Jan 1, 2001 12:00 PM, By Charles E Wilson
OVER THE past 10 years, Transporte 21 has become one of the key contract carriers serving Cementos Caribe. The trucking company is dedicated to cement and serves all of the Cementos Caribe plants.
Based near Puerto Cabello, the largest port in Venezuela, Transporte 21 runs 45 tractors. All of the dry bulk trailers are supplied by Cementos Caribe. Even with the economic slowdown in Venezuela, the trucking company is running at about 80% capacity.
"The future looks good for us," says Freddie Vergodery, Transporte 21 owner. "We have just about all of the business we can handle. It would be difficult to get much bigger anytime soon, because we just can't find enough new drivers.
"We've been successful in our relationship with Cementos Caribe because we are careful to meet their expectations. We run well-maintained equipment that is relatively new, and we make sure our drivers are customer-focused."
Metaphysical Perspective Vergodery learned about the importance of customer service from his father, who was a partner in one of the largest chemical haulers in Venezuela. After growing up, Vergodery pursued his own opportunities in trucking.
Transporte 21 started up 14 years ago with three trucks. The company name came from a book on metaphysics that described a concept relating to multiples of seven. Vergodery has another company that he has named Seven.
Vergodery was attracted to cement hauling because construction is a year-around activity in this mostly tropical country. The Transporte 21 tractors run 75,000 to 90,000 miles a year, and that's with just one load a day in most cases. Drivers are behind the wheel eight to 11 hours a day.
One of the biggest challenges the company faces is finding enough drivers. Despite a 15% unemployment rate in Venezuela, skilled truck drivers are in short supply.
"Drivers are our most important asset, and the good ones are hard to find," Vergodery says. "Most of our recruiting is through word of mouth. Drivers hear that we pay well and provide a good work environment."
Drivers are paid weekly at Transporte 21. Industrywide, the top wage is around 160,000 Bolivars ($230) a week. Social security, health insurance, and pension contributions add another 30% to the total.
Vergodery stresses that Transporte 21 has not lowered its driver qualifications despite the tight market. "We're still focusing on people with a good work history and sound references," he says. "We want drivers who are professionals and take pride in what they do."
Tractor Fleet The company provides its drivers with well-maintained tractors, many of them late-model. Transporte 21 has standardized on Mack and International models. On the Mack side, the company runs CM and CH conventionals. The 8100 is the International choice.
"We like both Mack and International," Vergodery says. "With Mack, we get a tractor that is very reliable and has nationwide parts sales. International's 8100 offers the benefit of lower tare weight. It is at least 1,700 kilograms (3,747 pounds) lighter than comparable models."
The carrier runs only daycab units. Mack and International engines are rated at 350 to 400 horsepower. Twelve- and 18-speed transmissions are from Mack and Fuller.
Spring suspensions are the norm in many Venezuelan truck fleets, but Transporte 21 has begun to specify air suspensions. "Our new tractors will have air suspensions," Vergodery says. "We're impressed with the results, which include a softer ride and greater durability."
Inhouse Maintenance Tractor maintenance is provided inhouse by a maintenance team that also looks after the Cementos Caribe trailers. On the tractors, engine oil and filter are changed every 10,000 kilometers (6,200 miles). The mechanics follow manufacturer recommendations for service intervals for other components.
Engines, transmissions, and differentials in older tractors are overhauled inhouse. However, drivetrain components in the newer tractors are sent to the dealers for repair and rebuild.
Regardless of where maintenance work is performed, every effort is made to ensure that vehicles are in top condition. It's all part of Transporte 21's commitment to providing the best in service to its primary customer-Cementos Caribe.
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