Randy Wasson sounds downright upbeat when he discusses the outlook for DFW Tank Cleaning in Waxahachie, Texas. Chemical and foodgrade shipments are down, but plenty of tank trailers still need to be cleaned after hauling a load.

Located about 27 miles south of Dallas, the wash rack cleans about 450 tank trailers a month, roughly the same number as in 2008 when the economy was much stronger. DFW Tank Cleaning provides chemical and foodgrade washes for tank trailers and intermediate bulk containers (IBCs). The six-bay facility is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

“We have to work harder at marketing and sales, but we are keeping the wash rack busy,” says Wasson, vice-president of operations for Coal City Cob Company Inc, DFW Tank Cleaning's parent. “Our cleaning volumes haven't been badly hurt so far by the recession even though tank truck activity in this area is down 20% to 25%. We're putting a lot more effort into marketing, because we want to be ready to go when the market turns around.

“We are still very optimistic about the future of DFW Tank Cleaning. Looking down the road, commercial tank cleaning was a good business for us to add to our operation. The long-term benefits will outweigh the short-term challenges.”

Cleaning growth

DFW Tank Cleaning opened for business in April 2008. It didn't take the wash rack long to reach an average monthly wash volume of 450 tank trailers, which is about half of the facility's full capacity. IBC volumes also have grown steadily. The wash rack can clean a wide range of challenging products, including specialized coatings.

The 28,000-sq-ft wash rack shares space on a 30-acre site that also houses Coal City Cob's headquarters terminal, a 48,000-sq-ft maintenance shop, and an 85-railcar transloading operation. The facility has plenty of room to grow and add services.

The Waxahachie complex is the largest of the five terminals in the Coal City Cob network, and it is home to 42 of the fleet's tractors (Only the Houston, Texas, terminal has more equipment with more than 60 tractors). It replaces a smaller terminal in Avalon, about 15 miles south of the Waxahachie location. The Avalon terminal has been closed and will be sold or leased.

“We needed a new facility to serve the Dallas-Ft Worth market because we had run out of room to grow at the Avalon location,” says Michael O Cloonen, president of Coal City Cob. “We found the Waxahachie property in November 2006, and we closed the deal in April 2007. The office building and the rail access were already here, but we had to build the rest.

Wasson adds that the facility was built with growth in mind. “The terminal gives Coal City Cob the opportunity to increase market share substantially,” he says. “We're just off Interstate 35, which is a major NAFTA (North American Free Trade Agreement) highway, and the Dallas-Ft Worth area is a key rail hub.”

Site development for the Waxahachie complex included paving all of the parking and vehicle operating areas at the facility with concrete. Under the concrete is a liner that is part of the spill containment system at the terminal. In total, the facility could contain in excess of a million gallons of spilled product.

The amount of parking space available at the facility is more than adequate for the Coal City Cob 42 tractors and trailers based at the terminal and for the tank cleaning, vehicle maintenance, and transloading operations. The wash rack alone has parking space for 160 tank trailers.

A focal point of the operation, DFW Tank Cleaning was designed with the capacity to wash in excess of 800 tank trailers and totes each month. Cleaning is done in a 28,000-sq-ft building with eight bays — three for chemical washes and one for foodgrade cleaning. The wash rack was designed by Ben Kelley, OMK Enterprises.

Chemical washes predominate at DFW Tank Cleaning, but foodgrade washes now account for 10% of the business. “We're cleaning a lot of tanks that have carried juices,” Wasson says. “We expect this part of our business to grow, and we are in the process of obtaining certification from the Juice Processors Association.”

The dedicated foodgrade bay is isolated from the chemical wash bays. The foodgrade bay and the number one chemical wash bay are served by a 60-gallon-per-minute, 600-psi, single-pass Peacock wash unit. The system can heat water up to 210° F, and it has a dual feed system for cleaning solutions. Spinners from Spraying Systems Inc are used with the Peacock unit. All piping is stainless steel.

Vat system

Two of the three chemical bays use a four-vat cleaning system containing hot and cold water, detergent, and caustic. A second vat system recently was installed and is dedicated to can liner cleaning.

Each vat has its own Grundfos multi-stage vertical centrifugal pressure and return pumps. Wash operations are controlled by programmable logic controllers with soft starts and voltage protectors for the pumps.

“The system was designed with the voltage protectors to guard against over-pressuring and under-pressuring the pumps,” Kelley says. “Use of those systems will result in longer equipment life.”

Chemical cleaning operations are served by an 80-horsepower Superior boiler. Sellers 360 spinners are used with the vat cleaning system and run at 70 gallons per minute and 300 psi. Cleaning chemicals are from A-One Chemicals & Equipment Inc.

Bay five is the heel management area, and some wastewater treatment is performed at this location. Bay six contains most of the chemical/physical wastewater treatment system, including a dissolved air floatation unit from ESCO Ltd. Also part of the treatment system are two 8500-gallon flush tanks for water from the first rinse in the cleaning process and three 12,000-gallon equalization and aeration tanks. Treated water is released to a local treatment plant.

Vapors collected during the cleaning process are burned in a 40-ft-tall flare from Flare Industries. It is a natural-gas fueled/air-assisted flare.

DFW Tank Cleaning's wastewater treatment system operates under very strict standards called for under the Environmental Protection Agency's Transportation Industry Effluent Guidelines, according to Kelley.

Bay seven serves as an eight-station wash area for intermediate bulk containers, most of which have contained coatings and paints. A Peacock single-pass wash unit runs Spraying Systems Inc spinners at 35 gallons per minute and 600 psi. It can deliver hot water at temperatures up to 210° F. A three-door loading dock next to bay seven is used for receiving and shipping the IBCs.

Maintenance shop

In front of the wash rack is a 48,000-sq-ft, 14-bay maintenance building with a commercial truck repair shop at one end. The shop can handle a full range of truck repairs. Four bays are leased by Waxahachie Tank Works, a cargo tank repair shop that is a division of The Jack Olsta Company. Four additional bays are leased to a tarp manufacturer.

Behind the wash rack is the transload facility with eight sections of track that can accommodate approximately 85 tankcars. The facility is served by Union Pacific/Southern Pacific railroad.

“We see excellent growth potential for the transload operation,” Wasson says. “This is the right place for this facility. One reason we purchased this property was because track was already in place.”

Chemicals have dominated the transload operation to date, but the facility can handle virtually any liquid or dry bulk product shipped by rail. A major part of the transload business is a contract with a chemical company that calls for processing 300 tankcars a year.

Equipment at the transload facility includes a Shuttlewagon railcar mover. Steam from a 200-hp Cleaver-Brooks boiler is available along about half of the trackage. Product can be offloaded from tankcars to tank trailers with a transfer trailer outfitted with a product pump, filter, and spill containment materials.

The wash rack, the maintenance operation, and the transloading capability provide Coal City Cob with the critical elements for long-term success as a tank truck carrier. Clearly, the company is positioned for the future.