Bork Transport Inc of Illinois Builds Strong Chemical Partnerships
May 1, 2000 12:00 PM
WHEN THE herbicide season cranks up in the spring and fall, Bork Transport Inc of Illinois wastes no time in marshalling its resources. The carrier and its customer, Monsanto, must work within a very narrow window of opportunity.
In the space of just a few weeks during each season, tens of millions of gallons of herbicide must reach farmers and farm supply outlets nationwide. Missed deliveries mean lost sales opportunities that can never be recouped. It's a challenge that the Bork Transport team relishes.
During the busiest times, Bork Transport managers even call in resources from their sister carrier, Iowa Tanklines. As many as 30% of the drivers and tractors are supplied by Iowa Tanklines at the height of the season.
"We achieve the needed performance levels by working very closely with Monsanto and with our sister carrier, Iowa Tanklines," says Tom Rowe, Bork Transport president. "In addition, our own personnel run the herbicide logistics operation for Monsanto. It's a total effort."
Service Managers For six years now, Bork Transport has stationed two ag service managers at the Monsanto herbicides logistics office in St Louis, Missouri, and they coordinate shipments for all of the carriers serving Monsanto. They are in the Monsanto office throughout the year.
"We decided jointly on this approach," says Aaron Siders, Bork Transport director of sales and marketing. "One reason it has been successful is that the ag service managers who dispatch the loads know the drivers. That makes a big difference in ensuring quick response.
"Our involvement with Monsanto continues to grow. We handle certain Monsanto products, monitor transactions and inventory, coordinate shipments from plant to storage, and even direct the rail activity."
The result is an award-winning arrangement. Bork Transport received Monsanto's carrier recognition award for outstanding service in herbicides distribution in 1999. In addition, distribution excellence awards also came from Ashland Chemical in 1998 and 1999.
"We also do a large volume with Ashland Chemical, and it was one of our first customers when Bork Transport commenced operations in Chicago," Rowe says. "We've built a very strong partnership with them. They continue to grow and expand, which provides new opportunities for us. We have a great deal of respect for Ashland Chemical as a large shipper. Ed Schmidt and his logistics department are very involved in and responsive to carrier issues."
Growing Carrier Shippers like Ashland and Monsanto have helped Bork Transport grow into a tank truck carrier that generates $8.5 to $9 million in annual revenue.
The fleet has increased to 70 tractors and 90 tank trailers, including a significant number of multicompartment stainless steel tanks.
"Over the 13 years this company has existed, our marketing efforts have focused on end users, and the compartmented tanks gave us a foot in the door," Siders says. "This multi-product service is specialized, complicated, and very demanding. A driver might pick up product at four different locations for a four-compartment tank and deliver to several receivers."
Initial loads were cleaning compounds and solvents. They have been joined by a broader range of chemical products, including herbicides, which have become a large part of the business. Bork Transport participated in delivering 26 million gallons of herbicide in 1999 in its role as one of three core carriers for Monsanto.
Ag product volume is expected to grow modestly during 2000, and management sees good expansion opportunities in general chemicals. "All together, business should grow by about 12%," Siders says. "We want growth from all of the chemical sectors."
Management has moved aggressively in pursuit of that growth. E-commerce is one potential source of new business that the tank truck carrier is exploring. While the carrier has had a website (www.borktransport.com) up and running for about three years, it has been mostly an informational, brochureware offering. That is expected to change in the near future.
"We can take employment applications and respond to customer requests for rate quotes," Siders says. "We want to do more with the site, though. We want to revamp it to make it a tool for our customers."
One capability that could be added to the site is real time status reports on shipments. Qualcomm satellite tracking and communication units have been installed on about 70% of the tractors in the fleet. Data from those units can easily be incorporated into the website.
Computer systems throughout Bork Transport were upgraded over the past year and have given the carrier even closer ties to sister company, Iowa Tanklines. The two carriers are now running the same fleet management software from McIntosh Software Services Inc.
"This makes it much easier for us to coordinate joint activities on herbicides and other products," says John Rinderer, Bork Transport vice-president. "It also is making it possible to automate our service tracking process."
Tracking is vital for the fleet. All of the Bork Transport rigs operate out of the carrier's terminal in Summit, but they are on the road for weeks at a time. Meeting customer needs means running nationwide.
"We don't see the rigs in Summit for a month at a time on average," Rinderer says. "During the ag season, they can be gone even longer. The result is that our drivers can earn significantly more than the national average for tank truck carriers. That helps a lot with retention." That's just what is wanted by the owner-operators and contract operators who account for 60% of the driver force at Bork Transport. "Our drivers run as much as 150,000 miles a year," Rinderer says.
