Safety Never Takes a Break At Textile Chemical Company
Oct 1, 1999 12:00 PM
SAFETY is more than slogans and posters at Textile Chemical Company in Reading, Pennsylvania. It's a way of doing business that is visible throughout the chemical distributor's operation-including the transportation department.
The safety focus is part of the company's commitment to the Responsible Distribution Process that was developed by the National Association of Chemical Distributors (NACD). Textile Chemical has pledged to meet or exceed the chemical distribution industry's standards for the handling, storage, and disposal of chemical products. The emphasis at Textile Chemical is on exceeding those standards.
"Safety is part of our objective to be the most reliable and responsive distributor of chemical products in the Mid-Atlantic region," says Denny Eisenhofer, Textile Chemical's fleet manager. "We uphold the strictest safety standards for the storage and distribution of chemical products. We're not afraid to spend money when we have to achieve a higher level of safety. For example, we have equipped most of our tractor fleet with the Eaton Vorad collision warning system.
"We believe NACD's Responsible Distribution Code should be considered the minimum, and we would prefer to see stricter requirements in the future. We need to show good stewardship and do everything we can to reduce community concerns about chemicals, their handling, and their transportation."
In addition to its participation in the NACD Responsible Distribution program, Textile Chemical holds ISO 9002 certification and is in the final stages of qualifying for the ISO 14000 environmental management standard. Work on ISO 14000 should be completed by the end of the first quarter of 2000.
Putting safety first has been good for the bottom line. A Brenntag Inc subsidiary, Textile Chemical has grown steadily over the years, handling products for customers involved in primary chemical processing and compounding, soaps and detergents, food and beverages, paints and coatings, adhesives, cosmetics and personal care products, water treatment, electronics, metals and automotive, and pharmaceuticals.
In addition to the main office in Reading, the chemical distributor has stocking facilities in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania; New Brunswick, New Jersey; Baltimore, Maryland; and Syracuse, New York. The Reading complex is the largest in the system and includes a 210,000-square-foot warehouse and about 1 1/2 million gallons of storage for solvents, oils, and acids.
In Reading, Textile Chemical has a full range of filling capabilities for drums, intermediate bulk containers (IBCs), and packagings as small as 15 gallons. Five tank trailers at a time can be top-loaded at the loading rack. Storage tanks are monitored by state-of-the-art gauging instruments. Pumps operate at 70 gallons per minute moving product through two-inch lines.
Bulk inbound shipments arrive by rail and road at the Reading plant. The other Textile Chemical branches are served primarily by truck.
The rail siding at the Reading plant can accommodate about 20 rail tankcars at a time, and the siding has a full spill containment system. All vehicle parking areas are paved with asphalt or concrete, and an extensive storm drainage system is in place.
Truck Predominance Despite the rail access, trucks handle most of the inbound and outbound shipments. Textile Chemical controls that truck activity just as much as it can.
"We have our own private fleet of 40 tractors and 68 trailers, and we handle about 95% of the transportation at the Reading plant," Eisenhofer says. "However, a large percentage of shipments are moved by for-hire carriers. We have Dana Transport Inc (Avenel, New Jersey) as our primary for-hire tank truck carrier, and All Chemical Transport Corp (Keasbey, New Jersey) is the backup carrier.
"When our customers arrange transportation, they have to use qualified carriers. We don't allow customer-selected carriers that don't meet our standards. We want to know how product will be handled at all times during the distribution process. "One reason we don't market to chemical resellers is that we would lose control of the product. It costs us some business, but we believe it's important to do what is right. Most of our customers understand once we explain our reasons."
Bulk predominates on the inbound side, but outbound shipments vary widely in volume. Acids handled by Textile Chemical are distributed in bulk and nonbulk quantities. Other chemicals are moved by the tank trailerload, but smaller packages are the rule, rather than the exception, for those products as well.
IBC Popularity IBCs have become one of the most popular packagings for many Textile Chemical customers. The chemical distributor uses a variety of IBCs-stainless steel, plastic, and composite. Stainless steel IBCs are from Clawson Container Company and Custom MetalCraft. Stainless steel IBC capacity is in the 300-gallon range. Polypropylene IBCs from Bonar Plastics hold 330 gallons, which is about the same for the composite containers. Hardware on the stainless steel tanks includes Girard pressure-relief vents, while the plastic IBCs have Banjo fittings.
