Mercer’s Custom Trailer Project for BRP
Getting the Details from Tim Howard, Assistant Freight Manager
Mercer Transportation has had a good working relationship with Bombardier Recreational Products Inc. (BRP) for nearly 20 years, and we’re willing to go the extra mile for our most valued customers. Since we started working with BRP, most of Bombardier’s sporting and recreational ATVs had been shipped in pieces as flatbed freight, to be assembled later at the destination. In order to safely ship completed units, they recently transitioned to dry vans with an internal ramp system. For Mercer Transportation, this looked like a good opportunity to impress a loyal customer by providing an even higher level of specialized service. By building custom trailers, we could provide outstanding service that goes beyond expectations. The custom trailers could also secure some attractive dedicated freight opportunities for contractors.
Headquartered in Canada, Bombardier Recreational Products Inc. is known for a wide variety of vehicles, including the Ski-Doo, Sea-Doo, Can-Am Spyder Roadster (the motorcycle with two wheels up front), and obviously ATVs. BRP has been a large customer for Mercer in the past, but the work has been conventional flatbed freight, with orders for a dozen or so one-way loads at a time. Back in 2018, Mercer’s Director of Sales Mike Wilks and Assistant Freight Manager Tim Howard visited BRP’s Salt Lake City facility for a tour, and that’s when the discussion about dry van trailers really started. “We realized if we wanted to get that freight, then we needed to make a change,” Tim said, “then Tyler Johnston really started hashing out the details as far as getting the trailers designed and getting them fitted.” Outstanding service can require a little more thought and planning than settling for “business as usual,” but the Mercer team is willing to put in the extra effort.
Custom Dry Van Trailers
The project development kicked into gear in 2020. Freight and Brokerage Operations Manager Tyler Johnston got together with Tim Howard and Mercer’s design team (Tom Pifer, Ty Marshall, Josh Logsdon, Brant Stewart, Kevin Wiley, and Rick Corder) and started producing the new trailer designs. Appropriate ramps had to be sourced and modified. The whole design needed to be safe as well as efficient. In the final configuration, each custom dry van typically carries a light load (less than 18,000 lbs.) of six completed ATVs.
Mercer’s design team assembled the custom trailers on the Mercer campus, in the warehouse behind Recruiting. As Tim explained, “There’s basically a 53’ traditional van trailer, but then on the inside it now has a decking system where the boards come down and kind of create an upper and lower deck. Then there is a ramp system that hooks onto those levels where drivers can drive the units down.” The custom Mercer trailers started moving BRP loads around Thanksgiving of 2020.
Drivers for Dedicated Freight
In addition to custom trailers, Mercer needed to find owner operators interested in this kind of dedicated freight. About 20 drivers have gotten on board so far. Instead of jumping around between customers and different types of freight, these drivers pick up all their loads at BRP’s distribution centers, make their two or three drops, and return empty for more ATVs.
BRP’s teams at the distribution centers load a variety of ATVs on the trailers, and the driver is responsible for unloading, mostly at warehouses and dealerships. Most drivers move three loads a week, but some of the drivers out west (with longer lanes) average closer to two loads per week.
Interested in Moving ATVs for BRP?
Mercer will be adding more trailers later this year (for a total of 30) and possibly more in the future, with contractors for each trailer. Ideally, drivers should live close to one of the distribution centers or lanes. Distribution centers are located in Salt Lake City, UT; Minneapolis, MN; Haviland, OH; Phoenix, AZ; El Paso, TX; Dallas, TX; Memphis, TN; Atlanta, GA. These lanes run year-round. As opportunities to haul BRP trailers open up, Mercer will be looking for contractors who appreciate delivering that kind of exceptional service to a dedicated customer.
Some of the biggest advocates for the program are the drivers currently running dedicated freight for BRP. “Dale Kielhorn, unit # 7418, has been very helpful when we get new drivers,” Tim said, “He will show them the ropes, answer any questions they have. He is just great talking with drivers, giving them the ins and outs of the program, best practices, how to use the equipment safely, etc. He has been great about being a point of contact and being a leader. Just to have a driver that knows what’s going on and can talk to the new drivers is a great asset.” For more information, you can email [email protected] or call 502-625-3416.