Leicht, a logistics and materials handling company in Green Bay, Wisconsin, operates 30 dry bulk trailers used primarily for hauling cement. But since cement transportation is a seasonal part of the dry bulk division, the company offsets the downtime by delivering calcium, fly ash, salt, and potato starch.
Keeping the trucks on the road throughout the year is essential for maintaining steady revenue, but it is particularly important for retaining drivers. In today's tank truck industry, driver retention is described as critical. Companies with divisions that operate seasonally often have to lay off drivers in the slow period, which likely means the drivers won't be available when business picks up again.
At Leicht, the steady driver pool numbers about 50. "We've lost a few drivers," says Jim Lindow, an operations manager. "Other drivers have retired and new ones are hard to find, so we don't want to lay off any more than we have to."
Newly hired drivers are trained on the job, with those assigned to the dry bulkers required to attend a special three-week session designed for handling the tank trailer equipment. An annual safety training session also is provided for all drivers.
"Our driver retention has been really good," says Steve Sprangers of the operations department. "We have an annual safety monetary award that goes to drivers with no accidents or injuries reported. If they continue to meet the qualifications, the award is larger each year."
What helps the Leicht operation keep its drivers on the job year round is the business it has hauling calcium to Wisconsin power plants, and fly ash and potato starch to paper mills. Later, when the weather improves and construction gains momentum, the cement tank trailers are back dominating the operation. Dry bulk transportation services spread out from Green Bay to northern, western, and central Wisconsin.
In the last two years, Leicht added more than one million square feet of new warehouse space, bringing total capacity to three million square feet. Leicht locates its facilities close to major highways, on railroad lines, and in business parks. The intermodal facilities are predominantly used for box container operations with a few tank containers handled occasionally. At the 20-acre headquarters location, about seven rail cars can be handled at any time for intermodal operations. The railroad is operated by Wisconsin Central.
Added to the facility expansion is a recent purchase of a 35-ton top lift machine that will move 70,000 pounds of loaded box containers. "We needed this lift because we are handling more double-stacked cars," says Sprangers. "This saves us from having to unload at another location."
Adjacent to the Leicht headquarters site is one of the company's shippers, LaFarge Inc, a cement plant with a dock for ship transloading where the tank trailers have access and move the product from ship to the plant. Cement, about 150,000 tons annually, is hauled to construction sites and to other cement plants.
The dry bulk division is a small part of the entire Leicht operation. The parent company services include intermodal facilities, importing, exporting, boxing, and crating. With direct access to water and rail, the company is centrally located at the Port of Green Bay, Wisconsin, a Midwest connection to the St Lawrence Seaway.
Leicht has a history of growth begun in 1903 when T M Leicht hitched up a flat wagon to one sighted horse and one blind horse, all purchased with a capital investment of $150, and began serving the Green Bay area. The company was one of the first in the area to put a motorized truck on the road - a two-ton stake truck with solid tires. By the mid-1930s and with 20 trucks, Leicht was specializing in transit activity, local cartage, and moving.
Headquarters have always been at a railhead, so the move to intermodal was almost a given. About 75% of the business comes from paper companies located up and down the Fox River in the Green Bay area.
The company also has practiced good vehicle maintenance throughout its history. Today, Fruehauf and Heil tank trailers dominate the fleet and are inspected every three months, says Rick Malchow, maintenance supervisor. A seven-bay shop is utilized for all company equipment. International tractors, used interchangeably with the dry bulkers, and flatbeds in the fleet are greased every 6,000 miles and the oil changed at 12,000.
The tractors are propelled by Cummins 350-horsepower engines with Fuller or Eaton 10-speed transmissions. Tandem-drive axles with a 3.73 ratio are furnished by Meritor, as is the front axle.
"International tractors give us the best productivity for the various duties they must perform," says Malchow.
The tank trailers with 1,000-cubic-foot capacity are equipped with Milwaukee and Sure Seal valves and vents. Gardner Denver Inc and Miley-Dexter blowers are PTO driven and mounted on the trailers. Switzer exhaust blowers are used with a diverter valve and are driven by the exhaust from the truck.
Suspensions are from Reyco and landing gear are supplied by Holland and Jost. Leicht specifies Bridgestone tires.
One dispatcher handles all fleet assignments, including the cement deliveries, and Motorola two-way radios are used to keep in touch with drivers.
The Leicht tradition encompasses nearly a century of professional experience, a commitment to personal service, and the latest and most innovative equipment and techniques in the warehousing and transportation industries. "We believe how we handle things makes all the difference," is a company motto.