IBCs are transported in van trailers. Those operated by Textile Chemical are 46-ft FRP-plywood trailers built by Great Dane. They have wood floors and can carry 14 to 16 IBCs.
The tank trailers in the fleet are more varied. Suppliers include Brenner Tank Inc, Polar Tank Trailer Inc, Nova Fabricating Inc, and Fruehauf Trailer Corp. Most are stainless steel tanks built to MC307 or DOT407 code. Multicompartment units outnumber singles.
Four single-compartment trailers can carry 7,000 gallons each. Five trailers have three compartments and 6,300 gallons total capacity, and two four-compartment units hold 7,000 gallons. The lone MC306 aluminum unit in the fleet has five compartments and a 9,000-gallon capacity.
Typical tank hardware includes Betts outlets and Girard pressure-relief vents. Textile Chemical has begun specifying air-ride suspensions on new tank trailers.
Freightliner Tractors Freightliner is the sole tractor supplier to the fleet. Older units in the fleet are FL 120 conventionals, but the newest acquisitions are the Century Class. All have Caterpillar 3406E engines rated at 375 to 475 horsepower.
Most were specified with a Meritor 10-speed transmission, but Textile Chemical now has six Century tractors with 10-speed Eaton AutoShift gear boxes. The first tractor with the AutoShift is averaging 6.8 miles per gallon.
"The driver of that tractor likes the AutoShift performance very much," Eisenhofer says. "He's a very experienced driver with more than 25 years in the cab of a tractor-trailer rig, but he doesn't miss the manual transmission. We believe the AutoShift improves safety because the driver can keep his hands on the steering wheel at all times."
The new Century Class tractors have Freightliner's Driver Message Center for tracking engine performance. The older FL 120s have Caterpillar's display, which shows turbo boost, oil pressure, miles per gallon, trip segment miles, engine oil temperature, and fuel temperature.
Collision Avoidance However, the most important equipment on 25 tractors in the fleet is most certainly the EVT-300 collision warning system from Eaton Vorad Technologies. "We began buying the Vorad system five years ago," Eisenhofer says. "Some of our drivers were reluctant to try it at first, but it has turned out to be one of the best investments we ever made."
The Eaton Vorad system helps a lot when trucks are operating in fog and snow. Drivers say the system reduces stress and increases comfort levels. "We've always had an excellent safety record, so we didn't see any significant drop in accidents," Eisenhofer says. "Still, we haven't had one rear-end collision since installing the units."
The EVT-300 units include side sensors, which Eaton Vorad has enhanced with new range gating capability and a new radar frequency. The monopulse radar design produces a wide beam to allow for broader, more accurate road coverage in all types of highway configurations.
An accident reconstruction feature provides second-by-second analysis of the speeds, braking, and trajectory of all the vehicles involved in an accident. Teamed with the Vehicle Information Management System (VIMS), the system serves as a valuable resource for Eisenhofer.
"We know exactly how the driver is performing while he's out on the road," he says. "This provides a lot of incentive to perform better. We're seeing better fuel economy."
Top Performers Even before the Eaton Vorad systems were installed, Textile Chemical's drivers were top performers. The company is very selective in its driver hiring program, and those who are hired receive thorough training.
"We don't have any trouble getting drivers, though," Eisenhofer says. "We pay well and provide them with good equipment."
The company looks for truck drivers with at least three years of over-the-road experience. Applicant motor vehicle records are carefully scrutinized, and those with excessive or major violations are rejected.
Training lasts four to six weeks, and the first three days are spent in Eisenhofer's office. Generally, he works with just one driver at a time, and the orientation program includes some videotapes and a lot of discussion with worksheets. A written test is administered at the end of the training, and the driver must achieve a perfect score.
Retraining is conducted after six to eight months to ensure that nothing important has been forgotten.
Like everything else, the driver training program is designed to ensure that Textile Chemical meets customer needs as safely as possible.
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