MECHANICSBURG, PA — “Is that thing on?” It’s a question a driver from John Gross & Co. had never heard before. But it was also his first run with a TS-300 refrigeration unit.

One morning last summer, the Mechanicsburg-based food distributor was making one of its 150 to 200 daily stops. The customer in particular was a local restaurant owner who, although happy with her service, had complained previously that the noise from the truck’s reefer unit caused plates in her kitchen to rattle. As she came outside to sign invoices, she noticed that the plastic curtain at the rear of the truck was blowing, but she didn’t hear the reefer running. She turned to the driver with an incredulous look and asked him if the unit was turned on.

“She called me later on that day to tell me that she appreciated how quiet the unit ran,” recalls Bob Zimmers, operations manager, John Gross & Co. “Just having a customer make that above-and-beyond gesture was proof enough for me that we’d made the right decision with the TS Series.”

A customer of Thermo King (Minneapolis, MN) for all of the company’s 51-year history, John Gross & Co. had maintained a fleet of 18-ft International trucks outfitted with MD-Is, MD-II SRs, plus a Mitsubishi van containing a V-280 unit for local deliveries. But when Zimmers joined the company two years ago, one of his main priorities was updating the equipment, as well as its maintenance practices. He turned to local Thermo King dealer Motor Truck Equipment Co. for help.

“Bob told me he was ready to move to the next level, which meant buying some 24- and 26-ft trucks, and wanted a unit that would cover the whole spectrum of temperatures,” explains Mike Pickup, Motor Truck Equipment Co. sales manager. “He also needed easy access to mechanics so he could tell them exactly what needed to be done with regard to maintenance.”

Within the past two years, Zimmers has purchased two TS-300s and one TS-500. Besides the units’ quiet operation, he is pleased with the operation of the scroll compressor and, most importantly, the fact that his drivers feel comfortable with the units. Each driver carries a full-color “code sheet,” provided by Pickup, which details the diagnostic codes found on the unit’s processor. Now, if a problem arises, it can be easily identified and quickly communicated.

The code sheet is just a small example of how Pickup and his dealership have helped John Gross & Co. overcome some of its maintenance hurdles. Previously, the company's maintenance schedule involved nothing beyond changing the oil. Now, Thermo King’s mechanics regularly pay visits to John Gross & Co. and the local dealership has already conducted two training programs for Zimmers’ staff.

This year, Zimmers plans to purchase two more 26-ft trucks, both of which will be outfitted with TS-500s. And he’ll continue to rely on Pickup to help him go “that extra mile.”

“From the time Mike and I started working together, he’s always been straight with me about what type of investment I needed to make. In my experience, I’ve learned to take people at their word, and we’ve developed a tremendous level of trust,” he says. Plus, Zimmers adds, laughing, “He hasn’t lied to me yet.”

For more information, visit the Thermo King website at

Publication date: 06/17/2002