Oct 1, 2005 12:00 PM, By Mary Davis
IN 1998, Bob Heniff was thinking of entering graduate school when he changed his mind and instead founded Heniff Transportation Systems Inc in Alsip, Illinois. The decision proved fruitful.
“I thought I understood the industry, and I knew I wanted to get in the chemical market,” he says. “In the beginning, we were able to grow by providing safe and reliable service and settling into a niche market. Later, we grew by acquisitions of other companies.”
Heniff Transportation hauls specialty chemicals throughout the United States and into five Canadian provinces. However, about 80% of the business is within a 200- to 300-mile radius of the company's headquarters, says Scott Templeman, vice-president of operations.
In 2004, the carrier racked up 9.2 million miles serving customers. By the end of 2005, that number is expected to increase to 14 million miles. About 100 to 110 loads are handled every day, adds Templeman.
Before Heniff started the company, he worked six years in the trucking industry with his father, who was a petroleum hauler. In 1998, his father sold the company.After deciding against graduate school as his next step, Heniff hired four owner-operators, leased five tank trailers, and was soon transporting chemicals.
“We had good steady growth for a few years,” he recalls. “And then I had an opportunity to acquire a trucking company that boosted our tank trailer fleet by approximately 100 units.”
That decision also paid off for Heniff and eventually led to the purchase of tractors, as well as tank trailers, culminating in today's fleet of 140 tractors and 225 trailers.
Owner-operator involvement has grown to 60% of the driving force while company drivers make up the remaining 40%. In addition, many office personnel have commercial driver licenses with tank and hazardous materials endorsements, which allows them to get behind the wheel when needed.
With the acquisition came the facility where the company headquarters now is located. The purchase also included a 20,000-square-foot shop, as well as a six-bay wash rack that Heniff refurbished.
Another positive move was to select a group captive insurance plan from Cottingham & Butler Truck Insurance Group. The insurance vendor is owned by the companies it insures.
“This decision was one of the best I have made,” Heniff says. “The opportunity for payback is good and claims handling is excellent. We maintain a great safety record and I was looking for a program that rewarded us for our efforts.”
Premiums pay both fixed costs and claims in a captive plan. If losses are less than expected, the surplus premium is returned over time as dividends. If fixed costs decrease, the savings directly lower premium costs, and the carrier receives investment income generated on the premium, according to information from Christopher Patrick, Cottingham & Butler senior vice-president.
“Membership in a captive insurance company is limited to companies like Heniff that are strong financially, with superior loss histories and aggressive risk management programs,” Patrick notes. “Another advantage to a captive is the benchmarking and sharing of best practices. When you have a group of 50-plus trucking companies that have a common goal of reducing insurance costs and increasing their profitability, companies share ideas on everything from safety to equipment purchasing. We hold two board meetings and two loss control workshops each year where carriers meet and discuss ways to improve.”
“Safety and customer service — they are everything in this business,” adds Heniff. “We want to give our customers peace of mind by demonstrating that we have safe and reliable drivers and dependable support people.”
Kenneth Pate, risk and compliance vice-president, oversees the carrier's safety program. He started his career with Heniff's father, working for the company for 10 years before it was sold. He returned to work for the new company a year after Bob Heniff began the business.
Pate believes that maintaining safety standards begins before a driver is hired by careful application reviews and prospective driver interviews.
“We receive about 20 applicants per week,” he says. “If an applicant appears to meet our qualifications, I personally conduct the interview before we move to the next step in the hiring process. We want everyone who works for this company to embrace our safety concepts.”
Applicants must have a commercial driver license with endorsements and demonstrate a minimum of three years experience.
“I want to know what their experience is,” says Pate. “One of the main issues that raises a red flag when I am interviewing an applicant is a history of excessive job hoppings.”
If an applicant is selected for employment, the first training day is spent in discussions of company policies, Department of Transportation regulations, defensive driving, and hazardous materials handling. A second day covers training videos from JJ Keller, as well as video and literature about specific customers, prepared either by the carrier or by Heniff's shippers. Tests were developed by Heniff and customers.
