BARBARA Windsor possesses one of the most diverse resumes of any of the industry leaders to have served as chairman of National Tank Truck Carriers Inc over the association's more than 50 years in existence. She also happens to be the first woman in NTTC's top position.
Like so many executives in the tank truck industry, she grew up in the family business — Hahn Transportation Inc in New Market, Maryland — where she now serves as president and chief executive officer. She recounts how she used to go with her father — Robert Windsor Jr — on cold winter mornings to start up the fleet tractors before the drivers arrived for their shifts.
She also remembers the challenges her mother faced in the early years as a woman involved in the day-to-day management of a tank truck fleet. “My mother (Rebecca Hahn Windsor) and others like her cleared the trail that made it possible for me to become chairman of NTTC,” Windsor says.
Windsor followed a circuitous route on her way to the NTTC chairmanship. She spent 20 years as a flight attendant (both domestic and international) with Trans World Airlines based in Kansas City, Missouri. By the time she left, she had served in several supervisory positions, including safety.
The return to the family business came in 1991, when she was named executive vice-president and chief operating officer. She has been there ever since and wasted little time in becoming involved in state and national politics.
In 1998, Windsor ran unsuccessfully as the Republican candidate for lieutenant governor in Maryland. Politics remain a major interest for Windsor, and she doesn't rule out another run for public office at some point in the future.
In addition to NTTC, Windsor is active on the association level with the American Trucking Associations and the Maryland Motor Truck Association. She is currently vice-chairman of ATA's hazmat subcommittee, and she was named MMTA's Person of the Year in 2005.
Not surprisingly, Windsor has some strong views on the issues facing the tank truck industry and trucking in general. She discussed those issues with Bulk Transporter during a recent interview.
BT: How would you describe the state of the tank truck industry during your year as NTTC chairman?
Windsor: It's better than it's been for a number of years, but we had a number of challenges. For instance, we faced fuel prices that were drastically rising. Hurricane Katrina damaged petroleum pipelines and disrupted our business for quite awhile.
I think insurance will be a growing issue over the next year. The market looks like it is tightening. We're looking at renewals now, and we're seeing less availability for hazmat coverage.
BT: How have freight volumes been so far in 2006?
Windsor: They've been very consistent. They've been holding up well. In meetings with our dry bulk customers, we've been told that shipment volumes will surpass last year. Shipment growth in construction materials should continue into 2007.
Tank truck carriers in other parts of the country tell me they are hearing the same projections. They also expect another year or two of good freight volumes.
BT: Are you optimistic that rates will continue to increase?
Windsor: I believe they will as long as capacity remains tight.
BT: Are tank truck carriers better off financially today?
Windsor: I still think we are due to the tighter capacity and lack of drivers.
BT: Would the industry over expand if there were plenty of drivers?
Windsor: It very possibly might. If there were more drivers, our capacity would change drastically. We turn away work every single day at Hahn Transportation. If we had 25 more drivers, we could pick up those loads that we are turning away on a daily basis right now.
BT: What happens to the loads you turn down?
Windsor: They are lost to us completely. Does a competitor haul them? Maybe, maybe not. We see shippers changing their schedules. They aren't doing as much just-in-time scheduling. They also are not placing as many extra orders. In the past, we had some cement shippers that would order as many as 10 loads a day and really only need six.
Cement demand remains very strong. The lines of trucks at the cement plants have gotten to be outrageous. With the new driver hours of service, we've had to start running night shifts and stage trailers. We hadn't done that with cement for many years.
BT: Do you face similar challenges on the petroleum side?
Windsor: Yes we do with regard to fleet capacity and sitting in long lines at the terminals.
BT: Are you being compensated by customers for the loading delays and lost productivity?
Windsor: We are by some customers.
BT: What is the long-term outlook for the driver supply?
Windsor: We're not likely to see much of an improvement. As I already said, the industry has benefited from that. Shippers are starting to realize just how big a problem we face with drivers. Trailers and loads are sitting all because the trucking industry doesn't have enough drivers.
We're now seeing the true benefits and constraints that were placed on the trucking industry by the CDL (commercial driver license) program that was implemented years ago. The concept of the program was excellent, because it prevented truck drivers from holding multiple licenses. But it also put restrictions on new people coming into the industry. They can't qualify for a license until they are 21 years old.
Over the years, we've had multiple generations of the same family — fathers, sons, uncles, cousins, brothers — working for us. Now, a young man fresh out of the local high school comes to us wanting to follow in dad's footsteps. We have to tell him that he has to wait until he's 21.
