BRENNER Tank Service’s new cargo tank repair shop and parts distribution center in Baton Rouge, Louisiana has been open since the beginning of this year. The new facility has been busy from the moment it opened.
Just up the road from Brenner Tank’s previous location, the new facility at 6575 Airline Highway sits on four acres and double the size of the old location. The new facility includes a six-bay tank trailer repair shop and a 2,500-sq-ft warehouse stocked with more than $300,000 worth of cargo tank and trailer parts. The shop has parts fabrication capabilities, and the facility has applied for an R-stamp that will permit code tank repairs.
“For a number of reasons, this new facility couldn’t have come at a better time,” says Chris Morgan, facility manager for Brenner Tank Services in Baton Rouge. “We had definitely outgrown the old facility that we opened in 2011, and we were landlocked. We needed room for additional services.
“With no room for expansion at the previous shop, we felt a new location was the best option. Our first shop shared space with the Quala tank wash in Baton Rouge, and we were fortunate to find a new site just on the north side of the wash rack. It’s a real plus to be next to the wash rack, because we can quickly shuttle tank trailers as needed for cleaning before and after repairs. Construction of the new facility began in April 2016.”
Work was well underway when torrential rains and flooding hit the area in mid-August 2016. News reports characterized the storm as a thousand year event. Over about a week, Baton Rouge got 19 inches of rain, while in excess of 30 inches fell in surrounding areas. Area rivers reached flood crests that exceeded 40 feet.
It was a major disaster, and both the old and new Brenner facilities were impacted. By the time the storm ended, the old Brenner facility was filled with six feet of floodwater. In contrast, flooding in the new building topped out at around a foot.
“No part of the old shop escaped flood damage,” Morgan says. “Our parts delivery trucks and shuttle tractor were flooded as was our entire parts inventory. The building wiring was completely soaked.
“Flood waters went down two to three days after the storm ended, but the electric company had to cutoff the electricity to the old building. We didn’t get power back for more than two months (in mid October 2016). A small gasoline-powered generator set provided a minimal amount of electricity during that time.
“Frankly, it could have been much worse. We were able to salvage most of our parts inventory, and we were able to continue parts sales and distribution. The new facility was near enough to completion that we were able to operate out of there. However, our parts sales were slower to recover in the three months following the storm.”
It wasn’t just the Brenner Tank Service operations that suffered, though. Half of staff also had homes damaged by the floods. Our parent company, Wabash National Corp, really stepped up and took care of our people. They were concerned with how the storm had impacted the employees. They kept everyone working. Projects included cleanup of the old shop and preparations for the move to the new shop.”
Flood protection was one of the factors taken into consideration during planning of the new Baton Rouge location. The building site is high enough to make it less prone to flooding in the future.
The new facility is one of six cargo tank service and parts distribution locations operating under the Brenner Tank Service banner in the United States. It is quickly growing into one of the largest tank service and parts distribution facilities in the Brenner Tank system.
“We’ve added more staff throughout the operation, and more hiring is coming,” Morgan says. “We now have two parts salesmen, two delivery drivers, and a shuttle tractor driver. We have four trailer mechanics in the shop now, and we plan to hire at least two more.
“Two of our mechanics are registered tank inspectors and one has 23 years of welding and fabrication experience. We have a code welder, and we have already applied for an R-stamp certification for the facility.”
The facility stocks a full range of parts for chemical tank trailers and dry bulkers. Local parts delivery is provided within a 90- to 100-mile radius of the facility. Pick-up and delivery of tank trailers to be inspected, tested, and repaired is available throughout Louisiana, with the exception of Lake Charles, which is served through Brenner Tank Service’s Houston, Texas, shop.
A six-bay shop is the heart of the new facility. The bays are wide with plenty of room for the mechanics to move around the equipment. New Miller welding machines and a new Sullair compressor replaced equipment damaged beyond repair in the summer flood. Safety is a top priority and fall protection was installed over every trailer bay.
“With what we have in this larger new Baton Rouge shop, we will definitely be focused on tank repair,” Morgan says. “We’ll be able to handle just about any project our customers bring to us.”
Two 5,000-gallon storage tanks hold water for hydrostatic testing of tank trailers. “The water tanks are outside, and we have set up a very compact hydrostatic testing bay in the shop,” Morgan says. “We were fortunate to salvage our pressure-vent test bench from the old shop.”
One of the six shop bays has been designated as a fabrication area. Fabrication equipment now in place includes a Piranha ironworker and a Lockformer machine for making the joints on sheets of stainless steel jacketing. A press brake will be installed soon, and a shear may be added at a later date.
“We believe the addition of fabrication equipment will help speed trailer repairs,” Morgan says. “It will also give us the ability to fabricate custom parts to meet specific needs.”
Trailer parking behind the shop can accommodate approximately 40 trailers and is paved with crushed limestone. It is fully fenced, gated, and protected by a series of security cameras that also are in place throughout the facility.
A concrete driveway spans the front of the facility and extends a couple hundred yards to the street. More of property in front of the facility could be developed for trailer parking should the need arise. In addition, there is space to add more trailer shop bays. ♦