Feb 1, 2007 12:00 PM, By Mary Davis
TRACTORS and trailers mean a little more than just your usual work horses of the fleet at HazMat Environmental Group Inc in Buffalo, New York. The quality and condition of tractors and tank trailers rank high on the operation's priority list.
”We're very proud of the maintenance operations,” says Dennis Dintino, president. “It's certified by the Department of Transportation, National Board of Boiler and Pressure Vessel Inspectors, and the New York State Department of Motor Vehicles as a repair shop and inspection station. The shop also has an ASME ‘U’ stamp.”
“Shippers are selecting carriers that they can depend on to be safe and efficient to handle their products,” says Dintino. “The condition of our fleet plays a big role in meeting their expectations.”
The carrier, an industrial waste and chemical hauler with about $24 million in annual revenue, operates in the United States and Quebec and Ontario, Canada. In addition to the Buffalo headquarters, terminals are in Cincinnati, Ohio, and Linden, New Jersey, with satellite locations in Arkansas, Kentucky, Minnesota, southern New Jersey, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, and Virginia.
This year, the emphasis placed on safety, efficiency, and fleet quality was recognized when Dupont honored HazMat Environmental with the 2006 Outstanding Service Award for superior performance in the transport of Dupont products to Dupont customers. To earn the award, the carrier had to demonstrate zero distribution incidents, billing and invoicing accuracy, as well as a review of customer complaints, claims ratio, and transit time service performance.
“Safe, reliable, and efficient transport of our materials is essential to the safety of our company and the communities we serve,” says Robert Marine, modal leader for bulk truck, DuPont. “We rely on Hazmat Environmental Group to share our safety core value and to provide our customers with superior transportation service.”
During 2006, the carrier also took home the National Tank Truck Carriers Grand Award in the Competitive Safety Contest for the seven-million to 10.5-million mileage class and the New York State Motor Truck Association Award for outstanding achievement in highway safety for the medium-class mileage category.
Dintino gives the credit to all HazMat Environmental employees for the performance and safety awards, as well as for the success of the company. Among those leading the management team are Rick Wickham, general manager of operations; Nancy Copelin, transportation compliance director; Ron McGrath, sales manager; Jennifer Weremblewski, manager of customer service and dispatch; and Warren Hastings and Phill Smith, maintenance supervisors.
Wickham and Copelin, along with Jerry White, assistant operations manager, coordinate and implement the company's driver recruitment and training program. In addition to company training, many of the drivers are required to complete courses provided by shippers the carrier serves. Driver applicants must be at least 25 years old and have a commercial driver license with hazardous materials and tank endorsements. “We prefer them to have at least four to five years of experience,” says Copelin.
Training covers the operation of tractors, tank trailers and equipment, usage of respirators and personal protective equipment, emergency response procedures, grounding, and applicable federal and state regulations. New hires receive 80 hours of classroom and on-the-job training under the supervision of an experienced driver trainer, as well as the safety managers. Lead drivers — members of HazMat's training team — also provide hands-on training and participate in the process of qualifying a new hire for the road.
All drivers receive an eight-hour Department of Transportation hazardous material and safety classroom-training program and an eight-hour Occupational Safety and Health Administration training program annually. This training is supplemented with bi-annual training programs covering selected topics on safety and regulations. Drivers carry a HazMat Environmental driver's manual, which contains proof of insurance, copies of all required permits, and the highway spill contingency plan. The spill plan provides the framework for reporting incidents, arranging for cleanup, obtaining technical assistance, and the filing of reports required by federal and state regulatory agencies.
With new emphasis on security at shipper locations, keeping driver identification up to date has become a priority at HazMat Environmental. The carrier provides company identification cards and keeps driver photographs on file that can be e-mailed to a shipper if further confirmation is required. In addition, drivers are issued glad-hand locks to secure trailers and steering column locks for the tractors for use when rigs are parked. They are instructed to lock and secure all other equipment. They are not to discuss their cargo on CB radios, in truck stops, or at rest areas. Whenever possible, drivers are to go directly to pickup/delivery locations making minimal stops enroute.
Weekly safety tips and security reminders and alerts are sent to drivers over the road via Qualcomm satellite communications
The company also participates in the American Trucking Associations Highway Watch program, a national safety and security program that utilizes the skills, experiences, and road smarts of America's transportation workers.
HazMat Environmental also offers training seminars for other companies. Monthly training schedules are posted on the company's Web site at hazmatinc.com that lists the subjects to be covered. Another page displays information about the individual courses, such as one for DOT HM-126F that presents basic highway and rail hazardous materials transportation regulations and how to apply them to daily operations. Registration can be done online.
Like other carriers, HazMat Environmental concentrates on keeping qualified personnel in the drivers' seats. Retention rate is about 88% of the 135-driver force.
“It's not unusual for us to hire a good driver and put him to work even if we don't actually need him at the time,” says Dintino. “We never want to pass up an opportunity to add a qualified driver to our team.”
Drivers receive an average of about $65,000 annually for over-the-road operations and $49,000 for local routes. (The carrier defines over-the-road as three nights or more away from the terminal.)
