Fort Edward Express
Mar 1, 2001 12:00 PM, Charles E Wilson
CHEMICAL hauling got a boost at Fort Edward Express Company Inc when the tank truck carrier built a tank wash rack at its headquarters terminal in South Glens Falls, New York. The wash rack opened for business in October 2000.
Designed to handle primarily nonhazardous chemicals, the two-bay wash rack is open to other fleets. Just one team operates the wash rack at this time, and maximum cleaning capacity is about 12 tank trailers a day. The facility is open from 8 am to 5 pm, Monday through Friday. Appointments are required, and special arrangements can be made for times outside standard operating hours.
“This wash rack has been an excellent addition to our operation,” says Lance Hillman, president and chief executive officer of Fort Edward Express. “It didn't take us long to realize that it would be very beneficial to have our own wash rack once we started hauling chemicals. The closest commercial facility is in Albany (New York), 51 miles south. We wanted something closer, and we wanted more control over our cleaning costs.
“We went after the chemical business in order to smooth out some of the peaks and valleys in our other operations. We have achieved that goal, and we're seeing steady growth in our chemical operation.
“Chemical hauling is just the latest step we've taken to diversify this 84-year-old company. We've come a long way since the company started hauling bulk milk from Fort Edward to New York City in 1917.”
Today, the company actually consists of four wholly owned operating units grouped under the Hillman Companies umbrella — Fort Edward Express, 4-Star Bulk Transport Inc, Diversified Trailer Group, and 4-H Leasing. Fleet operations are conducted through Fort Edward Express and 4-Star Bulk. Diversified Trailer Group is a Wabash National/Fruehauf parts and service distributor, and 4-H Leasing offers a variety of trailers on long- and short-term leases.
The regional tank truck carrier runs 88 company-owned and 35 owner-operator tractors, 90 dry bulkers, more than 73 petroleum trailers, 54 propane transports, and 42 flatbeds. Twelve stainless steel chemical tanks are the latest additions to the fleet.
Chemicals now account for 8% to 9% of the tank truck carrier's revenue, and the percentage is projected to grow. Products include, but are not limited to, glycol, resins, solvents, papermill chemicals, and gasoline additives.
About a third of the carrier's business comes from dry bulk cargoes such as cement (both bulk and bagged), fly ash, lime, and foodgrade salt. Another third is generated by refined petroleum products and lubricants. Specialty work and compressed gases (such as propane, butane, and anhydrous ammonia) account for the remainder of the activity.
An interesting challenge faced by the carrier is that cargoes, such as cement, that were seasonal in the past are becoming year-round business. One result is that the company is busier than ever, which sometimes strains manpower and resources.
“We're seeing more winter work for cement than in the past,” says Gregory T LaFoy, manager of sales and distribution at Fort Edward Express. “New chemical formulations that alter the curing process make it possible to continue pouring cement in the winter. Cement hauling used to run no later than December 10. However, now we've had summer levels of activity right into the beginning of 2001.”
Regardless of the cargo, Fort Edward Express remains a regional operator, and Hillman has every intention of keeping it that way. “This is what we do best,” he says. “We have been focused on regional operations since this company was incorporated in 1932. A majority of our trips are out and back in the same day.”
The region served by Fort Edward Express extends throughout the Northeast, and the tank truck carrier has pushed north into Canada and west as far as Ohio. In addition to the headquarters in South Glens Falls, the company has New York facilities in Albany, Ravena, Cementon, Plattsburgh, Syracuse, Watkins Glen, and Buffalo. Other terminals are in Somersworth, New Hampshire; Monroe, Ohio; Providence, Rhode Island; and Roselle, New Jersey.
In addition to the terminal capabilities, Fort Edward Express also has access to rail transloading facilities in Albany. The company transloads liquids, including methanol, ethanol, and other chemicals. In addition, the carrier has been transloading dry bulk products, such as cement and fly ash, for years.
About a year ago, the carrier set up a depot at Universal Tank Wash in Montreal, Quebec, Canada. Over 30 chemical loads a week, both dry and liquid, are generated by the Montreal facility, and the volume is growing steadily. Nine tractors and 14 trailers are now based there.
“We see excellent growth potential,” says the Canadian sales and operations director, Michel Delcourt, who runs the facility with his assistant, Erleen Moreau, customer service manager. “The open border has been beneficial, and we are in a good corridor for growth. It extends from Quebec City (Quebec) down through the US Northeast.”
Universal Tank Wash handled a significant portion of the carrier's tank cleaning before the wash rack at the South Glens Falls location was completed. The commercial wash rack operator continues to meet all of the carrier's tank cleaning needs in Canada.
Cleaning volume at the Fort Edward Express wash rack is just beginning to accelerate. “We hope that commercial cleaning eventually accounts for half of our wash activity,” Hillman says. “We believe we are in a great location even though we are out in the country.”
The two-bay tank wash rack occupies part of the tractor shop at the terminal and is next to a bay housing an automated exterior wash system that the fleet has used for years. Outside are stations for other cleaning- and maintenance-related services, including a steam rack and a rack for degassing and ambient drying. Also available is a flare for incinerating flammable vapors.
Mechanics from the Diversified Trailer shop did virtually all of the fabrication and installation work needed to put the tank cleaning system together. The actual installation took approximately two months, but planning started long before that.
“Initially, we talked with Mike Barnes at Niagara National about our plans,” Hillman says. “He suggested that a used wash system would cost significantly less than a new unit. Further, he knew of one that was available at a Midwest foodgrade carrier. It was in good shape and had been inactive for eight months.”
