Sunup to sundown
May 1, 2003 12:00 PM, By Mary Davis
SUNUP TO sundown — that's the way Sundown Tank Lines describes its transportation service schedule, and why the company name was chosen.
“Usually, if we have a unit sitting idle, it's because we have it down for repairs,” says Mark Watson, general manager and a shareholder of the Toronto, Ontario, Canada, carrier.
Although business takes the chemical and petroleum product carrier into other parts of Canada, and across the border to the United States, the Toronto area provides the company with ample service opportunity.
In addition to service in the Toronto area, Sundown transports product in Canada as far east as Quebec City, as far north as Thunderbay and Timmins, and west to Windsor. The company crosses the US border to locations in Illinois, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York, New Hampshire, Connecticut, and Michigan.
Two nearby automotive manufacturers maintain a steady demand for lubricants — Ford for its engine plant and General Motors for its transmission facility.
In January of this year, the company dedicated six trailers to International Wax Group (IGI) in Agincourt, Ontario, to supply liquid wax for the company's production — and to haul its finished product. Sundown also provides transportation for acids, lubricants, and resins for other shippers. The company has recently become ISO 9001-2000 certified.
“We're certainly excited about this new wax project,” says Watson. “Since wax isn't classified as a hazardous material, we've been able to reduce our insurance rate even though we handle other materials that are hazmat. It is just another way of controlling costs.”
Another recent project is the acquisition of a new home for Sundown. In May, the company moved into a 9,000-square-foot office building surrounded by 50,000 square feet of parking space. Of the building's total space, 8,000 square feet is dedicated to a shop.
On behalf of Petro Canada, Sundown delivers quad-axle and tri-axle loads to General Motors. The carrier also supplies Petro Canada lubricants to Ford and Chrysler, also located in Windsor, Ontario.
The liquid wax for IGI , hauled in 6,000-imperial- gallon (7,200-gallon) insulated tank trailers, is maintained at about 175 degrees Fahrenheit. Finished wax is transported outbound from the plant into the United States where Sundown returns with more raw material for IWG production.
The majority of the wax hauling is dedicated while a few other lanes allow the carrier to wash out and haul other products, usually solvents and lubricating oils, which offers a backhaul service to customers.
All of this constant activity for the fleet calls for efficient preventive maintenance and repairs. Historically, the company used nearby ProKleen to handle all of its shop needs, but with the acquisition of its new facility, the decision was made to start up a repair facility, the first time the carrier has handled its own maintenance under the corporate structure.
“We hope to save a significant amount the first year by doing our own maintenance,” Watson says.
Meanwhile, ProKleen will continue to provide annual safety inspections and conduct HM183 testing procedures. “We station a tractor at the ProKleen facility so that they can shuttle vehicles back and forth,” says Watson. “It's very convenient for us.”
The maintenance schedule for tractors includes a 5,000-kilometer (3,106-mile) visual inspection and grease job. Full service is conducted every 25,000-kilometers (15,534 miles).
Trailers are inspected every four weeks, checking brakes, air lines, frames, etc. Every eight weeks mechanics inspect running gear, brakes and drums, and grease components.
As part of a safety program in the shop, Sundown used paint to designate areas that might cause injuries. Anything that extrudes from the wall, such as support beams, is colored a bright yellow. Air lines are painted blue, and natural gas lines that run into the shop are covered in bright orange. Water lines are painted green.
“The lines are all the same size, and we were afraid someone might mistakenly hook up the wrong line,” says Watson. “We sure don't want to have anyone injured.”
As for the vehicles, Sundown has chosen Freightliner and Volvo tractors for highway units. For local service, the company purchases Sterling power units. The fleet has a total of 30 tractors. Most of the power units are equipped with Caterpillar 300- to-375-horsepower engines, Eaton Fuller 10-speed transmissions, Neway air-ride suspension, and Bendix ABS brakes.
Drum air pumps and hydraulics, Blackmer product pumps, and Chelsea PTO-pumps are mounted on the tractors for handling products. The company designed a platform that allows an air compressor to be removed and a product pump to be slipped in its place, depending on the service needs.
43 tank trailers
The newest of the 43 tank trailers in the fleet came from Tremcar Trailers. Thirty-eight are MC307/DOT407 stainless steel and five are DOT406 aluminum. Both tandem- and tri-axle trailers are used. The newest DOT407 trailers have a 9,000-imperial-gallon (10,800 US gallon) capacity, and are specified with automatic slack adjusters and brake check indicators.
They are equipped with Betts product valves, Girard and Fort Vale pressure-relief vents, and Tiona Betts domelids. Also on the trailers, depending on product, are Hannay reels, Scully hose nozzles, and Neptune meters. Running gear includes MeritorWABCO ABS brakes and Hendrickson suspensions. Trailers are not required to have vapor control devices for the services provided, Watson says.
All trailers have either four or five compartments. The five-compartment lubricant trailers have four pumps and four hose reels, and four-compartment trailers use two pumps and two reels. This increases unloading efficiency and maintains product purity.
Handling the equipment are 21 company drivers and nine owner-operators. All drivers must be at least 25 years old. They receive a two-week training program that includes safe and defensive driving, load documentation, border crossing regulations, placarding and pre- and post-trip inspections.
Each new driver undergoes road testing, log book procedures, hazardous materials regulations, and air and pump unloading techniques. Safety meetings are held every three months, and drivers are required to attend.
Safe drivers are acknowledged at regularly scheduled safety meetings and receive incentive bonuses for safety and performance. Sundown also enforces a monetary penalty for incidents that it deems a result of unsafe driving.
Sundown recently installed in its fleet Motorola cellular phones that include two-way radios. “We did a customer service quality survey, and saw that our customers thought the best way to improve our service was through better communication with our drivers,” says Watson.
Looking for ways to improve efficiency has been a part of Sundown since its founding in 1976 by A J Apps, who has recently retired. Today, the company's operation is headed by Watson and Apps' two sons, Jordan and Jamie, who are involved in dispatch, safety, and maintenance. Company administration is handled by Norma Tapp, office manager and 10-year veteran with the company. She works in liaison with Patricia Davis in accounts and Diane Ray in data entry.
“We believe good service can be obtained through understanding the customer, the products, and the end-users,” says Watson. “We strive to maintain controlled growth and mutual profitability, while developing innovative and cost-effective methods.”
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