IN 1999, Triad Transport Inc of McAlester, Oklahoma, established a new central load planning program to enhance the company's operational efficiency. Today, the decision is paying off. Empty miles have been reduced from 211/42%, and the operating rate per running mile has increased four cents per mile.

"The load planning program evolved from several after-hour brainstorming sessions," says Dick Dune, general manager. "We spent many hours in the planning, which eventually produced what we have today."

The company has gradually expanded across the United States and into Canada - all the time exhibiting a conservative management system. With $19 million in annual revenue, the company is an industrial hazardous waste specialist with three divisions: Triad Transport, Triad Service Centers, and Triad Asset Management. Triad Transport is organized in three sections: one for tank trailers, one for end-dump and roll-off trailers, and the third for vans and flatbeds. Satellite terminals are located in Salt Lake City, Utah; Houston, Texas; Columbus, Ohio; and Fontana, California. The Houston terminal houses intermodal facilities with access to four rail spots.

The business was begun by John Titsworth and Davey Wilkett in 1985. Titsworth, president, and Wilkett, vice-president, continue to direct the corporation.

"An important issue now and beyond is the proper handling, transporting, and disposal of hazardous materials," says Titsworth. "At the same time, we realize the old adage, time is money. We have developed our load planner program to insure we can give excellent service to our customers."

Three load planners operate the program, each assigned to one of the carrier's sections. The load planners, based in McAlester, coordinate all loads for all terminals, working in conjunction with dispatchers. They book loads based on equipment and driver availability.

Vehicle Movement Terminal dispatchers handle vehicle movements while units are within the areas to which they are assigned. When the trucks leave their terminal area, the load planners take over. Dune suggests the system works much like a game of chess with the load planners goal to avoid a checkmate.

"Terminal managers interact with the load planners," says Dune. "They talk about the various jobs that are en-route and those that might conflict with another terminal."

The load planner program couldn't work without the IBM AS400 computer and McCormick software that is in place, says Dune. In addition, tractors are equipped with Qualcomm satellite tracking, including Prophesy for mileage tracking and SensorTracs for vehicle performance.

The on-board capabilities allow the company to track a myriad of day-to-day activities, including sales, revenue, fuel use, mileage, tractor performance, driver hours-of-service, and preventive and scheduled maintenance. The company is committed to the technology. The goal is to eliminate as much paperwork as possible.

"We use an imaging system and are scanning everything," says Dune.

Just having the information electronically stored isn't enough by itself, he adds. The data is especially helpful to pinpoint trends that may be occurring. Information is evaluated for ways to improve efficiency and performance. For example, a driver bonus has been established, based on the individual's record of fuel usage.

The computer programs evaluate engine speed, idle and running time, and miles traveled. The driver competition works in two ways, it rewards careful drivers, and can be used to show all of the drivers how to improve their driving techniques to avoid excessive fuel consumption.

This driver data, and other information, is relayed in weekly and monthly reports to terminal managers.

A recent addition to the company's intermodal operation in Houston, Texas, is an American Bridge Standards portable loading ramp. Mobilization is fast and efficient since the sections can be shipped by flatbed trucks or rail flat cars to a site and assembled. The ramp has six sections. When assembled, the ramp provides a 9% slope over 100 feet long, making it ideal for handling full size end-dump trailers, bobtail trucks, or full-length trailers. The rail spur also is used with some pneumatic trailers hauling plastic pellets.

Triad Transport provides transportation for facilities involved in treatment, recycling, disposal, and incineration of hazardous wastes. Wastes hauled include solvents, fuels, oils, acids, alcohols, and polychlorinated biphenyl (PCBs).

Company Diversification The company's diversification evolved gradually as the operation grew from hauling rock, sand, and gravel to the current expertise in hazardous materials. After entering the hazmat arena, the company expanded into tank trailers in the early 1990s.

"We had turned down business before because we didn't know that much about tanks," says Wilkett. "Then we hired some drivers who were tank hands, and they helped us make the transition. Of course, we had to develop a program for hazardous materials safety and training."

Wilkett's father also owned a trucking company. The son learned the business from his dad, taking an interest in maintenance, in which he continues to specialize. With Titsworth's business management training, the pair have worked in tandem to develop a successful company with emphasis on safety.

In Dune's office, a quotation from Indira Gandhi hangs in a prominent spot behind his desk: "It is a requirement, not a luxury, to protect our environment."

