When one thinks of California landmarks, the Santa Monica Pier is often towards the top of the list: an iconic Ferris wheel, amusements, great food, and surfing. The pier is also the birthplace for Santa Monica Seafood, which opened its doors as a seafood market and restaurant back in 1939.
While the original facility is long gone, Santa Monica Seafood is anything but. It’s the largest seafood distributor in the Southwest, processing more than 32 million pounds of fresh and frozen seafood a year. And, sales continue to build with an annual growth rate of 20 percent.
From the seafood it provides to the trucks it uses to make deliveries, Santa Monica Seafood is all about quality. “We’ve had a high-end reputation for our seafood ever since my two great uncles started the business,” said Vince Cigliano, Santa Monica’s director of special projects. “We don’t compromise on quality and it’s what our customers expect.”
To handle the loads, Santa Monica Seafood has a full-service lease program for its medium-duty trucks – the majority with PacLease. “The Peterbilt and Kenworth medium-duty trucks we lease are hands-down better trucks than others we have been using in our fleet,” said Cigliano. “The service and support from PacLease are far beyond what we’ve seen from other leasing companies. We view PacLease as a partner in our business – they’re the best at what they do and that mirrors our company – we’re the best at what we do.”
With a 120,000 square-foot processing and distribution facility in Rancho Dominguez, seafood arrives daily and is parceled out on pallets for delivery locally, or transported in 53-foot trailers to Santa Monica's cross-dock facilities in Las Vegas, Phoenix, San Diego, Sacramento and Atascadero, California. “From there (in all but one location), we use medium-duty Peterbilt Model 325s and Kenworth T270s with 16-foot bodies, to handle loads with six pallets,” said Cigliano. “We also use Peterbilt 337s with 18-foot bodies, which can handle up to eight pallets. Once loaded, the trucks cover their territory and make 17 to 25 stops, each day, six days a week.”
The 18 PacLease units feature the PACCAR PX engine with horsepower ratings between 240 and 260. They’re matched to Allison automatic transmissions, and were spec’d with fuel efficiency in mind. “We’re getting more than a 30 percent boost in fuel economy with our Peterbilt 325 as compared to Class 5 cabovers we’re running at our Rancho Dominguez, San Diego and Phoenix locations,” said Cigliano. “That floored us, and it shows we’re not overworking the truck like we are the cabover – the Peterbilt is matched to our application.”
According to Cigliano, Santa Monica Seafood has historically been a ‘white table cloth’ provider of seafood. “And delivering to high-end restaurants still is the main stay of our business, but we also deliver to approximately 500 grocery stores, including Albertsons, Vons, Pavilions, Fresh & Easy and Haggen,” said Cigliano. “There is growing demand for quality seafood and it’s why we continue to grow. We are the only U.S. seafood company to be globally recognized with both ISO 14001 and FSSC 22000 food safety certifications – we’re truly committed to being the most trusted source of seafood in the industry.”
That commitment funnels all the way down the distribution chain. “Our reputation is riding on our trucks and we often turn around seafood in a matter of hours,” said Cigliano. “Fresh is very much fresh. So it goes without saying that reliable trucks are essential to our success. The combination of a premium truck, and the maintenance practices by PacLease (Rush Truck Leasing, and Pape Kenworth in Fresno), keep our trucks running. What’s more, through PacLease’s national account program, we can move trucks from one location to another, depending on our needs. That flexibility really helps keep our operation running efficiently.”
At Santa Monica’s “home” location, PacLease provides a mobile service unit, which comes out about once a week. “That saves us a lot of time and ensures we stay running,” said Cigliano. “But, no matter which location, maintenance on the trucks isn’t taken lightly. PacLease knows we haul a very perishable product and our reputation lies on their shoulders.”
While management likes the PACCAR trucks – so do Santa Monica drivers, and customers. “Drivers love them,” said Cigliano. “They were a little concerned at first about the turning radius since we go into some tight spots. But the trucks handle well and turn very sharply – plus they love the ride.” The trucks are also adorned with graphics to promote Santa Monica Seafood, plus our two seafood markets and cafés in Santa Monica and Costa Mesa. “Our brand is very strong and these trucks reinforce our image,” said Cigliano.
With cash flow not an issue, Cigliano said the decision to lease was based on reliability and convenience. “We certainly could purchase our own equipment, but the finance side is just one part of the full-service lease,” he said. “We’re not in the trucking business – we’re in the seafood business. Working with PacLease and having them handle our equipment to make sure we’re delivering reliably, while presenting a great image, is what we want in a transportation partner. PacLease has done nothing but impress us.”