After inspecting the Olympic vat-style wash system, Hillman purchased it. The unit was shipped to New York on two drop-deck trailers.
Once there, mechanics went to work making it operational again. They removed bird nests and replaced piping and electric valves. One vat that was badly rusted was completely rebuilt. Decking and ramps were modified to fit the bay in which the system would be installed. This restoration project returned the unit to a like-new condition.
One of the challenges faced by the mechanics was adapting the wash unit to a building with low ceilings. The roof had to be modified, and the wash unit became part of the roof support. Work in the wash bays included resurfacing the concrete floor and installing waterproof wiring and explosion-proof lights.
The 16-year-old wash unit has 1,000-gallon carbon steel vats for cold water (two of them), hot detergent, hot caustic, and hot water. Mechanics added electric pumps and motors that make it possible to clean two tank trailers at a time. In addition to Chemdet spinners, the wash rack is using some smaller units that can be lowered through the cleanout openings on tank trailers.
While hot water is maintained at 180?F in the vat unit, steam is generated by a 50-horsepower boiler. An additional 50-hp boiler serves as backup. The automated external wash system also has its own boiler.
Wastewater from the cleaning activities is collected and pumped to a chemical treatment system. The treatment process starts with an oil/water separator in a 20,000-gallon tank. From there, it goes to a settling tank where flocculent is added, and solids are removed. Once pH is adjusted, the water is pumped through an activated charcoal filter to remove any volatile organic compounds (VOCs). Much of the treated water is recirculated and reused in the tank cleaning operation. Excess water is transported to a local treatment plant.
After treatment, nonhazardous solids are collected and dewatered on a conveyor-style filter system that Hillman purchased from a car wash. The solids are hauled away for disposal in an approved landfill.
While the primary reason for the wash rack is to clean chemical trailers prior to reloading, the facility also has benefited tank repair operations. “It is very convenient to have our own wash rack,” says Doug Varney, manager of environmental services. “It reduces the potential for delays when a trailer must be cleaned before we bring it into our repair shop.”
Fort Edward Express' nine-bay cargo tank shop holds an “R” stamp and employs 16 mechanics. It is the largest shop in their system. All major trailer repairs are handled at this shop. Major tractor work also is performed at the terminal. Other terminals have maintenance capabilities for routine service.
At the main trailer shop, mechanics focus on aluminum and carbon steel tanks. They don't weld stainless steel, but only because there has been no demand in the past. “We do have workers with stainless experience,” says Varney, whose responsibilities include oversight of the new wash rack in addition to running the trailer testing and repair facility.
While tank trailers predominate, the repair operation has seen steady growth in demand for work on smaller vehicles such as propane bobtails and heating oil tankwagons. The shop also has begun to repair and wash intermediate bulk containers.
A full range of Department of Transportation tests and inspections are provided for cargo tanks of all sorts. Black light and magnetic particle testing equipment are available for pressure vessels. Water for hydrostatic testing is stored in a 20,000-gallon tank. “Lining tests are about the only thing we don't do,” Varney says.
A major activity for the shop is refurbishing older MC330/331 trailers for the Fort Edward Express fleet. It's an ongoing process, and the shop almost always has at least one pressure vessel undergoing rebuild. Subframes and running gear are completely overhauled. Hardware is replaced as needed. Once all repairs are complete, the trailer is sandblasted and repainted.
The importance of maintaining vehicles in the best possible operating condition was reinforced over this past winter. A colder than usual winter meant that demand for heating fuels surged, and every available trailer was pressed into service.
For propane, the newest trailers were built by Mississippi Tank Trailer Inc. Triaxle trailers that operate under special permit in New York and other northeastern states have a 14,550-gallon capacity. Gross combination weight is 107,000 pounds.
Tank hardware includes Fisher valves and Blackmer pumps. For running gear, the trailers have Pro Par axles and suspension, MeritorWABCO antilock braking, Haldex automatic slack adjusters, hub-piloted aluminum disc wheels, and Goodyear 11R24.5 radial tires.
Petroleum trailers are from LBT-Fruehauf. The newest five-compartment trailers can carry 11,800 gallons of product. Hardware includes Betts domelids, Scully overfill protection, and Emco-Wheaton bottom-loading adapters and internal valves. The carrier has begun ordering Hendrickson Intraax air suspensions on new petroleum units.
Dry bulk trailers in a variety of configurations are used by the tank truck carrier, and LBT-Fruehauf is the supplier. Triaxle units have a 1,400-cu-ft capacity. Typical hardware is Bayco pressure-relief and check valves, Solimar aerators, and Milwaukee butterfly valves.
Stainless steel chemical trailers are the newest additions to the fleet. Built by Tremcar Inc, four-axle trailers carry 9,800 gallons, and two-axle units hold 7,000 gallons. All were specified with Betts domelids and Hydrolet valves, Girard pressure- and vacuum-relief vents, vapor recovery, and intransit heat.
For company tractors, Fort Edward Express runs Mack CH and International 9400 conventionals. Both sleeper and daycab units are used. Macks have 427-horsepower E-7 engines with 10-speed Fuller FRO16210C transmissions. Internationals are specified with 370/435 Cummins N14 engines and 10-speed Fuller FRO15210C transmissions.
With its diverse fleet, Fort Edward Express continues to find growth opportunities. The new wash rack simply enhances that capability.
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