Dec 1, 2005 12:00 PM, By Mary Davis
A FEW years ago, Gary Farrar III, Regional Enterprises Inc vice-president, received a telephone call from a company seeking a transloading facility to handle sulfuric acid in Johnson City, Tennessee.
Farrar stepped up to the plate, negotiated an arrangement with East Tennessee Railway (ETR), and by September 2003 was transloading the product at an ETR open-switch facility in Johnson City.
“Since we are a small regional company, we can respond quickly,” Farrar says. “I believe our size and personal attention gives us an advantage in service accountability. Because we provide transloading and above-ground tank storage, shippers can just make one call to us to get the service they need.”
Regional Enterprises invested over $100,000 in the Johnson City facility. That amount, plus service equipment and personnel payroll, added up to a more than $400,000 infusion into the local community.
The location also marks Regional Enterprises' first stand-alone transloading operation in partnership with ETR, which handles switching to CSX Corp and Norfolk Southern Corp mainlines.
The facility can handle hazardous materials, including Class 5 oxidizers and Class 8 acids. It serves Tennessee, Virginia, Kentucky, West Virginia, North Carolina, and South Carolina.
“We have 20 railcar spots available and are looking to grow our throughput to over 400 cars a year,” Farrar says.
Regional Enterprises is based in Hopewell, Virginia, where the company operates as a liquid bulk carrier, as well as having inland marine tank storage and terminaling facilities and on-site transloading.
At Hopewell, 14 railcar spots are served by Norfolk Southern Corp. Product can be transferred from railcar to truck, railcar to storage tank, or storage tank to railcar. Transloading boosts the trucking division, which is 70% of the company's business, Farrar adds.
In Johnson City, the transloading site includes an office shared by Regional Enterprises and ETR, which Farrar says enhances the coordination between carrier and railroad.
“The ability to work with a short-line railroad allows us to offer even better customer service,” he says. “We are able to switch cars readily and have one-on-one communication with ETR employees.”
Regional Enterprises constructed a transloading area surrounded by a berm for spill containment.
Rail Barge Truck Services Inc supplies the portable platform used in product transloading. A two-stage compressor from Curtis-Toledo Inc supplies air used to transfer product from railcar to tank trailer.
A Micro-Motion meter is used for product measurement. With compressed air to move product from railcar to trailer, the company is able to load in about 45 minutes.
The carrier's tank trailers transport product shipped by a local company via rail to Johnson City. Tankers are dedicated to the company's products.
“We fit the greater than 500 loads per year category with our customer and hope to win their highest safety award this year,” Farrar says.
Because the consignee has limited tank storage capacity, Regional Enterprises operates the service on a just-in-time schedule, but typically receives orders a week in advance.
Three tank trailers and two tractors are based in Johnson City at the transloading facility. The Brenner DOT 412 single-compartment carbon steel trailers are lined with a Heresite protective coating to maintain purity as required by the end user.
A locked, fenced, and gated area for parking provides security for trailers that haul hazardous materials. The area also was constructed with berms for spill containment.
For further security, trailers are secured with seals from J J Keller, and glad-hand locks from Power Products are applied. The locks prevent trailer air lines from being connected and, subsequently, emergency brakes from being released.
Regional Enterprises has three employees onsite in Johnson City: Earl Cumbow, terminal manager, and Larry Webb and Mark Osborne, who conduct the transloading and drive the trucks.
John Brothers, Regional Enterprises safety director, conducts training that includes two sections, one for loading product and another for unloading.
In addition to Department of Transportation regulations, company policy, and hazardous materials regulations, training includes Federal Railroad Administration requirements. Emphasis is placed on personal protection equipment that is required for handling sulfuric acid.
Safety training is continuous with instruction and dialogue monthly. Other skills training is refreshed to enable diversified skills, for example hose pressure testing and pipe thickness testing for at least once a quarter. Hazmat training is refreshed at least once a year.
Regional Enterprises' move into transloading services began in the late 1980s utilizing the Norfolk Southern railspur available in Hopewell.
After honing their services for several years, the opportunity to expand to Johnson City came at just the right time. Today, the company is planning another transloading facility in Virginia.
Farrar says that although carriers are suffering from declining driver pools, increased insurance premiums, and record-high diesel costs, possibilities for growth remain constant, and part of that growth can come from diversifying into transloading services.
“The railroads offer certain opportunities for carriers, even though they are competitors,” Farrar says.
He forecasts a promising future for carriers involved in transloading, especially when the service requires just-in-time transportation.
With all of that in mind, Farrar anticipates that the company will continue to grow with transloading services providing a significant boost to the overall business.
“A company cannot have success without outstanding employees,” Farrar adds about the company's 50 employees. “I may bring the opportunity, but they make it a service success.”
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