Tidewater Transit builds success methodically, deliberately
Oct 1, 2007 12:00 PM, By Charles E Wilson
Safety is stressed throughout the orientation process. New hires learn about the carrier's full range of safety programs, including Seconds (which stands for Safety ensures continuous opportunities for new driving successes).
Instructors explain that driving performance is monitored, in part, by the PeopleNet on-board system combined with PerformX software. Managers conduct ride-alongs with drivers at least once each quarter. Safety personnel evaluate motorist complaints coming through the 800 phone number on the trailers. Drivers receive counseling as needed, and that can include remedial instruction through Pro-Tread, an on-line series of safe driving courses.
Incentives to promote safe work performance include quarterly cash bonuses and awards based on years of safe driving. Decals are posted on tractors to indicate the number of accident-free years for each driver. Drivers and mechanics are eligible to share in any money remaining in a loss pool at the end of the year. Key drivers are invited to an annual Chairman's Council meeting to discuss ways to improve safety and make the company better.
New hires find out right away that the safety program isn't just for them. It involves everyone at the company. For instance, terminal managers, shop foremen, and corporate executives gather for a day-and-a-half Safety Summit every July. The program includes the 10-hour training program required by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.
Driver safety and retention are two key factors considered when new vehicles are specified. Company tractors are no more than five years old, and they are outfitted for driver comfort. They also have some of the latest safety systems.
“We have standardized, for the most part, on Volvo tractors,” says Roy Morelock, Tidewater Transit fleet maintenance manager. “We like the steel cab because it offers an added measure of safety. All of our company tractors have air bags, and the newest units were specified with Bendix roll stability. We're also testing the Haldex roll stability system on one tank trailer.”
Most of the tractors in the fleet were specified with the Cummins ISX engine rated for 450 horsepower. The carrier recently began taking delivery of new tractors with 2007 engines. The new tractors were supposed to begin arriving much earlier in the year, but Volvo officials acknowledge that production issues delayed the Tidewater Transit order.
Other drivetrain components include Eaton 10-speed transmissions and Meritor drive tandems with air-ride suspension. Tractors also are specified with aluminum disc wheels and Continental 16-ply tires.
“We prefer the Continental tire for its durability,” Morelock says. “It has more sidewall protection, and we can run higher air pressure, which reduces tread wear. Our fleet standard is 105 psi in the tires. We're getting better than 200,000 miles from our drive tires, and our goal is two recaps from each casing.”
For product handling, each tractor carries a Blackmer pump and Blackmer compressor or Gardner Denver blower. “The specific arrangement depends on where the tractor will be assigned in our system,” Morelock says.
Collette adds that the fleet has tried as much as possible to standardize the product unloading system. “It would be even better if we didn't have to put any product handling equipment on our vehicles,” he says. “We believe that should be the customer responsibility, and it would lower our operating costs. In addition, we could improve driver retention if we had the sort of no-touch loading and unloading systems that many of the freight carriers have achieved.”
On the trailer side of the fleet, the carrier runs a diverse range of equipment that includes petroleum units and LP-gas tanks. However, the predominant trailers are stainless steel chemical tankers and aluminum pneumatic self-loading bulkers.
The newest chemical tankers are 7,000-gallon DOT407 units built by Brenner Tank LLC and Polar Tank Trailer LLC. The straight-barrel insulated trailers are configured for rear unload and are specified with Fort Vale domelids, Fort Vale and Girard vents, and Betts outlets.
Up to now, all of the stainless steel chemical trailers in the fleet were constructed of 316L. That's about to change, though. Tidewater Transit placed the first multi-trailer order for Brenner's new chemical tankers constructed of Lean Duplex stainless steel.
“We expect to take delivery of five Lean Duplex tankers in January 2008,” Collette says. “We took this step for several reasons. The Lean Duplex steel is less expensive than 316L due to lower nickel content. Lean Duplex steel is stronger, more durable, and not subject to stress corrosion.”
Virtually all of the pneumatic self-loading trailers in the fleet are used to transport plastics, and most are SuperFlo bulkers built by Heil Trailer International. The carrier recently bought four Trail King trailers that offer improved stability with a 102-inch width.
The newest plastics trailers have a 1600-cu-ft capacity, and that is to be the standard for the future. Bulkers are specified with Salco three-way diverters and Sure Seal swing-away tees. The carrier orders five-inch discharge outlets with four-inch product lines.
Running gear on the plastics trailers includes Meritor axles with the Hendrickson Intraax air suspension. This same arrangement is used on some of the chemical trailers. However, most of the chemical trailers have Meritor axles with Reyco spring suspensions.
Morelock says that Tidewater Transit has begun retrofitting the Reyco suspensions on some of the acid trailers in the fleet with Meritor composite springs. Results have been good so far, and the trailers reportedly ride like they are on an air suspension.
The carrier moves very methodically and deliberately when it comes to evaluating new components and systems. Management has taken the same approach in developing the customer services that have brought steady growth over the years.
© 2013 Penton Media Inc.
Acceptable Use Policy blog comments powered by Disqus