"Triad Transport provides customers with efficient, cost-effective, environmentally-safe, nationwide transportation," says Titsworth. "We transport solids, sludges, and liquid hazardous waste. It is essential that our personnel stay abreast of the ever-changing federal regulations and attend safety training workshops."

A monthly newsletter is one way the company keeps employees supplied with information. For example, in the July issue, Ben Kennedy, safety director, provided information on driver hours of service. He also listed six safety principles drivers should follow while on the road.

In addition, the newsletter recognizes drivers who have received a "no violation" after being inspected at inspection stations. A payment of $50 is awarded to each driver who receives the designation.

"We realize that possessing a fleet of highly specialized and well-maintained equipment can be virtually useless without quality personnel," says Titsworth. "We strive to meet the needs of our customers by employing a highly qualified staff. All drivers are closely screened."

Driver applicants must be at least 25 years old and have a minimum of three years verifiable driving experience. They must have a high school diploma or equivalent, no drug, alcohol, or felony offenses within the past three years, and no more than three moving violations in the past three years.

If they are selected for employment, they will be trained to handle the vehicles used in each company division. Driver training includes courses in Department of Transportation regulations, hazardous materials handling, and company procedures and policies.

Training Instructors All drivers are trained at the company's McAlester service center where a room is dedicated to classes. Ben Kennedy is safety director, and Triad employs one full-time driver-trainer, Andy Wood. In addition, the company has two full-time driver recruiters, and another employee oversees driver logs and compliance.

Once on the road, drivers are provided uniform shirts with company logo and identification badges. After the drivers have been employed for 30 days, their spouses can ride with them - one benefit the company believes minimizes the driver turnover rate.

Keeping tractors and trailers clean and in top running condition is another priority at Triad. "We want a professional image," says Wilkett. "We sell service and integrity."

The service center, on a 100-acre site near the headquarters in McAlester, reflects the company's professional image and handles all company maintenance. The service facility is directed by Joe Richardson, service manager, and Don Fernandez, parts manager. Some commercial service is offered at the six-bay shop. One bay is reserved for painting and another for welding. Waste oil is recycled and used in heaters to heat the shop area in the winter.

Maintenance facilities are also available at the company's satellite terminals in Oklahoma, Texas, Utah, and Ohio. Routine maintenance is performed on tractors and tank trailers. Vehicles are given overall checks before leaving for the road and again upon return. They are greased at 5,000-mile intervals and engine oil changed at 20,000 miles.

The company has 126 Peterbilt tractors with C15 Caterpillar engines rated at 475 horsepower. They are traded every three years or at 350,000 to 400,000 miles, which means they remain in warranty and are a good value for buyers. Tractor specifications are chosen carefully to enhance resale. The engines have Horton fan clutches, Bendix air compressors, and Jacobs brakes.

The tractors have 10-speed Fuller transmissions and Spicer clutches. Meritor WABCO supplies the four-channel antilocking brake systems. Triad specifies Peterbilt air-ride suspensions and Eaton supplies 12,000-pound front axles. The Eaton 40,000-pound drive axle has a 3.70 ratio.

Wheels are aluminum and from Alcoa. The carrier uses Bridgestone tires primarily.

Fleet Trailers The carrier operates 46 tank trailers throughout the United States and Canada. The DOT412 vacuum trailers are supplied by Acro Trailer Company, Springfield, Illinois. Typically, the single-compartment vessels have 6,000-gallon capacity. They are equipped with Fort Vale stainless steel venting, and Betts emergency and discharge valves. Acro supplies the manhole. A National Vacuum stainless secondary is installed on the curbside #3 ring with one-inch drain in bottom.

A Fruitland vacuum pump is mounted on a heavy-duty five-foot-long stainless steel platform underneath the trailer. A full-length stainless steel platform is mounted on the tank's curbside at approximately one o'clock.

The air-ride suspension is from Neway. Meritor supplies axles and the spring brakes and automatic slack adjusters are from Meritor WABCO. Betts supplies lighting and Holland provides landing gear.

The Triad fleet, like the company, continues to grow at a steady rate. With the company's new central load planning program in place, Triad is poised for more expansion, including a satellite terminal in Phoenix, Arizona.

"At Triad Transport, the customer's needs are our first priority," says Titsworth. "We will continue to provide customers with efficient, cost-effective, environmentally-safe transportation."