RNI mechanics keep trucks running in Utah's remote Uinta Basin
Feb 1, 2009 12:00 PM, By Charles E Wilson
Initial training and orientation takes place in a classroom at RNI's Vernal, Utah, terminal. New hires then are assigned to a driver-trainer for on-the-job training that lasts up to two weeks. Regular safety meetings continually reinforce the points made by instructors during the training.
On-the-job training takes place in the Kenworth T800 tractors that account for most of the trucks and tractors in the fleet. “We started with Kenworth, and we've never changed our preference,” Price says. “We believe our fleet equipment has helped us recruit and retain good drivers in what has been a highly competitive market.”
Chapman prefers Kenworth T800s for their quality, durability, and resale value. “The T800 is our workhorse,” he says. “The cab holds together in rust-service applications better than anything we have ever tried. The T800 really holds up well in the gas fields. Every year we order more trucks thinking we'll trade in some of the older units, but they keep running and we keep growing. Eventually, we want to get to a five-year trade cycle, but not yet.”
RNI orders T800s with 500- to 600-horsepower engines and 18-speed transmissions. The company began a shift from Caterpillar to Cummins ISX engines about a year ago. “We had to make a change,” Chapman says. “The Cat engines weren't performing well in the dusty conditions that we encounter. The air filter on those engines couldn't handle the dust, and trucks were breaking down.”
Drive tandems are specified with fulltime differential locks. Double frames, along with other severe-service components, help the trucks and tractors overcome the grueling operating conditions. All of that means RNI runs heavy trucks — tractor tare is 19,000 pounds and vacuum truck tare is 26,000 pounds.
Vacuum trucks account for about half of the RNI fleet. Most of these trucks carry an 80-barrel (3,360-gallon) tank fabricated from stainless or carbon steel. Over the years, RNI has purchased vacuum tanks from several suppliers, the most recent being Independent Truck Tank LLC in Bolivar, Missouri. Truck- and tractor-mounted cargo-handling equipment includes vacuum pumps from National Vacuum Equipment and Masport.
Vacuum trailers transported by the tractors typically have a 130-barrel (5,460-gallon) tank made of stainless or carbon steel. The most recent trailer purchases were from Dragon Products LTD, Beaumont, Texas. Product hoses carried on trailers and trucks are from various suppliers, including Goodyear.
Trailers are built with the rugged operating conditions in mind. The newest ones have the same sort of single-point spring suspension that is used on belly-dump trailers. It is a durable suspension that performs well on rough roads.
Steel disc wheels are standard on the vacuum trailers. RNI runs a variety of tires from Goodyear, Yokohama, Bridgestone, and Firestone. “The dirt and gravel roads we operate over eat up tires,” Chapman says. “We have found that certain brands and tread configurations work better in various areas.”
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