What’s more we’ve expanded to also offer Okanagan Spring; Unibroue and Stroh brand beers.”
To handle deliveries from its original brewery in Guelph, Ontario, (the company has two other breweries in other provinces) Sleeman Breweries relies on a fleet of 28 trucks (seven medium duty route trucks and 21 Class 8 day cabs for long-haul and local deliveries throughout Ontario. Two years ago, Sleeman Breweries replaced its medium duty fleet with Peterbilt Model 330s equipped with 18-foot bodies on a full-service lease from Peterbilt of Ontario Truck Center PacLease. “We were looking for a more robust truck than we were operating – something that could handle more payload, yet be maneuverable,” said Parsons. “We felt the Peterbilt 330 was the best truck for our operation and it’s proven to be just that. We load the Peterbilts with kegs, bottles and cans, and deliver up to 600 kilometers from Guelph. Each truck makes multiple stops to customers before coming back. They’re comfortable trucks for our drivers and that which is important to us, because it helps with driver retention.”
A meticulous preventive maintenance program by PacLease ensures uptime and it was one of the main reasons why Sleeman Breweries chose to work with PacLease. “They’ve been very proactive in maintenance, and that makes a huge difference when it comes to keeping the trucks operating,” Parsons said. “In our business, we can’t afford to have issues with trucks – we have a strict delivery schedule and cover a lot of territory. Leasing with PacLease ensures we get quality trucks that will keep working as long as we do. What’s more, it allows us to conserve cash flow and have accurate budgeting for our transportation needs.”
The positive experience with its medium duty PacLease trucks led Sleeman to look at leasing bigger trucks from PacLease. “That decision was solidified when we toured the Kenworth Chillicothe (Ohio) plant and saw how the trucks were being built,” said Parsons. “It was a quality operation all the way around and we learned a few things about spec’ing that we could incorporate into leased vehicles. Not all leasing companies allow custom spec’ing, but PacLease does. So we felt very comfortable leasing with PacLease again – this time ordering two Kenworth W900Ls through Kenworth of Ontario PacLease.”
In addition to the leased W900Ls, the company began renting a Kenworth T800, and a T880. One of the trucks makes runs into Quebec, the other operates during seasonal upticks in business -- the hotter the weather, the more demand for beer.
As for why the W900L? “We love the traditional look of the high hood,” said Parsons. “Image is very important to us and the trucks make a big visual statement. We have great graphics wraps, which promote our products – they’re truly rolling billboards for us. We may sacrifice a little in fuel economy over aero models, but it’s made up in our appearance.”
The W900Ls are equipped with the PACCAR MX-13 engine, rated at 500-hp and driven through 13-speed transmissions. According to Parsons, the engine has performed well and has given the W900L a 6 percent boost in fuel economy over other high-hood trucks in its fleet. That translates to a $4,000 CDN savings in fuel per year, per unit.
With gross combination weights pushing 126,000 pounds, the Class 8s make bulk beer deliveries to its distribution partner -- “The Beer Store.” With 450 locations throughout Ontario, each “Beer Store” location makes local deliveries to area restaurants, bars and liquor stores. The rigs return loaded with Sleeman beer bottles (Ontario has a 10-cent per bottle deposit program), which will then be cleaned and re-used, or recycled.
“We’ll run as far up as Dryden, which is more than 1,770 kilometers (1,100 miles) from Guelph,” said Parsons. “So, we’re covering a lot of territory and it’s important to have a network of PacLease locations and its PacCentral emergency service program gives us a safety net should there ever be a problem on the road. Our drivers report the trucks are very comfortable to drive, and they love the Bose seats that we spec’d. They make a huge difference.”
All told, Parsons said he couldn’t be happier with the performance of his Kenworth and Peterbilt trucks and the service from PacLease. “We’re extremely proud that three of the world’s top 10 beers come from our breweries – it tells you a lot about our passion for quality. From a transportation standpoint, our bottom line is to keep our beer flowing to our customers with uninterrupted deliveries and look good while doing so. PacLease has delivered. They mirror our passion for quality.”