If not the youngest, Andrews Logistics Inc certainly has to be one of the youngest tank fleets to earn the National Tank Truck Carriers top safety award. In business just 13 years, the carrier received this year's NTTC Outstanding Performance Trophy for its superb 2009 safety record.
Despite the carrier's youth, winning the NTTC award was no fluke. The management team of the Irving, Texas-based transportation logistics company developed and followed a very deliberate plan to build an award-winning safety program. It is a top-down effort that made safety the number one core value for the company.
“Winning the Outstanding Performance Trophy means a great deal to us,” says J Darron Eschle, chairman and chief executive officer of Andrews Logistics. “Despite the recession, we had a great year in 2009, and we never let up on our safety commitment. Safety is something we live and breathe at this company. We make that clear to every one of our employees.
“In the tank truck industry, safety can never be taken for granted. We serve liquid bulk shippers that believe safety must be a priority, andwe're constantly looking for new and innovative ways to improve our safety effort.”
That safety commitmenthelped Andrews Logistics earn the NTTC's Outstanding Performance Trophy with a frequency of just 0.093 accidents per million miles. The carrier also was the Grand Award winner in the 10-13 million miles class of the NTTC 2009 Competitive Safety Contest and the Grand Award winner in the same mileage category for personnel safety. The carrier also earned a sixth-year certificate in the 2009 Improvement Contest.
Griff Odgers, Andrews Logistics' vice-president of safety and risk management, was named 2009 Tank Truck Safety Director of the Year during the NTTC Safety & Security Council annual seminar in April in Nashville, Tennessee. “Griff did an outstanding job of building the safety program at Andrews Logistics, and he certainly deserves this honor,” Eschle says.
In addition to the safety accolades on the tank truck side, Andrews Logistics also earned special recognition in the dry freight sector. The company was named Walmart/Sam's Club 2009 Truckload Carrier of the Year.
As an asset-based transportation logistics provider, Andrews Logistics handles both liquid bulk and dry freight cargoes. The company offers a broad range of logistics services, including dedicated contract carriage, contract warehousing, and freight management.
When Eschle started the company in 1997, the primary focus was on dry freight. Today, however, liquid bulk cargoes account for 70% of the company's activity, and dry freight makes up the remaining 30%.
Lube oils dominate the liquid bulk side, but the carrier also transports cryogenic liquid cargoes and some propane. “We're continuing to increase the liquid bulk activity,” Eschle says. “During 2009 we expanded our chemical hauling activity to include solvents and plasticizers.”
Transporting the liquid and dry bulk cargoes are 210 tractors and more than 400 trailers — tanks, dry vans, and flatbeds. Tank truck operations are conducted out of terminals in Dallas and Deer Park, Texas; Atlanta and Savannah, Georgia; Los Angeles and Richmond, California; Tampa, Florida; Hartford, Illinois; Canton, Ohio; and Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
Every tractor in the fleet is busy today, and Andrews Logistics is adding more equipment to keep up with demand. The company recently ordered 32 tractors just for expansion, and orders for replacement equipment are under consideration for the second half of the year.
“All of our equipment is running right now, and we need more trucks just to handle existing business,” Eschle says. “Our customers are expanding with higher production volumes and more marketshare. We're also working hard to line up new business. We believe we will see significant growth this year.
“As activity grows going forward, we're sticking with customers that stayed with us through the recession. We need stable revenue so we can attract more drivers and pay for the new higher-priced equipment that we are buying.
“From a revenue standpoint 2009 was largely flat for us. As the recession took hold in late 2008, we lost a $10 million customer to bankruptcy. We knew 2009 was going to be a tough year, but we had already begun right-sizing our operation even before the failure of that large customer. By the end of 2009, we had replaced most of the lost business, and it turned into one of our better years as we got back to 2007 revenue levels.”
Even with the sharper focus on the bottom line, the management team at Andrews Logistics never lost sight of the safety objective. “We knew we couldn't let up on our safety effort,” Eschle says. “Regardless of other issues, a tank truck carrier can't take its eye off safety. If you do, you're going to have accidents or incidents, and you are on your way out of business. Little events can snowball into major catastrophes.”
As 2009 progressed, it became clear that Andrews Logistics was turning in an excellent safety performance. “We knew we couldn't take it for granted, but we started to sense that we were in the running for the NTTC's Outstanding Performance Trophy,” Eschle says. “It is, after all, a very competitive program.”
It is important to note that winning the Outstanding Performance Trophy became a management objective at Andrews Logistics as the company diversified from dry freight into liquid bulk cargoes. Management began to see trucking safety in a new light.
Eschle explains that he and Odgers came from the dry freight side. “Many on the dry freight side believe a satisfactory safety rating is enough,” Eschle says. “Liquid bulk shippers want a safety program that goes beyond that, and they take a much closer look at the overall fleet safety effort. In many cases, this includes annual safety audits.”
Andrews Logistics' safety program began its evolution to industry leader in 2003 when the company joined NTTC, and Odgers started participating in NTTC's Safety & Security Council activities. “I got a lot of help from the other tank fleet safety managers,” he says. “We run with some companies that have great safety programs, and it's very good company to keep.”
Odgers attended his first fall regional NTTC safety meeting in Houston, Texas, in 2004. The safety program had evolved steadily at Andrews Logistics, and the company participated for the first time in the NTTC annual safety competition in 2005 (2004 data). The company received its first Improvement Award that year and has earned an Improvement Award every year since.
In 2006, Andrews Logistics captured the Merit Award in its mileage category in the NTTC safety contest. “After the awards were presented that year, I told Darron that I wanted more than a third-place finish in the future,” Odgers says. “I had already decided in 2005 that I wanted that Outstanding Performance Trophy.”
Odgers explains that it's not all about the trophy. “Our goal is to build the best safety program in the tank truck industry,” he says. “Winning the trophy is validation that we are on the right track. It also reinforces our effort to build a strong safety culture within this company.”