In addition to monetary benefit, managers say that dedicating drivers to specific tractors improves retention, as does the decision to replace tractors in a five-year cycle. Newest power units in the fleet are Kenworth T-800 tractors with Kenworth 12,000-pound front axle and an eight-bag air suspension that offers a smooth ride and reduces driver fatigue. Kenworth's 72-inch Aerocab sleepers were chosen so that drivers have more stand-up room and storage space.
Other specifications for the tractors include Caterpillar C13 heavy-duty engines rated at 470 horsepower and Eaton Fuller 10-speed transmissions. Running gear features Dana Spicer steer and drive axles, Bendix antilock braking systems, Alcoa aluminum wheels, and Michelin tires. Fruitland vacuum pumps and Quincy compressors are installed on some of the tractors.
The emphasis on vehicle quality and maintenance and its relationship to driver retention and safety has been part of the company's culture since Dintino established the business in 1984. Starting with one tractor/trailer unit and one driver, he provided an industrial waste transportation service.
Today, the company's revenue is split between 55% waste hauling and 45% chemical transport. Overall revenue growth is 10%-15% annually, says McGrath.
In 2000, chemical hauling was added to the operation. After handling hazardous and non-hazardous industrial waste products for more than a decade, the carrier was asked by a shipper to consider the chemical hauls.
“At first, we decided not to do it,” Dintino says. “It meant adding vehicles to the fleet and establishing a new operation. But then we decided it would be a good diversification for us.”
The decision proved fruitful for the company and attracted additional chemical shippers. “Many shippers that once had their own in-house fleets now depend on for-hire carriers,” Dintino adds. “That was one factor that has enabled us to expand our chemical side of the business.”
McGrath points out that the carrier's safety record, successful efforts at driver recruiting, and financial resources are all contributors to the company's growth in chemical services.
Wickham describes the operation as a niche and specialized service, often providing dedicated tank trailers to specific shippers. “Many of our shippers have rigorous product purity standards,” he adds. “For example, electronic manufacturers may only accept product that has less than one part per million of nickel. We have some companies that specify as little as one part per billion of a certain element.”
Dispatchers coordinate transportation using the global positioning systems in conjunction with TMWSuite programs. A weekly planning board on the wall in the dispatch area displays information for local product accounts, bulk transportation, and the company's vans and roll-off trailers.
Liquid cargoes are handled by a fleet of 129 tractors and 200 tank trailers. HazMat Environmental typically specifies Brenner trailers. These include stainless steel double-conical tankers, both non-insulated and insulated, and some with heat. The MC307 and DOT407 tanks range in capacity from 6,000 to 7,000 gallons.
Also in the trailer fleet are stainless steel straight bore tankers, both non-insulated and insulated, and some with heat. The MC307, DOT407, MC312, and DOT412 tankers range in capacity from 3,600 to 7,000 gallons.
The list of vacuum-loading stainless steel tank trailers includes MC312 and DOT412 straight round or double conical with capacities from 5,000 to 6,000 gallons. Tank hardware includes Betts valves and Girard and Fort Vale pressure-relief vents.
The carrier also spec's Brake Safe, a visual brake stroke indicator system that eliminates the need for the driver to climb under the tractor to check each air brake pushrod stroke. Brake Safe's design permits a fast visual inspection. With brakes fully applied, the red indicator pin should line up between two pre-set yellow reference pins, indicating brakes do not require adjustment. If the red indicator pin rests beyond the pre-set yellow reference pins, brakes need adjustment.
Vehicles are maintained in the five-bay commercial shop adjacent to the corporate offices. The facility is a heavy vehicle repair shop specializing in, but not limited to, tractors, cargo tank trucks and trailers. The commercial side of the 10,000-square-foot shop was built in 1996 as another form of diversification for the carrier.
Preventive maintenance schedules for trailers include checks on brakes, fluids, light, and tires. Tractors get a going over every 20,000 miles, including oil and grease jobs and fluids and tire checks.
“We can perform repairs and routine retests to DOT specification cargo tanks, as well as repairs on non-code tanks,” says Smith. “We're also an authorized distributor of Betts Industries valves and accessories, Girard Equipment vents and accessories, Fort Vale vents and valves, Zook rupture discs, NuSeal gaskets and seals, and Leyman liftgates. We can provide factory replacement parts for Brenner and Polar tanks as well as many other manufacturer's tanks. We're also an authorized warranty repair facility for Brenner.”
The carrier selected TMT Software's Transman to manage maintenance operations, including shop, parts inventory, purchasing processes, warranty claims and recovery, and human resources.
Mechanics and drivers both sign off on vehicle condition reports after repairs. If a tractor/trailer unit is stopped by inspectors and inspected while over the road, and no violations are noted, both mechanic and driver receive bonuses.
As for the future for HazMat Environmental, Dintino says he prefers slow steady growth. Average annual growth is about 12%, but from 2004 to 2005, that figure was about 18%. The past few years have included increasing the size of the headquarters and the adjoining maintenance facility.
“We have a safe and reliable service to offer,” he adds. “I expect we will continue with an equal balance between our industrial waste and chemical business. We want to grow, but we want to be sure it is compatible with our culture.”
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