Swallow Oil grows with Rocky Mountain market
Nov 1, 2008 12:00 PM
Swallow Oil supplies its two bulk plants and four c-stores, as well as other customers, with a fleet that includes three transports, a truck-and-trailer unit, and three tankwagons. The transports haul refined fuels out of terminals in Denver and Grand Junction. The tankwagons provide commercial and industrial accounts with a variety of services, including contract refueling.
The transports typically haul two to three loads a day, and the tankwagons are operated on 10-hour shifts. “We've done about as much as we can to optimize our transport activities,” Kirk says. “Traffic is always a challenge along the busy I-70 corridor. In addition, winter weather can pose serious problems. All hazardous materials loads must go over Loveland Pass, which is sometimes closed due to bad weather.”
Distribution activities are handled by a team of nine drivers. “We'd like to hire more drivers, but it has been difficult due to the strong economy in this area,” Kirk says. “We'd like to slipseat all of our tractors to maximize productivity. Currently, only one tractor has two drivers.”
Swallow Oil also employs another 45 workers at its bulk plants and c-stores. One of the biggest challenges faced by the petroleum marketer was developing a solid, comprehensive, uniform management program for those employees.
“We're a small company, and we needed help developing an up-to-date employee handbook,” Kris says. “We joined the c-buying program several years ago on the recommendation of Conoco Phillips, and we turned to the CBC HR411.com program for help in our human resources responsibilities.
“Ted Wojcik is the consultant who helped develop our employee handbook and spent several days on-site with us to determine our needs. The handbook he helped us assemble was customized to cover all of our employees and references relevant to Colorado regulations. Consultants at HR411.com always are available to offer help and advice.”
Swallow Oil also turned to another consultant — Mike Stookey with MJS Safety LLC — for help in developing a driver safety program. “Mike helps us keep up with driving regulations, and he conducts our monthly safety meetings,” Kris says. “We think it makes sense to contract out specialized functions that would be expensive with a fulltime manager.”
Consulting services (specifically HR411.com) aren't the only benefit of the c-buying program, though. Swallow Oil also receives a rebate with the purchase of every new Kenworth truck and tractor.
Swallow Oil runs only Kenworth tractors, all three of them long-nose W900s. For tank trucks, the company runs one Kenworth T800, two Freightliners, and one International.
“We believe Kenworth builds a very competitive tractor,” Kirk says. “All of our tractors are daycab models, and the newest has the extended daycab.”
The petroleum marketer has standardized on the Cummins ISX engine, which is delivering fuel economy of six miles per gallon. Tractor engines are rated at 600 horsepower, and the tank truck power plants are set for 565 hp. Eighteen-speed transmissions are specified in all of the trucks.
Image is important at Swallow Oil, and the tractors have plenty of chromed hardware, including bumpers, sun visors, air cleaner, and aluminum disc wheels. Drive wheels have been fitted with an automatic chain actuation system to improve traction on icy roads. Blackmer product pumps are used on all of the tractors and trucks in the fleet.
Tank semi-trailers used by Swallow Oil have a 9500-gallon capacity. Swallow Oil runs three 4500-gallon tank trucks and one with a 3,000-gallon capacity. Trailers and truck tanks are supplied by Beall Corp.
Five-compartment tanks give Swallow Oil the ability to deliver unleaded regular and premium gasoline and diesel in a single shipment to a c-store. Hardware includes Emco Wheaton API adapters and a digital additive injection system from Great Plains Industries.
“The additive is for the diesel we market,” Kirk says. “We've begun using Primrose, a premium diesel fuel additive. It improves lubricity, which is important because ultra low sulfur diesel is very dry. The additive also acts as a pour point depressant and a cetane booster.”
The trailers are painted a bright red that matches the tractors. “We paint the trailers to save the aluminum tank from the magnesium chloride that is used to control ice and snow on the roads during the winter,” Kirk says. “The Colorado Highway Department uses a lot of mag chloride on I-70. We also believe that painted trailers are easier to keep clean.”
The bright red tractors and trailers certainly stand out along Colorado's I-70 corridor. The transports serve as a daily reminder that Swallow Oil is steadily expanding its presence in the fast-growing market.
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