Let's assume he still wants to drive a truck when he turns 21. He's probably going to have to enroll in a truck driving school, and it will cost him between $4,000 and $7,000 for that training. The Maryland Motor Truck Association has started a scholarship program because of the driver shortage, but he'll still end up paying much of the cost out of his own pocket.
Suppose he does get his CDL and a hazmat endorsement. He comes back to us, and we have to tell him that our insurance company won't let us hire any driver with less than a year of over-the-road experience. Essentially, we've created a system in which we have made it virtually impossible for the young potential truck driver to ever get a job in this industry.
BT: So, why would anyone want a truck-driving job today?
Windsor: On the positive side, we're finding people who are looking for a second career. In many cases, their previous career was outsourced. We're seeing a variety of both white collar and blue-collar workers. They are in their 30s.
We also see the opportunity to recruit drivers from another source — the military. We have troops coming back from Iraq and Afghanistan who have been working in petroleum transportation units. These are ideal candidates for us. The question is: Why can't their military license transfer to a civilian CDL? Part of the problem is that there is no true truck driver license in the military.
We need a military license that is convertible. It's the right thing to do for our soldiers. Besides, whom would you want to drive a gasoline transport but someone who had already been doing that job under some of the most stressful conditions? It's like a military pilot going to work for an airline.
BT: Is it bad for the industry that the new sources of truck drivers are older than they were in the past?
Windsor: It's not bad, but the question is this: Will we ever again see the young drivers coming into this market? I think we do have a place for the 18-year-old truck driver. We could have an apprenticeship program.
I've talked with insurers about the issue. I've asked if they have studied accident statistics for truck drivers of different ages and experience. Where do we have the accidents? One gentleman told me that the new drivers out of school may have more frequency, but the accident damage is less costly. These accidents tend to be small fender benders. The major rollovers often involve a complacent driver who has been around a long time.
BT: With the background checks and all of the other hassles, why would any truck driver want a hazmat endorsement today?
Windsor: In our fleet, for instance, we have more work during the winter months for drivers who have a hazmat endorsement. We also offer higher salaries for the hazmat drivers.
I believe those with hazmat endorsements are seen as premium drivers by the tank truck industry in general. Some shippers also believe their hazmat cargoes deserve a premium driver.
We haven't seen any drop in hazmat endorsement renewals at our fleet, but we're just getting to the point where our drivers will have to begin their first renewal under the background check requirements. We don't know what sort of fallout we might see. We've only had one driver go in for renewal in the past couple of months.
BT: How quickly are background checks coming back in your part of the country?
Windsor: We are at four weeks and counting (as of mid January) for a cement driver who applied for a hazmat endorsement and background check so he could switch to petroleum hauling. We were told it wouldn't take that long. It's slow, and it's going to discourage people.
BT: Do you believe the federal government is addressing the issue?
Windsor: No. They are not addressing it at all.
BT: Do the background checks accomplish the stated purpose of protecting the US public from truck-related terrorist threats?
Windsor: As we've discussed at some industry meetings, no terrorist is going to subject himself to fingerprinting. It's more likely that he would be driving a truck in a non-hazmat capacity. I'm not opposed to a transportation worker ID card that applies to all truck drivers. That's the only thing that would really benefit security.
Even beyond that, the background check program has a lot of problems. Each state manages the program completely differently, and the costs vary widely. Some states will not accept hazmat endorsements from other states when drivers move. The Department of Homeland Security should manage the whole program for uniformity.
BT: In addition to the driver shortage, we also lack sufficient truck mechanics. What can the industry do to address that concern?
Windsor: There is a shortage. We're fortunate in this area because we have vo-tech schools with truck mechanic programs. We offer the students internship opportunities. Our fleet manager has built excellent contacts with the schools.
I think this is partly an awareness issue. Young people need to know that truck maintenance offers good opportunities. These are good positions that won't be outsourced overseas.
BT: What would you consider to be the biggest issues facing the tank truck industry?
Windsor: We start with the shift to ultra low sulfur diesel. We really have no idea what we'll be facing when we start to haul that fuel. What we do know is that our own operating cost will increase when we have to start using that fuel. The new 2007 engines that need the ultra low sulfur diesel will be a challenge.
We in the petroleum hauling industry hope that the Department of Transportation will withdraw its wetlines rulemaking. We believe that industry — led by Cliff Harvison and NTTC — has shown that the rule is unnecessary and would not improve safety.
We're still looking at the issue of indemnification for hazmat transportation. I think this will be a state-by-state issue. I think it will hit more than just the tank truck industry. It will affect all of trucking.
BT: With the driver shortage and other capacity constraints, why would any tank truck carrier sign an indemnification agreement today?
