Second NTTC Outstanding Performance Trophy for safety in six years for A&R Transport
Jun 1, 2011 12:00 PM, By Charles E Wilson
WINNING a single Outstanding Performance Trophy, the top award in the National Tank Truck Carriers annual safety competition, is an impressive accomplishment. Winning two trophies in six years is truly outstanding.
That is what A&R Transport Inc has done. The Morris, Illinois-based dry bulk hauler just received its second Outstanding Performance Trophy for safety achievements during the 2010 calendar year. The carrier won its first Outstanding Performance Trophy in 2004.
“This latest Outstanding Performance Trophy means a lot to our company,” says Jeff O'Connor, chief executive officer and president of A&R Logistics Inc. “It is a sign that were are doing the right things, and our safety message is getting through to all of our employees. We believe we have truly built a culture of safety at this company that uses innovative methods to stress injury and accident prevention.
“We're seeing a steady reduction in accidents and worker compensation claims every year. Our safety department has worked hard to position our company to move to the next level in safety. We're continuously looking for new ways to innovate in safety in other aspects of our company.”
Paul Sweeden, senior executive vice-president of sales and marketing at A&R Logistics, adds that the latest award holds greater significance this time around. “We've learned a lot since the first trophy,” he says. “Our company is bigger now, and we are getting better all the time. We have a strong safety program that makes us a solid competitor in a very competitive contest. It's an honor to win this trophy in competition with some great tank truck carriers. For us as a tank truck carrier, this is like winning the World Series or Super Bowl.”
Kenneth Pate, A&R Transport vice-president of safety and risk management, was named NTTC Safety Director of the Year and echoes Sweeden's views on the competitive nature of the contest. “We would like to win this trophy every year, but the NTTC safety contest is very competitive,” he says. “Winning a second Outstanding Performance Trophy is a great honor for all of our employees. They responded to a challenge we issued in 2008.
“A good safety program is more than trophies, though. It helps drive down internal costs and makes a company more competitive in the marketplace. Insurance availability is becoming more challenging, and the good performers will be rewarded in terms of rates.”
Wes Van Bruggen, A&R Transport director of safety, says winning the trophy this year was very satisfying. “We all worked hard throughout last year to achieve an excellent safety performance,” he says. “Throughout the year, we reminded everyone in this company that we were determined to achieve a winning safety record.”
The focus and hard work has really paid off. Pate and Van Bruggen oversee a safety program that posted stellar results in 2010. During the year, A&R Transport's fleet ran 74.3 million miles with just 16 recordable accidents and a frequency of 0.215 DOT recordable accidents per million miles. The average DOT frequency for all of the carriers that competed in the NTTC contest was 0.513 per million miles.
Worker safety was another focal point. During 2010, A&R Logistics' 993 employees worked 2,640,300 total hours, reported 10 recordable injuries and no fatalities, and achieved an injury frequency of 0.76. The carrier's overall safety performance improved for the third straight year.
Even as the carrier strengthened its safety program, it was battling through one of the toughest recessions since the Great Depression. Established more than 40 years ago, A&R Logistics ranks among the top five tank truck carriers with 2010 revenues exceeding $211.6 million.
“We ran hard throughout 2010, and we are still very busy this year,” says Andrew Mantey, chief operating officer of A&R Transport. “While our load counts dropped to 2005 levels during the first nine months of 2009, we've definitely recovered from the recession. We're hauling more than we did before the recession.
“We did have a few layoffs, but we kept them to a minimum by making adjustments in other areas of our operation. We made process improvements, and addressed issues such as fuel, general operating expenses, and maintenance costs.”
One reason for the rapid recovery is the diversified dry bulk operation that the management team built. In addition to A&R Transport, the company consists of A&R Global Logistics and A&R Packaging & Distribution Services.
“We believe we are the largest dry bulk operator in the industry, and plastics account for 95% to 98% of the cargoes we handle,” O'Connor says. “We offer the broadest range of supply chain services for the industry we serve. We believe this diversification is making us as recession-proof as any trucking company can be.
“We believe this broad logistics/transportation approach is the model for the future, and we have aggressive growth plans. We're able to offer our clients the right blend of assets and technology, and we have the financial resources to fund our expansion projects.”
Warehousing and logistics
A&R Packaging and Distribution Services, with over 1.3 million square feet of warehouse space across the country, offers warehousing and repackaging services. A&R Global Logistics is a specialized 3PL that focuses on plastics and other dry bulk cargoes. However, A&R Global Logistics also handles traditional less-than-truckload (LTL) and truckload freight movements.
“We're involved in both domestic and international shipments through our various operating units,” O'Connor says. “While the US market is especially active, we also see a fair amount of plastics moving internationally. We're seeing a lot more specialty blends of plastics that require very good processes to avoid contamination in transit.”
The A&R Transport organization has worked hard to implement leading-edge quality control processes. The company has achieved ISO-9002 and Responsible Care quality certification. “These programs require documented processes for our operations, and they help us run better,” O'Connor says.
Logistics operations are coordinated through web-based Mercury Gate software. The system provides real-time data to optimize LTL and truckload shipments of all types of cargo. A&R Global Logistics has the ability to quickly identify opportunities to maximize overall supply chain efficiency and productivity.
