Alamo City Truck Service Inc in San Antonio, Texas, is easy to spot when driving along East Houston Street — it's the six acre, 18-bay facility busy serving customer vehicles that include tank trailers, tank trucks, recreational vehicles, school buses, and coaches.

“We are customer oriented and big enough for a variety of jobs,” says Ron Fey, Alamo City general manager. “But we're also capable of handling those small specific jobs that come in. Our goal is to provide services for those drive-up requests and get the driver back on the road — as well as for the customer who needs extensive work done on a vehicle in our facility.”

The shop holds a Boiler and Pressure Vessel Inspectors “R” stamp and provides services for the tank truck industry that include external and internal visual inspections, lining inspections, and tests for leakage, pressure, vapor recovery, and thickness. Other services include bottom loading conversion, major barrel repair, tank changeouts, tank degassing, and custom fabrication.

“We are knowledgeable about tanks,” says Fey. “We consider that one of our specialties.”

Tank bays

On any given day, the six bays serving tanks, and the same number used for tractors, are a beehive of activity with the staff of 25 mechanics. The shop is open 8 am until 8 pm Monday through Friday, but mechanics are on call 24/7 for emergencies.

“We have three road service trucks that range as far as 100 miles from here,” Fey says. “We also provide preventive maintenance inspections and all repairs needed at San Antonio customers' terminals.”

The company typically serves cargo tank operators in a 100-mile radius of San Antonio, but it's not unusual for customers to come from greater distances. The majority of the tank trailer/tank truck work is prompted by the petroleum sector. “We do a lot of work on overfill protection equipment,” Fey notes. “A small percentage of our business is related to repairs that are the result of inspections required by the Department of Transportation inspections.”

The shop also handles other types of vehicles such as those used to haul chemicals and foodgrade products. The company provides services for both liquid tank trailers and dry bulkers.

“We are seeing an increasing number of requests for repairs to tank trailers that have rolled over,” Fey says. “And, we have a growing demand for repairs to older tank trailers because of the backlog in new equipment orders. Another service we see growing is the installation of Garnet Instruments systems used for product monitoring and overfill protection. Carriers, especially those hauling crude oil, are using them to insure they aren't overweight.”

Shop equipment

The shop uses a Leech Industries Inc five-ton crane and has various shears, press brakes, saws, drill presses, and rolls. A Pexto hydraulic shear is used for sheet metal cutting. A Wysong and Miles Co manual shear is available for metal cutting, and a PS&WC Co roll handles metal rolling.

“We can manage lightweight materials, but if the metal is over 1/8 inch thick, we send them to an outside metal shop,” says Fey.

In the tractor bays, computerized diagnostic instruments are used for engine emission analysis, as well as other vehicle tests. However, hands-on service remains a big part of the shop procedures. Engine replacements are typical work at the shop. In another example of the company's dedication to premier service, an experienced mechanic who works on trucks and engines will also handle oil changes and look for any problems that might lead to an on-road breakdown.

“Carriers are sending us more tractors for evaluations and repairs than in the past — rather than handling the work themselves,” says Fey.

Trailer service

As to trailer service, the petroleum trailers are all degassed in a bay adjacent to the shop before they are moved to a repair bay for work to begin. They are continually tested for vapors as work progresses and before anyone enters the tank, Fey says.

These procedures and others, such as keeping hoses and electrical lines overhead in the shop to protect against injuries, are part of the company's emphasis on safety. Safety meetings are conducted every two-to-three weeks during work breaks at 3 pm. Subjects include confined tank entry policies, fall protection, use of equipment such as cranes, and Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) regulations.

Efficiency role

While safety is a priority, efficiency also plays a large role at Alamo City. Computers help make the maintenance operation move smoothly. Work orders are processed using RIMSS Business Systems Technology software. A work order is developed for each job and the form is printed out for the mechanic performing the repairs — who also submits it to the parts department as needed. A shop foreman checks the form when the job is complete and then passes it on to Fey for review. After he approves the work, the form is forwarded to administration where it is processed for billing.

Fey says that eventually the program will be used for paperless transactions, and parts will be scanned and computer analyzed for inventory management.

While the company is moving toward more technology, it retains its personal-touch culture. Fey notes that each customer who drives into the facility is greeted by one of the foremen. “Our paramount objective is to provide safe and professional handling of our customers' equipment,” he adds. “We are determined to meet their expectations.”