Windsor: It's gotten to the point where you can't go into any loading facility if you don't sign the indemnification agreements. There is no question that these agreements clearly state that in the event of an incident at the facility, the carrier will be the sole responsible party. Our attorneys tell us to cross off certain things, but we don't have a lot of options.
It's going to take American Trucking Associations, National Tank Truck Carriers, and the state trucking associations to help us get through this issue. It's more than any one company can address on its own.
The battle is being fought state by state. Certain states now have repealed indemnification language in contracts. I believe that is the best approach, because the state legislatures can address the issue in a broad manner.
BT: Taking a closer look at ULSD, what are the key industry concerns?
Windsor: At the end of last year, it looked like dedicated tank trailers would be mandatory for all ULSD shipments. We could do that. We could handle ULSD just like we do jet fuel. However, when you mandate dedicated equipment, you have just increased the cost of moving that product. It would cut productivity at least 50%.
At the NTTC meeting in Houston (Texas) in January, it still looked like we might avoid dedicated trailers. However, now it seems probable that we will not be allowed to switch-load gasoline and ULSD. This puts us back into dedicated trailers.
We still have some major safety concerns at the terminals and at the delivery points. There may be a higher risk of static-initiated fires with ULSD. Can the static problems be handled at the loading rack? We still need an answer to that question. Our safety managers need to work with the terminals to address these issues.
BT: Will the Mid-Atlantic states have problems with ULSD supplies?
Windsor: I think they will. The Colonial Pipeline has said they will not move ULSD north of Richmond (Virginia). We'll have to rely on barges for just about all of our ULSD shipments. We're being told that as a diesel user we'll be paying an additional 50 cents a gallon for ULSD.
BT: What are you hearing about the potential for alternative fuels, especially biodiesel?
Windsor: What I've heard is that it is being promoted as a potential alternative. We can use it in diesel blends up to 5%, according to engine manufacturers. Possibly, it could be used as a lubricity additive in ULSD, but we really don't have enough information to know for sure. We've read that some Midwestern fleets have problems with biodiesel gumming up the engine. Gelling in cold weather is another problem.
BT: What are your thoughts on the 2007 engines?
Windsor: We saw a pre-buy in 2002, and it certainly looks like one is occurring ahead of the 2007 model year. It's already happening. In our fleet, we're not interested in buying trucks with 2007 engines right away. There are too many issues. We don't know what we'll experience in the way of fuel availability. There has been little or no on-road testing in fleet operations because ULSD is not available. We could easily face a disaster in 2007 that could further cut trucking capacity.
BT: Would that affect the US economy?
Windsor: It definitely could. We're not going to be able to move as much freight if we've got engine issues. Now in defense of the manufacturers, the engine people tell us their engines will perform and that the technology has been tested and is tried and true.
BT: How will the trucking industry react if the new engines don't perform well?
Windsor: We're going to be running our existing tractors longer. We'll at least run tractors an extra year. We want to make sure that the ULSD supplies are in place. We really don't know what fuel will be available going into 2007. Initially, we heard that we would have ULSD and LSD (500 ppm diesel) available simultaneously until 2010. More recently, we've heard that the refineries may ship only ULSD, and that may be the only diesel available by the end of 2007.
BT: Do have any concerns about how ULSD will affect current engines?
Windsor: Yes, I do. Lubricity additives will be very important for the ULSD used in those engines.
BT: What do you believe will happen in the area of wetlines regulations?
Windsor: Every time the issue dies down, somebody brings it back to life. Within the petroleum hauling industry, we truly believe that the accident statistics don't support a regulation to ban wetlines.
In addition, I'm concerned about the products on the market that would pressurize the product lines to push gasoline back up into the tank. We have a concern that the wetlines systems would be maintenance-intensive. Loading racks could be shut down if the wetlines system fails while a trailer is being loaded. The trailer may have to be completely unloaded at the loading rack.
What do we do with that fuel taken off the trailer? Where does it go? We're probably responsible for the full cost of that load.
We already know that with the overfill systems our drivers don't always get a green light for every compartment, and that sort of problem happens every day. Sometimes it's nothing more than moisture on the probe, but it has to be checked.
BT: Can the federal government make an effective case for the wetlines rule?
Windsor: I don't think they can. I don't think there is a necessity for it.
BT: How will the industry react to a regulation banning wetlines?
Windsor: It's our belief that we have enough documentation to support court action. That is what National Tank Truck Carriers has said. We don't want to file a lawsuit, but we believe we might have to.
BT: Where does the tank truck industry stand on security today?
