ZERO can signify nothing or it can mean everything. It’s all a matter of context.

For GLS Transport Inc, zero means an incredible achievement. A frequency rating of zero accidents per million miles in 2016 earned the Bedford Park, Illinois-based tank truck carrier the National Tank Truck Carriers Outstanding Safety Performance Trophy in the Sutherland Division for carriers running less than 15 million miles annually.

The carrier won the Grand Award in the 3.5 to 5 Million Miles Class of NTTC’s Competitive Safety Contest. Terry Kolacki, GLS Transport director of HSSE/Responsible Care coordinator, was honored as the NTTC Safety Professional of the Year in the Sutherland Division.

“We’ve operated a safe tank truck carrier for a long time, and this trophy is affirmation that we are doing the right things,” says Jennifer Weremblewski, GLS Transport vice-president and general manager. “It shows that our drivers and our fleet managers are doing their very best to operate safely at all times. There is no question that this trophy will help open doors with shippers.”

Kolacki adds: “This was an incredible honor for our company. It offers verification that we have the right safety culture in place and we are passing it along to the new drivers we hire. It also proves that the mechanics in our maintenance shop are doing their jobs to keep our fleet in top condition. Our dispatchers are doing what is right with respect to hours of service.

“We made the Outstanding Safety Performance Trophy the focal point of our annual safety meeting that is held in December. We showed them the NTTC trophy video. We wanted them to know about the award and that we believed they could win it.”

Driver commitment

In acknowledgement of the driver investment in the safety program, the Outstanding Safety Performance Trophy sits on a table in the drivers’ lounge at the headquarters terminal in Bedford Park. “They earned it, and they are the ones who keep the loads moving for us and our customers,” Kolacki says.

Drivers have been helping the carrier win accolades for safety and outstanding performance for decades. The tank truck fleet has earned Shell Chemical’s 4 Star Carrier Award for 24 consecutive years, including 2016. The company is a two-time winner (2014 and 2015) of Shell Lubricant’s “Goal Zero” Outstanding Achievement Award and a two-time winner of Eastman Chemicals’ Excellence Award for the same two year period.

GLS Transport has earned Platinum Safety Awards from Great West Casualty Insurance Company for 15 consecutive years, including 2016.

A subsidiary of Great Lakes Synergy, the GLS Transport family of businesses have been involved in transporting hazardous materials since 1947. In 1949, the owners of what is now Great Lakes Synergy built and began operating barge and storage terminals for Shell Chemical under Great Lakes Terminal & Transport (GLT&T). By 1950, GLT&T had obtained more Interstate Commerce Commission authority enabling it to expand into seven Midwestern states.

At its busiest, the terminal operation had 15 million gallons of chemical storage capacity at the Bedford Park location. The facility loaded 30 to 45 trucks a day.

The company began offering truck maintenance services in the early 1990s. At customers’ requests GLS Transport was formed as a non-union carrier in 1996, and began operating in the Midwest. GLT&T continued to operate as a union carrier.

More change was in store starting in 2000 when the carrier began hauling Shell gasoline. That operation ended in 2010 after Shell sold off its Midwest refined fuels retail operations.

Chemical focus

Since then, GLS Transport has focused on chemical hauling. The tank truck carrier attained Responsible Care Management System Verification in 2010 and is steadily expanding its chemical shipper customer base.

“We try to pick chemical shipper partners that share our safety culture,” Weremblewski says. “We’re not the cheapest, but we want to be a value-added transport provider.”

Five key objectives guide the tank truck carrier:

•  Understand customer needs and deliver safe, secure quality service every time.

•  Understand and effectively control costs while growing the business without compromising core values.

•  Provide a safe and satisfying work environment for GLS Transport employees by promoting a culture built on safety awareness and accountability.

•  Maintain and improve corrective action processes in order to continually learn and grow from our mistakes.

•  Strive for continuous improvement in all areas of the business.

The strong safety focus includes being active in groups such as NTTC’s Safety & Security Council. “A lot of great safety professionals make up the council, and they share a lot of valuable information during the meetings,” Kolacki says. “These are people who willingly share on any fleet safety issue.”

Kolacki also is a member of the Cargo Tank Risk Management Council (CTRMC). “This is a tightknit group that is dedicated to eliminating the risk of falls and other injuries around tank trailers, wash racks, and other locations,” he says. “They are working to improve the safety of ladders and other equipment.”

Compact operation

GLS Transport serves its customers with a compact staff consisting of 55 drivers (including six independent contractors), five office staff, and four dispatchers. The GLS Transport fleet includes 49 tractors and 116 tank trailers.

The fleet is dispersed across four primary locations. In addition to the main terminal in Bedford Park, the carrier has terminals in Ferndale, Michigan; Karns City, Pennsylvania; and Cottage Grove, Minnesota.

The main terminal occupies 13 acres that was home to a former GLT&T storage facility. GLS Transport shares terminal space with sister company Composite One’s fleet operation. The facility also provides secure contract parking for a number of fleet and owner-operator customers.

GLS Transport provides a range of support services for the Composites One fleet. In addition, the maintenance shop at Bedford Park handles all of the tractor and trailer service and repair work for GLS Transport and the Composites One fleet.

In addition to general tractor and trailer maintenance, the shop provides a full range of cargo tank testing and inspections. Five of the 12 mechanics at the shop are registered tank inspectors.

“On the fleet management side, we provide Composites One with hours of service support and auditing, PeopleNet on-board computer support and training, vehicle buying and selling, driver selection, incident investigation, safety support, and US DOT compliance and permitting,” Weremblewski says.

At the Cottage Grove location, GLS Transport manages interplant transportation for 3M Corporation. Traffic managers use TMW Systems software to track all of the equipment used in the Cottage Grove operation. Eight on-site drivers shuttle empty and loaded trailers for 3M.

Most trips are within a 600-mile radius of the GLS Transport terminals, and most activity takes place in the eastern half of the United States. However, GLS Transport delivers throughout the United States and does have operating authority for the Canadian provinces of Ontario, Quebec, Alberta, and Manitoba.

Best drivers

A key objective is to serve shippers with the brightest and most skilled drivers. “We look for truck drivers who are hard workers, motivated, and have a passion for operating safely,” Kolacki says.

Many of the driver applicants are referred by GLS Transport drivers. Most have driven for other tank truck carriers and typically are in their 40s. GLS Transport requires at least three years of tank driving experience.

Drivers are provided with late model tractors spec’d with a range of safety technology and aggressively maintained. The median age of the tractor fleet is four years. Company trucks include 44 sleeper units and five daycabs.

The newest company tractors are Peterbilt Model 579s with 450-horsepower Cummins X15 engines, Eaton Fuller 10-speed manual transmission, and Meritor MT40 drive tandem. Safety equipment includes Bendix roll stability, a Base anti-theft system, and orange seatbelt straps.

GLS Transport specifies a 72-inch mid-roof sleeper. The newest sleeper tractors also have a Carrier Comfort Pro auxiliary power unit.

Product handling equipment includes Blackmer pumps and compressors. Gates product hoses are standard for the fleet.

Brenner is the primary supplier of stainless steel chemical trailers for the fleet. Eighty-two of the trailers in the fleet are single compartment. The newest DOT407 single-compartment tanks have a 7,800-gallon capacity.

Of the 33 multi-compartment tanks, 90% are four-compartment units. Total capacity for these DOT407 trailers is 7,600 gallons. Most of the multi-compartment units are double conical.

Tank hardware includes Girard pressure and vacuum relief vents, and ground-level vapor recovery controls. Running gear includes Meritor axles with Meritor roll stability and Reyco spring suspensions.  ♦