Louisiana trailer leasing company serves shippers, carriers
Apr 1, 2008 12:00 PM, By Mary Davis
Louis Vielee, owner of L&B Transport LLC in Port Allen, Louisiana, noticed in 1984 that many of his tractors were sitting idle because shippers wanted his tank trailers for temporary storage at their locations, and he didn't have the trailer inventory to fill the gap.
The situation wasn't entirely inefficient as the shippers were paying rent for the use of the trailers, but meanwhile Vielee's tractors weren't on the road. Like all carriers, he knew that for the fleet to be financially efficient, all the wheels needed to be turning.
The question was: “How to add more tank trailers to the trucking company fleet without having an overstocked inventory?” That was when Vielee decided it was time to enter the trailer leasing business that would serve not only other shippers and carriers, but provide tankers for his trucking operation.
He formed a separate company, TMI Enterprise LLC, and purchased one tank trailer. Before long, shippers were asking for more tank trailers to temporarily store the specialty chemicals they were producing in small volume.
Today, TMI has 600 tank trailers in the leasing fleet. “One reason for our success has been our ability to respond quickly to customers' requests,” says Vielee. “DOT407 trailers are the most popular. We like to sit down with our customers to spec the equipment to fit their operation. Leasing can be a tax advantage for them and they are avoiding a capital investment, which reduces the liability on their financial sheet. They know the cost up front.”
Jody Guillory, vice-president of L&B, notes that the vehicles are in “first class condition.” Customers range from those who require short-term (daily, weekly, monthly) leases to those who prefer longer programs. About 20 of the customers are signed on for three-year contracts.
Vielee points out that many tank trailers have doubled in price in the past three to five years, another incentive driving the leasing market, particularly for companies that are just being formed and want to avoid going into debt to stock their fleets.
In 2007, Vielee bought 60 new tank trailers, although during some of that time delivery was slow because of market demands on manufacturers. But more recently, he was able to obtain the trailers in about four months. “We do not book a customer for delivery until we have the trailer in hand,” he says.
One TMI Enterprise specialty is applying rubber linings and Teflon coatings to tank interiors. “A lot of our customers are handling highly corrosive products, so this service was a good fit for us,” says Vielee. A subcontractor, Quality Liners, is located at the Port Allen facility and installs linings for customers.
Some of the trailers in the fleet have aluminum tanks with three-axles and single tires that can handle a 60,000-pound payload typically leased by shippers to haul hydrochloric acid. The fleet includes DOT407 and DOT412 trailers built by Brenner Tank LLC, Polar Tank Trailer LLC, J&L Tank, Heil Trailer International, and Tremcar Inc. Both insulated and non-insulated units are available.
Other tank trailer examples include:
5,500-gallon DOT412 carbon steel cargo tanks lined with natural rubber, chlorobutyl rubber, Derakane, or Hetron for hydrochloric acid or fluoride.
6,500-7,500-gallon MC307 stainless steel insulated cargo tanks with intransit heat capable of rear and center unloading.
8,400-gallon DOT407 aluminum tanks commonly used for lightweight products such as methanol and solvents.
5,000-gallon DOT412 stainless steel trailers with top and bottom unloading capabilities used for sulfuric and caustics and other products with weight 16 pounds per gallon.
7,500-gallon DOT412 stainless steel tank trailers used for a wide range of products.
1,600-cubic-foot dry bulker with vacuum pneumatic capability or 1,000-cubic-foot bulkers.
Equally important, the company offers a full-maintenance service as part of the leasing program, Guillory says. “A majority of the long-term customers choose the service,” he adds.
A 10-bay shop at the Port Allen location handles most of the maintenance, but some is outsourced. Over-the-road service is provide by third-party maintenance facilities. Shop operations are coordinated with the use of Sage Mass 90 and TMW Systems software.
“We provide inspection services and can swap out a trailer while it is in the shop, if the customer requests it,” says Vielee. “We also can apply nitrogen blankets, and we blast and paint trailers. Some customers request installation of heating systems for maintaining high temperatures.”
All of this began in the late 1970s when Vielee was working as a mechanic and saved enough money to buy an International tractor. “I thought I didn't want to work on any more trucks,” he recalls. “But then I practically lived in that truck. When I began to grow the company, the maintenance background was an advantage. Running a business takes knowledge from many directions.”
Vielee eventually formed L&B Holdings, which is the parent company of L&B Transport and TMI Enterprise. The trucking company was formed primarily to serve the chemical industry in southern Louisiana. Today, it leases 200 tank trailers, 30 pneumatics, and 10 MC331 trailers from TMI and specializes in rubber-lined chemical service, as well as transportation of dry bulk products. The carrier runs throughout the United States and has terminals in Port Allen; LaPorte, Texas; and Mobile, Alabama.
About 200 drivers (185 owner-operators and 15 company employees) are onboard. In addition to hauling product, drivers deliver tank trailers to lease customers. Dispatchers in three shifts coordinate drivers from Port Allen.
Drivers are all trained at Port Allen in company policies, Department of Transportation regulations, defensive driving, and hazardous materials handling. The company employs three fulltime safety managers who also handle training, says Guillory.
The tractor fleet includes Peterbilt and Freightliner conventionals with Cummins, Detroit Diesel, and Caterpillar engines — typically with 430-horsepower — and Eaton Fuller 10-speed transmissions. The carrier prefers dual PTOs and specifies 52-inch fifthwheels, Wilcox air compressors, and Roper and Blackmer pumps. Most of the trucks are equipped with GPS tracking systems.
In addition to L&B Transport and TMI Enterprise, Vielee owns four Lucky Louie Truck Stops in the Baton Rouge area, as well as Grand Paradise Casinos located in the truck stops.
As for the future, the company has moved its administrative offices into a new 9,000-square-foot corporate building that was recently completed on the Port Allen property. A Web site at landbtransport.com has been posted for further marketing efforts and Vielee plans to continue expanding the leasing fleet, anticipating further demand from shippers and carriers. If the economy continues to fade, he anticipates more carriers will shy away from buying vehicles and turn to a leasing program. “Even when we get a trailer back, it is usually an advantage because we have others who can use it,” he says.
All in all, it appears that Vielee made the right decision more than two decades ago when he examined his situation driven by shippers using his trailers for temporary storage and made the decision to start a leasing business.
© 2013 Penton Media Inc.
Acceptable Use Policy blog comments powered by Disqus