In addition to the headquarters terminal complex in Morris, Illinois, the company has trucking, warehousing, and logistics operations in Alabama, California, Georgia, Illinois, Kentucky, Indiana, New Jersey, Louisiana, Michigan, Mississippi, Massachusetts, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, and West Virginia. Nine of the facilities are warehouses, all of which are served by truck and rail. Fleet terminals have dry bulk tank cleaning capabilities. One wash rack in Joliet, Illinois, offers a full range of commercial chemical tank cleaning and van wash-out services.
Dispersed across the A&R Transport system are 760 tractors and 1,100 trailers. Of the tractors, 135 are supplied by owner-operators. The company also runs 135 Drytainer 40-ft Heil dry bulk containers, and 760 Eliminators (40-ft box containers fitted with a proprietary dry bulk system).
“We've been adding tractors, trailers, and drivers, but we still don't have enough equipment or drivers to meet current customer demand,” Mantey says. “We could hire another 50 drivers today and keep them busy.”
The carrier currently employs 625 drivers, all of whom are selected and screened initially at the terminal level. Most of the driver recruitment is by word of mouth, and current A&R drivers are a big part of the recruiting effort.
“This is a driver-friendly company, and we work hard to provide them with a great place to work,” Pate says. “We have no real driver recruitment issues, and we have good driver retention. Our biggest challenge is the industrywide shortage of good drivers.”
The carrier looks for truck drivers with a strong work ethic and concern for safety. To qualify for a job with the carrier, drivers must meet minimum qualifications that include: At least 25 years old, at least three years over-the-road tractor-trailer experience, no unexplained gaps in employment history last longer than 30 days in the past three years, no excessive number of jobs in the past three years, and a clean driving record.
Training of newly hired drivers starts with a two-week program at their home terminal and concludes with a week at the corporate headquarters. Training at the terminal covers federally mandated topics, as well as hands-on instruction for equipment operation.
The terminal training is reviewed and reinforced during the week at the corporate headquarters. The safety management also covers accident policies, driver logs, Occupational Safety and Health Administration requirements, company policies, and spill containment and other product-related issues. New hires must complete A&R Transport's bulk delivery certification. Each training segment is followed by hands-on or written tests.
A final step in the new-hire orientation and training program is lunch with the executive management team in the headquarters boardroom. “This may be the only time some drivers are at the headquarters,” O'Connor says. “Over lunch, we're able to talk with them about the company history, what it means to drive for A&R, and the importance of safety, as well as get feedback from them on their challenges and expectations.”
The training program was built by the safety department and is being continuously refined. In addition to Pate and Van Bruggen, the safety department includes safety managers Kristine Lewis-Suyko, Mike Benefield, and Jason Eberle; safety administrators Leah Whalen, Jacky Vasquez, and Mary Maldonado; and driver certification manager Chuck Vanderwall.
“We've made a lot of changes in our training program,” Pate says. “We've become a lot more proactive. We listen to what drivers have to say, and we incorporate their ideas into our programs. The main job of the safety department is to protect the drivers and other workers at this company. We do all we can to demonstrate that we work for them.
“We have quarterly safety meetings, and we want them to be exciting and memorable. We often hold mock trials with an accident focus. In our opinion, you can't just read from a script and call that a safety meeting.”
The safety team spends as much time as possible with drivers in the field. “We ride with them and get them to talk to us,” Pate says. “That's how we build trust and find out about problems. That's how we get their buy-in to the safety program.”
A&R's management clearly sees drivers as the most critical factor in safety on the road. The carrier is currently implementing the use of electronic driver logs.
Qualcomm on-board communication and computer systems with electronic driver log capabilities have been installed in 150 of the company tractors in the fleet. “The electronic logging system has been favorably received, and some drivers are now asking for the technology,” O'Connor says. “We plan to continue putting the technology in new tractors, and we're looking at more affordable options for owner-operator tractors.”
The company fleet includes a mix of tractor makes, but the newest units are Peterbilt 386s, some with the Paccar MX engine and others with the Cummins ISX. The powertrain includes a 10-speed Eaton-Fuller transmission and 40,000-lb capacity Eaton tandem-drive axles.
Tractor components include a Jost sliding fifthwheel, Alcoa Dura-Brite aluminum wheels, and Bridgestone and Michelin tires. For product handling, A&R Transport specifies Gardner Denver and Tuthill PTO-powered blowers.
In addition to new tractor purchases, A&R Transport has an active glider kit program. The current tractors in the refurbishment program are 2003 Freightliners. A&R Transport buys a complete kit from Freightliner that includes the cab, frame, axles, and other hardware. The carrier rebuilds the engine and transmission.
“We've done 32 glider kits so far this year with 36 more planned by the end of the year,” says Ryan Hill, A&R Transport vice-president of maintenance. “Our goal is to get an addition 750,000 miles out of these refurbished tractors. Most of our tractors average 95,000 miles a year, which means the glider kit units should deliver seven to eight more years of useful life for our fleet.”
The carrier has standardized on Heil and J&L Tank dry bulkers — most of them vacuum pneumatic self loaders. Most have a 1,600 cubic foot capacity. Hardware includes a Premier inlet filter; Bayco check valve; Sure Seal butterfly valves, T-assembly, and couplings. Running gear includes a Hendrickson Intraax air suspension.
An extensive in-house maintenance program helps ensure that A&R Transport puts the safest possible equipment on the road every day. “After all, our families are among those who share the road with our trucks and our drivers,” Hill says.
© 2013 Penton Media Inc.
Acceptable Use Policy blog comments powered by Disqus