Outside of the big corporate brands, few modern breweries have a heritage that stretches across five generations. John H. Sleeman – great-great-grandfather of current proprietor John W. Sleeman – started in 1834 building a business inspired by the brewing recipes developed by his ancestors. As with many family-owned breweries, Sleeman’s was forced out of business by prohibition and was once thought to be permanently consigned to the history books.
After a 50-year forced hiatus, John W. Sleeman’s aunt approached him with the collection of old family beer recipes, and in 1988 he relaunched Sleeman Breweries in Guelph, Ontario. John W. Sleeman quickly resurrected the family business, so successfully that it was acquired by Japanese brewer Sapporo in 2006. Today, the brewery still produces 10 different beers under the Sleeman name along with several other brands under license for the Canadian market, including Sapporo.
Equally as vast as the brewery’s family heritage is its distribution area. Although Ontario might not be the most populous province in the country, the population it does have is spread across a truly “Texas-sized” area. Sleeman’s most distant stop is more than 1,100 miles from the brewery in Guelph, and serving an area this large requires a unique approach to delivery logistics.
After the relaunch in 1988, Sleeman’s growth in the early ‘90s meant getting into transportation, so two tractor-trailers and a straight truck were purchased to handle deliveries in southwest Ontario. “It has grown wildly from there,” said Sleeman’s Distribution Supervisor David Parsons. “Today we’re the third largest brewer in Canada and we’re owned by Sapporo International.”
To handle deliveries from its original brewery in Guelph, (the company also has two breweries in other provinces) Sleeman relies on a fleet of seven medium-duty route trucks and 21 Class 8 day-cab tractors for long-haul and local deliveries throughout Ontario. Two years ago, Sleeman replaced its medium-duty fleet with Peterbilt Model 330 trucks equipped with 18-foot bodies.
“We were looking for a more robust truck than we were operating — something that could handle more payload, yet be maneuverable,” Parsons said. “We felt the Peterbilt 330 was the best truck for our operation and it has proven to be just that. They’re comfortable trucks for our drivers and that is important to us, because it helps with driver retention.”
The trucks were acquired through a full-service lease from the PacLease team at Peterbilt of Ontario Truck Center. Explaining the choice of a full-service lease, Parsons said, “Instead of having our time and energy spent on maintenance of the trucks, a full service lease allows us to focus our efforts on what we excel at, and that’s delivering the beer. Leasing with PacLease also allows us to conserve cash flow and have accurate budgeting for our transportation needs.”
The connection with Peterbilt and Kenworth dealers was an important factor in Parson’s decision to work with PacLease. “It has been my experience dealing with some of the larger leasing companies, that they are servicing various [original equipment manufacturers] (OEMs) and might not be as proficient in their repairs. When dealing with a Paccar dealer, they are only serving one product and are excelling at it,” Parsons said. “The service provided by Kenworth and Peterbilt has been excellent thus far. When you’re on the phone or in the presence of their professionals, you feel confident in knowing that they understand the product and rarely are you having to diagnose a problem more than once.
“When leasing a vehicle, it needs to be a partnership where you understand each other’s challenges, and where you can both find success,” Parsons continued. “PacLease has done a great job of understanding our business model, which is seen in our employee’s satisfaction and equipment reliability.”
Preventive maintenance was another reason why Parsons 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,” Parson said. “We are put to task daily to deliver on a promise to our customers and ensure product delivery. If our product isn’t on the shelf, then we open the doors to our competitors. Any down-time for our vehicles can become a huge challenge — having to work around this down-time can be costly, frustrating and inefficient.”
The positive experience with the medium-duty trucks led Sleeman to look at leasing its bigger trucks from PacLease. “That decision was solidified when we toured Kenworth’s Chillicothe, Ohio plant and saw how the trucks were being built,” Parsons said. “We learned a few things about spec’ing that we could incorporate into our leased vehicles. Not all leasing companies allow custom spec’ing, but PacLease does, so we felt very comfortable leasing with them again — this time ordering two Kenworth W900L tractors through Kenworth of Ontario PacLease.”
The brewery also had a number of reasons why it went with W900L tractors. “We love the traditional look of the high hood,” Parsons said. “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 the aero models, but it’s made up in our appearance.”