Windsor: We have access limitations at petroleum terminals today that hurt productivity. With all of the extra training we have to give drivers today, the added security cost just for training runs more than $1,000 per driver. That's just for the initial training at time of hire.
Our drivers probably will ask to be reimbursed for the cost of the hazmat background checks. Some of our competitors already are paying for their driver background checks.
BT: Are we benefiting from the industry investment to make fleets and facilities more secure?
Windsor: It has built security awareness, and that is what it's all about. Programs like Highway Watch have made our drivers more aware of security threats. I hope that the steps we've taken have made the US tank truck industry a less desirable, less attractive target for terrorists.
BT: What is likely to happen with regard to tank truck stability?
Windsor: Anytime a truck rolls over, it's an issue. It doesn't matter whether it's a tank or box trailer. We have to prevent rollovers. A number of vehicle stability systems are now on the market, but the key is driver education more than anything else. We need to change the driver mindset.
BT: You probably feel more pressure on the rollover issue as close as you are to Washington DC.
Windsor: You better believe it. We hear all of the commentary: Let's take tanks off the highway. Let's eliminate deliveries at nighttime. Washington DC and Baltimore (Maryland) are among the cities that want to ban hazardous materials shipments all together.
BT: You've been working with Maryland Motor Truck on toll issues. Why is that a concern?
Windsor: What we want is no new tolls. Arbitrary changes in tolls are very disruptive from a financial standpoint. For instance, Maryland can raise tolls without going to the state legislature. Other states can do the same thing. It can have a major impact on the bottom line.
BT: Would you choose this industry again if you had it to do all over?
Windsor: I still definitely would choose it. I grew up here really not knowing anything but the trucks. It's my family heritage. When I moved back to start working with mother and father, his comment was that it was good to your grandfather and it's been good to us. It also will be good to you.
My grandfather started the business in 1933 during the Depression. It was a tough time. They didn't have all of the regulations that we do today, but they also didn't have the infrastructure.
BT: Is there still a future for the family-owned trucking company?
Windsor: Oh, definitely.
BT: Why should the younger generation want to be involved in this business?
Windsor: When you grow up in it, you learn to love it. Certainly, there are trials and challenges, but there are also rewards. This is an industry that never will be outsourced to another country.
BT: What has it meant to be the first woman chairman of NTTC?
Windsor: It's very exciting. It's been thrilling. I have really enjoyed it immensely. I'm thrilled with the reception I received in the tank truck industry. I've been very fortunate.
I followed in the footsteps of my mother (Rebecca Hahn Windsor), a lady who was in trucking — in the tank industry — many years before I was. She was there during the hard times when it was not acceptable for a woman to be active in this business. She took it with grace. My mother was one of two daughters, and I am one of two daughters. We're not going to sell the business just because we don't have any sons in the family. I believe we're all truckers.
BT: Based on your past involvement in politics, what does the future hold for you?
Windsor: I really enjoyed my time in politics, and I'm very fortunate to live so close to Washington DC. I can participate in politics by representing the tank truck and trucking industries.
I ran for Lieutenant Governor (of Maryland) a few years back, but I'm not looking at any elective office at this time. My immediate objective is to run Hahn Transportation and move it forward.
BT: What can other carriers do to be involved in the legislative process on either the state or national level?
Windsor: So much of the process relies on grassroots effort. You have to know your local legislators, and you must be involved enough to be able to let them know about the issues that are important to your business and the industry.
That's one reason why National Tank Truck Carriers is so important to our industry. We get so involved in the day-to-day management of our businesses that we aren't aware of issues developing in Washington DC. The NTTC staff keeps us informed about the developing issues. We can take that information and talk to our hometown representatives.
BT: What other factors make NTTC important to tank truck carriers, and why do companies need to join?
Windsor: We face so many regulatory issues in this industry that an organization like NTTC is absolutely vital. No tank truck carrier can work its way through today's regulatory maze without assistance and representation in Washington DC. We can't do it alone.
We work in a very specialized industry. Unlike other trucks that go up and down the road every day, tank trucks have hoses, fittings, pumps, and other specialized hardware. A van is a van is a van.
BT: During your year as chairman, you weathered a major staff change with the retirement of Cliff Harvison, who had been president for many years. What impact did that have?
Windsor: Fortunately, John Conley has been with NTTC for many years. The transition was as easy as one could expect. We all know John, and we've worked with him for a long time. We know that Cliff will always be a part of this industry. You can't spend 40 years doing what he did and just walk away. Cliff brought us to where we are today, and we will move forward with John.
It's nice to see Tom Lynch back with NTTC. He's also someone we knew well. He brought with him wonderful expertise that will make him a valuable asset.