Tank Cleaning Reliable tank cleaning has been a key factor in maximizing tank trailer productivity during those lengthy road trips. Bork Transport has national accounts with Philip Services and Quala Systems Inc, while single-sourcing all home terminal cleaning to TAC in Summit.
"We prefer the national groups for their service consistency and proven record of regulatory compliance," Rinderer says. "We want to know that heels and such will be handled properly. We require all wash racks to provide a completed copy of the NTTC (National Tank Truck Carriers) cleaning facility survey.
"In addition to the national operators, we do use a few other carefully selected wash racks. The final choice when several acceptable racks are available sometimes is dependent on which one can take care of us fastest. We want to ensure the shortest possible delays for our drivers."
Driver Supply Finding those drivers is more challenging today, but the carrier has been able to locate enough so far. Word of mouth remains the primary means of attracting candidates, and the carrier has found it unnecessary to adjust requirements.
Bork Transport also has been successful in retaining drivers. One reason is its tractor program. The carrier buys several tractors at a time to get a fleet price and then sells them to drivers. It takes a driver about three years to pay off the purchase.
"This gives a lot of drivers a chance to become owner-operators," Rowe says. "They have a much easier time getting a bank loan for their next tractor."
Bork Transport requirements include a minimum age of 25 and three years of verifiable over-the-road truck driving experience. Candidates must have a commercial driver license with tank and hazardous materials endorsements.
Owner-operator tractors also must meet minimum requirements that include being no more than seven years old. Bork Transport doesn't set any tractor weight or horsepower limits, though. Product pumps are required, and compressors are optional. Pumps must have a manual bypass.
Training Program All drivers go through the Bork Transport training program, but classroom instruction is tailored to individual experience. The orientation lasts four days, followed by one to three weeks of on-the-job training with a driver trainer. Bork Transport has four driver trainers on staff.
Classroom instruction covers federal regulations, log requirements, pretrip inspections, and freight bills. Drivers receive hands-on training with pumps and other product handling equipment.
Instructional materials include the NTTC driver training videotape, which is followed by a quiz. Bork Transport requires a score of 100.
They also must successfully complete a comprehensive exam on the NTTC Tank Truck Driver Guide. Accident and hazard awareness is covered by the Critical Crash Program from Great West Casualty insurance company.
Safety Meetings Safety awareness is stressed throughout the training and is reinforced with safety meetings that are held four times a year. "During the meetings, we look at specific issues, such as roadside inspections or hours of service," says Bob Davis, Bork Transport safety director.
Incentives are a part of the safety meetings, and they have helped produce better than 90% participation. Attendance is voluntary at the meetings, which are held on Saturdays. Family attendance is encouraged, and many family members do participate.
Safety is encouraged by the Great West Casualty million-mile program. Drivers must accumulate a million miles with no preventable accidents. Three Bork Transport drivers have qualified to date.
The carrier participates in the full Great West Casualty safety program, which includes pins and certificates based on years of accident-free driving. Plaques are presented at five, 10, and 15 years. Bork Transport also has its own incentives to reward drivers for accident-free performance.
Safe Equipment Safety is further promoted with well-specified and maintained equipment. Rowe also gives the equipment credit for helping to retain drivers.
The newest company tractors are Kenworth W900 longnose conventionals with 60-inch sleepers. "We make them as comfortable as possible while staying under 19,000 pounds," says Rich Allen, Bork Transport director of maintenance. "They have 500-horsepower engines and nine-speed transmissions."
For tank trailers, the carrier has bought primarily from Nova Fabricating for the past five to six years. "They have been very responsive," Rowe says. "They put extra effort into their products, and they have shown a lot of innovation in reducing weight."
Most of the trailers are general chemical tankers built to MC307 or DOT407 requirements. About 40% are four-compartment units, while the rest are single-compartment, straight-barrel and double-conical trailers. Capacities are 6,000 to 7,500 gallons. Components include Betts domelids, Girard and Fort Vale pressure- and vacuum-relief vents, Betts valves, extra wide and long catwalks, reinforced ladders, oversize steampads, and Hendrickson Intraax air suspensions.
Trailers used in herbicide service are fitted with removable metering systems. Bork Transport operates more than 50 of the meters. Bork Transport mechanics are certified to maintain and prove the meters, which are stored by the carrier between herbicide seasons. The attention to detail is one reason Bork Transport has been able to forge strong partnerships with its key customers.
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