TANK cleaning became a bigger part of the Heniff Transportation Systems LLC operation over the past year. However, that is just a part of the transformation that is turning the company into a much more substantial and diversified player in the tank truck sector.

In the past couple of years, Heniff Transportation bought up three other tank truck fleets and launched a tank container depot and drayage operation. All of these factors helped the Oak Brook, Illinois-based carrier grow by 20% in 2014, and management believes the company is on target for 25% growth this year.

“We want to be the best performing tank truck carrier in the Top 10,” says Robert J Heniff, founder of Heniff Transportation Systems. “We want to be the carrier of choice for customers and our drivers. “We want to grow, and we want to diversify as a liquid bulk chemical hauler.

“We provide our customers with end-to-end transportation solutions, including 24-hour terminal-based dispatch, ISO tank container transportation and storage, specialized compartmented trailers, and in-house maintenance facilities. Today, we’re running roughly 400 tractors and 800 trailers. We tie the entire operation together with some of the most sophisticated information technology in the industry.

“We have significantly expanded our tank cleaning capabilities. We increased our commercial tank cleaning activity when we acquired Complete Tank Wash in Joliet, Illinois, in 2014. In all, we now have three commercial wash racks in our system, and we plan to add two to three more in strategic locations over the next couple of years.”

Growth has come steadily for the company, which was established in 1998. Heniff was just 25 years old when he launched the operation with six chemical transports.

“We hauled our first load on August 17 of that year,” Heniff says. “The month and day are memorable, because that was the birth date of my grandfather and my first daughter.”

Lifelong involvement

While young, Heniff was no novice to the business. He grew up in tank trucking. His grandfather was an oil jobber with a fuel-hauling fleet, and his father set up his own petroleum transport fleet in the early 1980s. That fleet totaled roughly 50 transports at its peak.

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“I worked for my father three to four years and did everything from vehicle maintenance to tank cleaning, to dispatch, to safety management to sales,” Heniff says. “I had always wanted to run my own tank truck fleet. When I decided to start my own company, I was able to leverage a well-respected family name and the connections I had established in the tank truck industry.

“I decided to focus on chemical hauling because I saw good growth potential. In addition, I saw a different dynamic on the chemical transport side that included closer customer relations and a bigger focus on safety.”

Three years after starting Heniff Transportation, Heniff bought Frank J Sibr & Sons Inc in Alsip, Illinois. Almost overnight, Heniff Transportation Systems tripled in size. The Sibr terminal in Alsip gave Heniff Transportation its first wash rack.

“Buying Sibr was a big step for us,” Heniff says. “Perhaps most importantly, it helped us gain access to the major chemical companies. The Sibr deal gave us a foot in the door and a great opportunity to grow.

“It brought more equipment and a mix of owner-operators and company drivers. Also on the plus side, Sibr had a diverse customer base, but we had to hold at least 65% of the customers to make the deal work. We actually kept all of them, and we grew the business an additional 15% over the next year.”

Continued growth

Acquisitions have continued to expand and diversify the Heniff Transportation operation. In addition to the Complete Tank Wash purchase, the carrier acquired two tank truck fleets within the past 12 months—Sinclair cartage Inc in Hinsdale, Illinois, and Dean Brennan Transport in Manitowoc, Wisconsin.

“Each of those fleets was running about 25 chemical transports, and the acquisitions included equipment and facilities,” Heniff says. “Most of the staff stayed with us. We saw just a 10% loss of personnel.

“We’re looking for more good acquisitions to complement our internal growth. The fleets we seek have great reputations with their customers and low driver turnover. These could be fleets running up to 300 trucks.”

Today, Heniff Transportation counts 70% of the Top 50 companies as part of its customer base and serves them from 11 strategically located terminals in Illinois, Kentucky, Louisiana, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Tennessee, and Texas. The terminal network has helped Heniff Transportation achieve success in winning traffic lanes originating in the Midwest and southern US regions.

“Our entrenched long-term relationships with corporate procurement and transportation managers at the largest chemical companies have been a critical factor in our success,” Heniff says. “We provide them with outstanding customer service and driver quality, along with top-tier safety performance metrics. We have a physical presence in key chemical manufacturing and end-use markets.”

Central dispatch

Customer service includes a sophisticated central dispatch center at the Joliet terminal. The carrier’s in-house information technology (IT) department assembled a technology platform that combines satellite communications and GPS tracking for near real-time monitoring of all rolling stock and operations. The system is integrated with Heniff Transportation’s TMW-based dispatch and back office systems.

Dispatch system improvements have brought significant reductions in shipment delays. The delivery-to-invoice cycle has been improved by 59%. The system has enabled proactive customer service capabilities including full electronic data interchange capabilities and integrated freight tracking.

“We believe that our in-house IT capability sets us apart from our competitors,” says Joe Neal, Heniff Transportation’s IT director. “We have achieved substantial productivity gains and cost savings through the implementation of our integrated systems. We believe this strategy is the key to enabling this company to grow to the next level.”