The challenges caused by the COVID-19 pandemic were worse than any hangover for many companies. Thankfully, Bottle Logic Brewing was able to adapt its operation to ensure its fleet stayed on the move. Here, Bob Vreeland, fleet commander, discusses how he and his team were able to overcome during a time when the sound of friends clinking glasses in noisy bars seemed like nothing but a distant memory.
A Refreshing Business
Bottle Logic Brewing is a small, regional craft brewery that self-distributes product throughout California and Arizona. The Anaheim, California, based company is known for its Stasis Project line of barrel-aged beers.
The company’s fleet consists of five vehicles. It started in 2014 with a single Ram Promaster van, and has since grown the fleet to include four straight trucks (three Class 5 and a Class 7). Its entire fleet is refrigerated since Bottle Logic uses its vehicles mainly for the transportation of product to its wholesale network of accounts.
“We also use our fleet for festivals and events, which is how Izzy the Isuzu, our collaboration with Isuzu, manifested itself,” he said.
Bottle Logic uses its trucks to deliver beer throughout Southern California, which includes suburban areas, rural areas, and downtown districts. Drivers primary use the company’s Class 5 vehicles to handle these areas, as they are agile enough to handle the company’s entire distribution network.
“As the fleet manager, I believe safety is key to protecting our drivers, fleet, and the reputation of our brand. We utilize GPS telematics to monitor for driving anomalies and keep a database of when deliveries happened. We also use cameras on the front and rear of the trucks as an extra set of eyes should anything happen,” he explained.
Keeping Up with Fresh Regulations
One of the fleet challenges Vreeland has faced has been keeping up with local, regional, and federal mandates for operating a fleet without using a third-party service.
“Even with our small fleet, we need to follow all local and federal laws to keep in compliance. Going from a single van to a fleet of DOT regulated trucks was a struggle at first, but we have managed to implement systems that help us stay compliant while making the process more efficient,” he said.
California Air Resource Board (CARB) regulations can be tricky to navigate, as the state is often more proactive than others when it comes to environmental rules.
“We have a vehicle that is not equipped with a diesel exhaust fluid (DEF) system, which the state said we will not be able to operate after 2023 unless we retrofit or repower with a DEF compliant system,” Vreeland explained. “Because we use diesel-powered reefer units, we need to follow CARB regulations when we are parked at accounts (idling, running the reefer unnecessarily).”
Vreeland says while the Izzy the Isuzu project completed back in 2019 will be hard to top, Bottle Logic is now looking to expand its delivery network by the end of 2022, which will hopefully lead the company to acquiring more Izzy the Isuzu-type vehicles to help cover deliveries and festivals throughout Northern California and Arizona.
He’s also proud of what his team has accomplished during a year unlike any other. Due to complications caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, the company has been challenged with the sudden closure of accounts, constantly changing receiving windows, and local and federal health mandates.
All of Bottle Logic’s on-premise accounts (bars, restaurants, amusement parks, convention centers, and taprooms) were shut down overnight. This meant it was sitting on a pile of kegged beer that no longer had a home. The team quickly transitioned to packaging beer into cans and crowlers that could be sold at off-premise accounts (grocery stores, liquor stores, and bottle shops). While it has not had any major issues with getting brewing and packaging supplies, the company has been more mindful of stocks and has adjusted ordering habits to account for any unexpected supply exceptions.
“Despite all of this, we have kept the distribution aspect of Bottle Logic thriving. Safety is key for both our drivers and the fleet. In spite of panic buying and hoarding of supplies, we still managed to keep cleaning and PPE products available to keep our drivers safe while fulfilling orders to our accounts. While the virus ran rampant through this industry, we have managed to protect ourselves from contracting it and have all received our vaccines,” he stated.
Using on-board telematics and GPS routing to optimize operations, Vreeland said analyzing the data helps him coach drivers to cut down cycle time at stops and provide training on how to use the GPS navigation as a tool to assist in route planning.
“Don’t be afraid of implementing technology into your fleets. GPS tracking, on-board telematics, and drive cameras are there to help optimize your fleet and keep everyone accountable,” he said.
He also said the implementation of ELDs has been a huge time saver.
“I instantly know if a driver has an issue with a truck and can act on it immediately. I can generate reports, like International Fuel Tax Agreement (IFTA), in seconds, and everything is saved to the cloud for access on any smartphone or computer.”
Passion Pours Over into Fleet
Since Vreeland was a child, he’s always had a fascination for trucks, buses, airplanes, and trains. He started his transportation career as an over-the-road entertainment coach driver back in 2012. In 2014, he got his first beer job as a driver for Hangar 24 in Redlands, California. He then made the move Bottle Logic in 2016.
“I was their only driver, and we only had the single refrigerated cargo van. Since then, we have acquired a fleet of vehicles and I have made the transition to fleet manager,” he explained.