The last phase of the new-hire program involves a test drive overseen by a driver trainer. “The time required for this will depend on the new hire's experience and adaptation to our requirements,” Pate says.
Following the orientation and training, drivers are assigned to specific tractors. The majority of drivers are likely to spend most of their working time within a 200-300-mile radius of the Alsip terminal.
Retraining sessions are conducted quarterly and drivers are required to attend at least two per year.
The driver incentive program includes evaluation of driver records every six months. Performance examined includes on-time accomplishments, quality of work, sense of pride, and knowledge of procedures. Another part of the program takes a look at driver productivity and incentive, including working steadily without supervision, keeping supervisors informed, coming up with safety ideas and solutions, and taking part in discussions at safety meetings.
Drivers and other employees are rated on quality of work, attendance, appearance, productivity and initiative, loyalty and cooperation, safety records, and job-specific criteria.Those who meet company expectations are awarded pay increases, incentive pay, and additional vacation days. Should drivers and other employees not meet expectations, they are given retraining until they meet the standards or termination occurs.
“I think the key to our safety success lies in our hiring practices and the decision to set up a driver incentive program,” Pate says.
In the four-bay shop, the safety program includes training personnel according to their duties and risks that occur.
The carrier made a decision to forbid tank entry in any work processes, including maintenance or tank cleaning. “We understand problems associated with nitrogen blankets and other risks,” says Pate. “We aren't going to take any chances.”
If tank entry is required, the trailer is sent to a commercial repair center or a tank cleaning facility.
Otherwise, five Heniff mechanics and shop supervisor, Scott Geijer, perform most of the needed tank trailer preventive maintenance and repair, with the exception of vessel welding, which would require an American Society of Mechanical Engineers certificate.
Major tractor repairs are taken care of through warranties. Heniff mechanics handle preventive maintenance and minor repairs in house.
In the six-bay cleaning racks, five workers are assigned to wash schedules in conjunction with hours dispatchers are on duty, which allows product shipments to be coordinated with tank cleaning.
Tank trailers are cleaned according to product hauled and shipper requirements. About 40-60 trailers are cleaned daily.
An Olympic Manufacturing Co cleaning system contains four vats with 1,500-gallon capacity each for detergent/caustics and water. It supplies water and detergent/caustic for 45-minute washes. Spinners are supplied by Gamajet, and a Cleaver Brooks boiler provides steam and hot water.
Pate says tank cleaning and vehicle maintenance play a large role in safety. “If you give drivers a well-maintained vehicle to drive, they have less fatigue and stress by the end of the day. With these vehicles in good condition, we are more likely to attract the professional driver that we are looking for. This is not only good for our company, but for our customers as well.”
Newest tractors in the fleet are Volvos and Peterbilts purchased from LaBeau Brothers Inc. Volvo tractors are specified with Volvo VE-D12 engines with 465-horsepower and Eaton Fuller 13-speed transmissions. Running gear includes Volvo suspensions, Hendrickson SteerTek front axles, ArvinMeritor drive axles, and Accuride aluminum wheels. Fontaine provides fifthwheels and Trucklite supplies lighting.
Peterbilts are equipped with 475-horsepower Caterpillar engines and Eaton Fuller 10-speed transmissions. Tractors have Dana Spicer front and drive axles, MeritorWabco antilock brake systems, and Peterbilt suspensions. Alcoa supplies aluminum wheels.
A variety of trailers make up the tanker fleet, including units from Polar Corp, Polycoat Systems, Heil Trailer International, Brenner Tank Inc, and Tremcar Inc. Heniff recently purchased several 5,400-gallon fiberglass reinforced plastics tank trailers from Polycoat Systems. The DOT412 tankers are trailerized by Acro Trailer Co and equipped with Bray Haler valves and Girard pressure-relief vents.
As Heniff Transportation continues to grow, the initial decision by its owner to forego graduate school and found a trucking company produced a successful outcome.
“When a team of dedicated individuals like our employees makes a commitment to act as one, I feel the sky is the limit,” Heniff says.
© 2013 Penton Media Inc.
Acceptable Use Policy blog comments powered by Disqus