Lighting the way
Nov 1, 2005 12:00 PM, By Mary Davis
THE MAUST family of Selinsgrove, Pennsylvania, are doing their part to bring a little light into the world. About 95% of their trucking business is devoted to hauling wax to candlemakers in the eastern United States.
“Candlemakers are our number-one customers,” says Gregory Maust, who with his brother, David, oversee Maust Trucking Inc. “It takes a lot of teamwork. Handling wax is very time-sensitive. Shippers and candlemakers expect us to deliver product within an hour of picking it up.”
Added to time requirements are product properties that require special attention. A crude oil byproduct, wax is refined into a product that becomes solid at ambient temperatures and melts at 110° to 220° F.
“Different types of waxes have different ranges of temperature characteristics,” Gregory adds. “Customers tell refiners what temperatures they want, and we have to be sure we are carrying it out from our end.”
One reason the Mausts settled on wax hauling is that they are located near a few remaining Pennsylvania refineries left over from historic oil producing days. In the mid-1800s, America's first crude oil spewed forth in Titusville, nestled in the foothills of the Allegheny Valley.
Today, faraway oil fields account for the major crude oil production, but most of the Pennsylvania refineries receive product from domestic oil fields. A Pennsylvania facility still in operation keeps Maust trucks rolling, hauling wax to candlemakers and other users in the region.
The carrier also transports wax to other areas of the eastern United States from Maine to Georgia and as far west as Illinois. In addition to candlemakers, Maust Trucking hauls wax to manufacturing facilities for coating boxes and other paper products.
The company also transports lubricants, but that is a small part of the business, the brothers say. Their grandfather, Robert Maust, started a trucking business in 1935 to handle lubricants and other petroleum products in drums.
“We still have his first account with Allen Oil Co,” says David. “We've been providing them with uninterrupted service since that time.”
Almost four decades after the company's beginning, the brothers' father, George, bought the company's first tank trailer to transport bulk oil. He added wax service in 1989. Three years later, his sons took over the company at his death.
Their mother, Audrey Maust, remains involved in the business and provides office space in her home, as has been the tradition throughout the company's history.
The brothers are joined in management by their sister, Brenda Conrad, and David's wife, Teri Maust, both of whom handle office administration. The brothers' two sons, Scott and Joel, are in charge of maintenance.
After managing marketing themselves, David and Gregory decided to engage a broker so they could concentrate on operations and customer service. “Our broker finds more work for us than we can handle,” David says.
The brothers plan to grow the business, but they say the process has to be careful because of demands required for handling wax.
While they have enough drivers today, to grow their business would require more drivers, which in today's workforce environment can prove difficult.
The Mausts understand the importance of retaining drivers. “We never lay off anyone if business slows down,” says Gregory. “We just find something else for them to do. They help in the shop or clean trucks. Sometimes they will take vacation, or we may just give them an extra day off.”
When new hires are needed, the Mausts have to spend considerable time training them in loading and unloading procedures. The brothers have commercial driver licenses, and both conduct training.
“There are special problems with wax buildup,” says Gregory. “We present scenarios that have happened over the years so that drivers know what to expect. We are always concerned about steam, air pressure, and other factors involved in handling a hot product. We also try to find drivers that have mechanical ability.”
Because wax must be hauled in a liquid state, correct temperature has to be maintained. Wax processors specify the temperature required for loading, and refineries follow suit.
Wax is typically loaded at 150° F to 230°F. The company hauls six different kinds of waxes, all of which require different loading and maintained temperatures. Generally, product has to be loaded at 30°F over melting point. Refinery personnel topload product from heated storage tanks, and drivers handle bottom unloading.
In addition to temperature requirements that drivers must understand, they have to climb on top of the tank at each loading sequence, remove the dust cover in the manhole, take out the break plug, and attach a clean pressure-relief valve.
Due to these procedures, the Mausts emphasize fall prevention in their driver training, including safety measures for mounting ladders and working atop trailers.
“We don't want them to get complacent,” says Gregory. “Some refineries have catwalks that help protect them, but others do not.”
The Mausts also emphasize rollover prevention as part of the driver training program. “Often, we deliver small amounts of wax to receivers, so it's essential that our drivers understand what can happen as a result of product movement in a half-empty tank,” Gregory says. “We also specify spring suspensions for trailers because we think they are more stable. Drivers can get a false sense of security with an air suspension.”
As part of training, the carrier uses rollover prevention information provided by their insurer, Northland Insurance Co, and JJ Keller.
Maust doesn't haul foodgrade wax, but product purity is required by processors. Seals are applied by refinery personnel, but drivers also must be aware of the requirement to ensure the load isn't rejected because of a missing seal.
“Seals are an advantage for us,” says David. “We have some customers that test for purity. With seals intact when we arrive, we know we've done our job.”
Although a majority of wax can be transported from refinery to user in a time frame that allows product to maintain required temperature, longer routes require stops at commercial facilities for steam injection.
In addition to complicated product procedures, drivers also contend with new hours-of-service rules.
“New rules have meant that in some cases we have to send a driver to a location to drop the trailer, and another one will have to pick it up,” says Gregory.
The carrier tries to coordinate routes so that trailers can be dropped at the company yard. “There is one thing in the HOS rule that works for us,” he says. “Most of our work is Monday through Friday, so drivers are able to use the weekend as off time and then start fresh on Monday.”
The company employs 21 drivers, all based locally, except one who works out of Philadelphia. “Most of our drivers are out only one or two nights a week,” says Gregory.
Drivers call into the office each day before beginning routes and again after they have unloaded. The company supplies them with Nokia cell phones with Cingular as service provider.
The Mausts choose previously owned Mack and Volvo tractors for the fleet. They buy tractors with less than 500,000 miles and usually trade them at one million miles.
Macks have 460-horsepower Mack engines with Eaton AutoShift transmissions. Volvos come equipped with Detroit Diesel 430- or 475-horsepower engines and Eaton 10-speed transmissions.
Blackmer pumps and Quincy and Emglo compressors are mounted on the tractors.
“We find that we get better fuel mileage with higher-horsepower engines because of the nature of our hauling,” says Gregory. “Product weighs 45,000 pounds in a 7,000-gallon trailer.”
The 20 insulated stainless steel tank trailers in the fleet are typically supplied by Brenner Tank Inc. They have Betts valves and Girard pressure-relief vents.
For the lubricants business, the company has five Fruehauf tank trailers with capacities ranging from 7,500 to 9,000 gallons.
The Mausts service tank trailers in their two-bay shop, but purchase extended warranties for tractor repairs.
Tractor preventive maintenance at 7,500 miles includes chassis lubrication and checks on landing gear, safety devices, wheel rims, tire pressure, lights wiring and reflectors, brake lining and springs, body and door hinges, suspension bolts, frame and frame bolts, axle alignment, and u-bolts.
As for the future, in addition to gradually expanding their market, the Mausts have purchased property across the street from their office and shop. The 48,000-square-foot lot eventually will be fenced and gated as a secure place to drop trailers as needed.
“Some days our yard is packed with trailers,” says Gregory. “This new property will really help as we begin to gain customers.”
The flexibility the new property brings to the company, plus the focus on handling a niche product, signifies a winning strategy for the future.
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