QTI's 30 years in business bring conservative expansion

Pneumatic trailers for hauling bulk plastics and liquid tank trailers for transporting chemicals have been added to the fleet of Quality Transport Inc (QTI) as one indication of the Fremont, California, carrier's continuing growth as it celebrates its 30th anniversary this year.

“We've experienced conservative expansion, and I see that continuing, perhaps with additional terminals located in the Midwest,” says Lee Schorno, president of the trucking company.

The carrier, and a sister transloading business, Truck-Rail Handling Inc, operate from the Fremont corporate headquarters and facilities in Denver, Colorado; El Paso, McAllen, and Lubbock, Texas; Portland, Oregon; Salt Lake City, Utah; Tacoma, Washington; and Woodland, California.

With this year's addition of new trailers, the fleet totals 53 hopper trailers and 32 liquid tanks. QTI also operates petroleum tank trailers for hauling motor oils as well as four shipper-owned trailers and nine ISO chassis.

The self loading pneumatic trailers were utilized for part of the recent growth that came indirectly as a result of the hurricanes that struck Louisiana and Mississippi in 2005, cutting into the plastics supply from that area. Plastics manufacturers looking for other places to fill the gap settled on producers in Asia, and imports into California stepped up, providing QTI with additional distribution business, Schorno says.

“Our business was terrific in 2006 as a result of the Asian imports, and we are expecting to exceed that level for 2007,” he says.

While the plastics business has kept QTI busy, its chemical side of the operation has experienced most of the growth. The business has grown despite the downturn in housing and the auto industry, both sectors that the carrier serves.

Company history

The company has experienced good growth for the past 30 years and expects to do same for the next 30 years, according to the founder, Al Schorno, chairman and chief executive officer. “I grew up on a dairy farm in Washington,” the senior Schorno recalls. “In 1960, I decided to go to California.”

After working for a couple of other companies, he started the trucking company in 1977 with one tractor and one self-loading pneumatic trailer. In the 1980s he realized a need for transloading facilities and set up a business in Fremont, soon followed by the other sites.

At that time, shippers needed a way to economically maintain services to customers previously served by regional plants that had been closed in downsizing. They also wanted a way to further penetrate new markets without the capital expense of establishing additional regional facilities. Shippers began experimenting with the idea of using railcars for long-distance transportation and storage coupled with final distribution over the road. The rest, as they say, is transloading history.

In 1990, one of the Truck-Rail Handling rail sidings in Fremont was redesigned and enlarged to handle the current capacity of 200 total railcar spots. Among the three facilities in Fremont, QTI operates out of 22 acres of property including the rail sidings served by Union Pacific Railroad Corp and Burlington Northern/Santa Fe Railway. The rail sidings are permitted to transload acids, liquid and dry chemicals, liquid and dry foodgrade products, plastics, and petroleum products.

As the transloading business grew, so did the trucking company. “I wasn't going into liquids, but in 1985 (by request of shippers) I decided to buy my first chemical tank trailer,” Al says. “That decision has proved successful for us — I think because of the diversification it has brought.”

Safety first

Always concerned with safety, one of Al's first priorities was hiring a fulltime safety director with an emphasis on driver training. Today, Dennis Parker leads the safety department and oversees driver training. The 46 QTI drivers are owner-operators, another decision that the Schornos believe helped the company to be successful.

“It was easier with the owner-operators, financially, to get the business started at that time, and we are very satisfied with them today,” Al says. “We have three owner-operator families working for us that are in their second generation.”

That kind of loyalty has paid off for the carrier in good driver retention, making recruitment less of a factor than it has been for many other carriers. Parker says new driver recruitment is typically by word-of-mouth through the owner-operators.

Training includes company policies, Department of Transportation regulations, defensive driving, and hazardous and non-hazardous materials handling. In addition, drivers are trained to transload products from railcars to trailers. Two safety meetings are conducted each year for all drivers. “In all our training we discuss regulatory compliance issues and emphasize what we call ‘customer compliance’ as part of our customer service program,” says Parker.

When newly signed owner-operators have completed classroom training, they undergo further on-road instruction and oversight by a former QTI driver.

Part of the training covers transloading facility procedures that require Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) regulation instruction. In addition, some shipper facilities also provide on-site driver training.

Another focus of the QTI safety program is its annual Driver of the Year Award that brings both a cash bonus and a plaque to the winner. To qualify for the award, the driver must have a record of no spills, accidents, or product contamination, as well as having demonstrated exceptional customer service.

Coordinating drivers falls to the dispatching staff with the aid of the Nextel XORA GPS Time Track Systems. It can be used to indicate when drivers are starting or ending a trip. Dispatchers receive Web-based maps and reports showing vehicle location. In addition, QTI installed TMW Suite fleet management software for processing orders and other administrative procedures.

Maintenance department

The maintenance department is another essential element in QTI's management program. Although the one-bay shop in Fremont provides some tractor maintenance and repair (typically inspections), it concentrates on the hopper and tank trailers. Tony Perez oversees the shop and its two mechanics. They conduct tank trailer preventive maintenance on a 30-day schedule and stay in touch with drivers for early alerts of problems.

The newest 1,625-cubic-foot pneumatic trailer comes from Tremcar and is equipped with a collapsible fall protection device that runs the length of the trailer. Components include Knappco domelids, Sure Seal butterfly valves, and Bayco check valves. The trailers have Hendrickson Intraax AA230 suspensions, Truck-Lite lighting, and Jost A-400T landing gear. QTI specifies Michelin X One wide single tires.

QTI works with Mel Battle of Bulk Transportation Services to come up with the specs for the Tremcar trailers. All new trailers will be specified with similar equipment as part of the company's emphasis on safety, says Al.

Always looking for ways to improve equipment, Al designed his self-loading pneumatic trailer in 1973 and continually has made changes to improve on it. Currently, he is trying out a loading line for the pneumatic trailer mounted at the front of the tank.

“We think it will speed up the loading process and make it easier on the driver by spending less time on the trailer,” he says. “If this works, we will eliminate loading from the rear.”

The newest DOT407 tank trailers are spec'd with Dave Morice from Brenner Tank Inc and have various capacities to meet customer needs. Trailers are equipped with Betts valves and domelids and Girard pressure-relief venting. Running gear includes Hendrickson Intraax air suspensions, MeritorWabco antilock braking, Walther EMC hubs, and Truck-Lite light-emitting diode (LED) systems. Austin Westran supplies landing gears. QTI specifies Michelin X One wide single tires as a hedge against fuel consumption and weight. The wheels have Hendrickson Tiremax automatic tire inflations systems.

For fall protection, ladders with side hand rails connect to a platform with 36-inch-high guard rails atop the Brenner tank.

Beall supplied the DOT406 tank trailers used to haul motor oils. They have 9,500-gallon capacity but are loaded with 7,000 gallons to meet weight restrictions. The four-compartment transports are equipped with Civacon API bottom-loading adapters and Scully overfill protection.

With the fleet continually updated, plans to establish terminals farther east in the United States, and market projections for the rest of the year and into 2008 looking steady, Quality Transport is ready for continuing the successful pace it has had since its inception.

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