Rukert Terminals Corporation: Keeping Goods Moving with Leased Trucks from PacLease
December 18, 2023
If you live on the East Coast and work in the agriculture, automotive or construction industries, you likely know the Port of Baltimore well. It handles more than 30-million tons of cargo annually and transports more roll-on/roll-off equipment than any other port in the United States.
Helping companies navigate the import/export world is Rukert Terminals Corporation, a 102-year-old company that provides warehousing and storage capabilities to companies through a 130-acre terminal at the port. For companies needing goods brought to the port or delivered to their place of business, Rukert utilizes a fleet of 26 Peterbilt Model 567 day cabs on full-service leases with PacLease. It also works with three owner-operators.
According to Scott Damasiewicz, Rukert’s trucking manager, the company transports containers within a 150-mile radius of the port and can make three to four “turns” a day. Some cargo is transported from the ship to Rukert’s warehouse, but the majority of container deliveries go directly to customer locations.
“When I started here 30 years ago, we were a small operation in the trucking side of our business – we had just two owner-operators,” recalled Damasiewicz. “Then we began to grow and started buying good quality used trucks. But we ran into downtime issues and our mechanics were spending more time on the trucks - which meant they couldn’t spend time on our other equipment at the terminal. That’s when we started looking at full-service leasing.”
In 2008, Rukert did a cost comparison and Damasiewicz found that ownership cost was about the same cost as leasing. “But with leasing, we wouldn’t have to worry about maintenance and could run much better equipment. It was a no-brainer to move to PacLease.”
Now in its third leasing renewal with PacLease, Damasiewicz said the trucking operation is running like clockwork. The trucks are reliable, and uptime has never been better; drivers love the Peterbilt equipment; and the trucks showcase the company in a positive light.
According to Damasiewicz, the quality of Peterbilt trucks, coupled with a meticulous maintenance program and quick response from PacLease, means a great deal to Damasiewicz. “Before I came to Rukert, I was an owner-operator, plus I spent time as a company driver,” he said. “So, I wouldn’t want my drivers to operate equipment I wouldn’t want to drive myself. I speak the same ‘language’ as they do, and I have done what they do. So, that gives me a lot of credibility with our drivers. I think the combination of the equipment we run and how we understand drivers has contributed greatly to our very low driver turnover. We have some drivers that have been with us their entire careers.”
When it comes to spec’ing trucks, Damasiewicz takes driver preferences into account. Because some combined loads require a permit and can reach up to 90,000 pounds, custom spec’ing is important to Rukert’s business. “We run 500 horsepower and that gives us plenty of power to pull hills, and I know our drivers appreciate that,” said Damasiewicz. “We also cater to what they like in transmissions. Some of our old-school drivers still prefer a manual, so nine of our trucks have that as a spec.”
Thanks to the mobile maintenance program offered by the local PacLease franchise, uptime is assured. “It’s been a lifesaver,” said Damasiewicz. “It saves us a lot of time and we don’t have to shuttle equipment and drivers to a maintenance facility. In trucking, you need to stay on top of maintenance to avoid a breakdown later - we need all of our trucks to be available. There are so many variables in the container business – we need to pick up and drop off in a timely manner and we do.”
Recently, Rukert transitioned from Peterbilt’s traditional long-hood Model 389 to the Model 567. “The comfort and ride, plus maneuverability of the 567 is just great,” said Damasiewicz. “But what really sold our drivers is the visibility out of the front of the cab. The sloped hood really is a plus for our drivers since we operate in some tight places.”
The new trucks have also caught the attention of customers. “They love these trucks, and they’ve gotten to know our drivers over time. Some request certain drivers to handle their loads,” said Damasiewicz. “And, we’ve actually had several customers take pictures of themselves with our rigs. That says a lot. The trucks give us a great image and that helps in so many ways – including with the state patrol. They know we care about our trucks, and how well maintained they are.”
Damasiewicz said PacLease’s customer support, along with premium equipment, has kept the company loyal to the leasing company. “The personal service we receive from PacLease goes above and beyond, and that’s key to keeping our trucks on the road,” he said. “We’ve had some customers who have been with us for more than 30 years. And we’ve been with PacLease for a long time. It’s a recipe that has worked well.”