Jul 1, 2007 12:00 PM
WITH A new $500,000 expansion and 10 repair bays in operation in Geismar, Louisiana, Delta Trailer Inc (DTI) has a flagship facility that complements maintenance and repair locations in Houston, Texas.
Another facility will be opened later this year in Mobile, Alabama. The company also performs contract work at several carrier locations.
“Four of our customers asked us to provide services at their terminals, which we had been thinking about doing,” says Rodney Green, DTI chief operating officer. “We have our mechanics in place at eight fleet terminals where they can provide almost all the services that we offer in our shops, with the exception of certain code-requirement procedures.”
With DTI handling the maintenance and repair program, carriers are freed from the administration processes. In addition to shop services, DTI hires and trains the mechanics. “That eases the responsibility for our customers,” Green says.
At the Geismar headquarters, one of the most recent projects came with an order from Comcar Industries in Florida to build 30 specialized tank trailers over a four-year period, which encouraged the owners' plans for the 15,000-square-foot facility expansion. But just as DTI was setting sail with the project in 2005, Hurricane Katrina slammed into the Louisiana coast and shut down DTI, which lies about 70 miles northwest of New Orleans. Although the facility received little damage, it was without power for four days and employees were stranded. After a brief shutdown, the facility was back in operation and business slowly returned to normal.
After christening the new shop in April 2006, DTI was able to increase production for the Comcar project. At the beginning, Comcar supplied some used trailers to be redesigned. DTI fabricated and installed hopper sections with a full-length opening on top that actuates by a system of air-operated gears. To lower the center of gravity of the trailers made top heavy by the addition of the hoppers, DTI widened them six inches, from 96 inches to 102 inches. They also discovered while they were working on the hoppers that a flexing problem was causing cracks that called for adjustment by changing the internal ring supports.
Today, DTI completes the assembly of the combo trailer. Brenner Tank Inc supplies the 3,800-gallon tank trailers and DTI installs the hopper system. The company uses the combo tank trailers to haul sulfur to one destination, while fertilizer then can be loaded for the backhaul.
Although the Comcar project is ongoing, DTI is busy serving many other customers with maintenance, repair, fabrication, and parts. “Our capabilities are constantly changing and growing with the industry,” says Huey Beason, president and chief executive officer. “We have evolved since I began the business in November 1999 and have continued to expand our services as opportunities were presented.”
The company has experienced 20%-25% annual growth since it was established, and Beason is projecting another 10%-15% annually for the next few years. In 2004, the company leased space from QualaWash in Houston for its six-bay facility there, and this year the five-bay Mobile location will get underway.
In Geismar where about 75% of the customer base is served, the new expanded facility has 25-foot-wide bays — five feet wider than in the old building — and 18-foot ceilings. Four bays are dedicated to trailer inspections, two bays for fabrication, and two for parts. The remaining two bays are used for other services.
Typical tank services include external and internal visual inspections, lining inspection, leakage testing, pressure retesting, thickness testing, MC330/331 retesting, vapor recovery testing, bottom-loading conversion, major barrel repair, sandblasting/painting, tank changeouts, lining repair, custom fabrication, wrecked trailer purchase, and pick-up and delivery. The shop holds a National Board R stamp.
Equipment includes a Milwaukee crane, Verson press brake, and Millermatic MIG welder. Shop administration is handled by Peachtree software from Sage. Future plans call for more software integration that will link all three facilities, as well as the sites at carrier terminals.
The company also converted a 3,000-square-foot area in the old building into a parts department to serve as a central warehouse for all the locations. Other sections of the new expansion include an employee break room/training area equipped with lockers, showers, vending machines, and microwave. Adjoining rooms have space for future offices that can be leased to carriers for terminal operations.
Mechanics receive in-house training, in addition to being sent to training sessions at local facilities that provide safety education. They are trained on site in repair procedures by veteran mechanics at each facility. New hires also are overseen by experienced welders and mechanics during hands-on work. Both Geismar and Houston locations have an “R” stamp for tank repair and fabrication. In addition, the process for obtaining the certification for the Mobile facility has started.
Additional training focuses on compliance, hazardous materials and communications safety, general tool safety, and confined space entry. In addition, mechanics receive site-specific safety training that reinforces the outside classes.
As for the future, Beason says plans include developing more of the property, possibly adding a terminal and a small industrial park to serve the trailer industry. “I also see our contract services to carriers growing, as well as our ability to build specialty equipment,” he adds. “Repairs to unusual and custom equipment is a mainstay, but we already are doing some van repairs. That's one reason we raised the roof during the expansion. Our plans are to grow beyond the South-Central United States as opportunities are presented, and we will focus on areas that will integrate well within the tank truck industry.”
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