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H & P Transportation

Roots Run Deep with Eaton and Truck Dealer

"The best thing about those UltraShift PLUS transmissions is that it is impossible to make a mistake with those trucks and mess up something, especially the drivetrain."

Kevin Hawkins (right) owner, and Bart Frisbee (left), vice president of operations, H & P Transportation.


"I'm not afraid to jump out there and stay on top of new technologies," boasts Kevin Hawkins, president of H & P Transportation, Brownstown, Michigan.

That's precisely what his company has been doing since 1947 when Hawkins' father, Henry Hawkins, founded H & P Transportation as one of the early pioneers in the extra-heavy hauling business in the state of Michigan. Payloads up to 50 tons are legal in Michigan on vehicles that are known as Michigan Specials and equipped with 11 axles.

Hawkins has 15 of them in his fleet.

Hawkins also takes advantage of new technologies to ensure his 13 drivers are best equipped to move those heavy loads safely and efficiently. All of his trailers have automatic tarp systems and tailgate locks are conveniently and easily accessed from inside his vehicles' cabs.

"That cuts down on how many times our drivers have to get in and out of their vehicles," says Hawkins. "Right now, they hit a couple of switches and drop their loads. That really cuts back on fatigue."


While 70 percent of Hawkins' loads are less than 40 miles, gross vehicle weights on a set of double trailers can be as high as 164,000 pounds. He primarily hauls non-hazardous industrial waste and construction materials.

Even though the routes traveled are relatively low mileage, getting in and out of those landfills and loading docks requires highly maneuverable vehicles. Adding to the challenge are the weather conditions in southeastern Michigan that can be particularly harsh in the winter. And as is the case with just about any truck fleet, reliability and durability of the trucks and components are essential to success.

"Breakdowns can be unusually harmful today because dealers and parts houses just don't inventory enough parts anymore," says Hawkins.

"Everybody has to order parts when you need them and a truck may be down for up to a week in some cases."


Helping in a very big way to avoid that unpleasant scenario are the Eaton UltraShift® PLUS MXP (Multipurpose Extreme Performance)18-speed automated transmissions that Hawkins has been using since 2012. He reports that he has yet to experience a failure with that initial purchase. Nor has he with the three more that he's since ordered.

The MXP -- part of the Performance Series platform of UltraShift PLUS transmissions -- uses an electronic clutch actuator to provide faster shifting and smoother engagements. Intelligent shift selection software uses changes in grade, weight and throttle to calculate the most efficient and effective shift points.

At idle, the transmission fully engages the clutch giving the driver ultimate control in the most challenging of situations such as those often associated with hauling extra heavy loads.

Additional product features include:

  • On/Off highway performance design.
  • Safety features including auto neutral and Intelligent Hill Start Aid, which prevents roll-back and roll-forward while launching on grades using foundation wheel brakes.
  • Automatic, Manual and Low modes offering drivers full control.
  • Creep mode.
  • Can be paired with the highest torque engines available today with torque capacities ranging from 1,450 lb.-ft. through 2,250 lb.-ft.
  • World class start-ability and ratio coverage.
  • The 18-speed model has unlimited gross combination weight capabilities.

Being the innovator that he is, Hawkins has also identified additional features that he believes are especially helpful in making certain H & P Transportation remains profitable.


"The best thing about those UltraShift PLUS transmissions is that it is impossible to make a mistake with those trucks and mess up something, especially the drivetrain," says Hawkins. "The second is the amount of drive tire life that we are getting. Normally in our application we get about 50,000 miles on a brand new set because everything is all stop-and-go. It's all running local, hauling heavy loads, stopping and going. But with UltraShift PLUS we are getting about 85,000 to 90,000 miles on a set of drive tires."

Always mindful of his drivers' comfort, Hawkins notes that his Eaton automated transmissions are just as effective as those automatic tarp systems and tail gate locks in reducing fatigue.

"The drivers say it really cuts down on the fatigue," adds Hawkins. "Plus, I'm sure the transmissions also make the driver and the vehicle safer."

Because of that, most of his drivers will go out of their way for a chance to drive an H & P vehicle with UltraShift PLUS.

"We do not normally switch seats, but if it's a Saturday when somebody is not scheduled to work, the other drivers will say they want to get into a truck that has the UltraShift PLUS transmission," says Hawkins. "There are also instances where a driver has a day off or somebody else's truck needs service and we let them drive the UltraShift PLUS while we service the other truck. Everyone has had a chance to drive the transmissions, so they are all familiar with it."

Meanwhile, Hawkins says the dynamics of the fatigue factor are also bringing about unexpected benefits.

"The transmissions have actually helped lower my workers comp rate," he says. "Every truck that we order in the future will have UltraShift PLUS."