TEATSA Adds Foodgrade Cleaning in Guadalajara >By Charles E Wilson

March 1, 1999
Old Mexico charm blends with state-of-the-art foodgrade tank cleaning technology at the Guadalajara, Jalisco, terminal belonging to Transportes Especializados

Old Mexico charm blends with state-of-the-art foodgrade tank cleaning technology at the Guadalajara, Jalisco, terminal belonging to Transportes Especializados Antonio de la Torre e Hijos SA de CV (TEATSA). The facility provides commercial cleaning services and is in the process of obtaining Coke certification.

The 44-acre Guadalajara terminal complex is one of two facilities in the de la Torre system with tank cleaning capabilities. More wash racks are under consideration as the tank truck carrier continues to expand operations, both in Mexico and the United States.

"Our customers are growing, and we are growing with them," says Marco Antonio de la Torre Jr, TEATSA's Guadalajara terminal manager. "Our domestic and international chemical business has expanded significantly. Our customers have built more plants and are much bigger than they were 10 to 15 years ago.

"Edibles are a relatively recent addition to our cargo mix, but they show good long-term potential. Our biggest expansion into edibles came in 1997 when we started hauling liquid sweeteners, but we had been handling edible oils since 1989.

"As they have grown, our customers have begun to request more sophisticated tank cleaning capabilities, and we are taking steps to meet their needs. Currently, we have wash racks in Guadalajara and Mexico City, and we are looking at additional locations in areas with high volumes of tank truck traffic. We see good potential in coming years for commercial tank cleaning in Mexico, and we want to be part of that."

In business since 1946, TEATSA has evolved into a diversified operation. The company formed a strategic alliance with MTL Inc (now called Quality Distribution Inc) in 1995 for bulk liquids hauling. That was followed by a dry freight alliance with Schneider Logistics in 1996.

To make management more efficient, operations were divided into four divisions: international tank, domestic tank, foodgrade tank, and dry van. Drivers and equipment are assigned to a specific division, but resources are shared as needed. "We want to make sure that we keep the drivers busy," says Alejandra de la Torre Verduzco, TEATSA international tank division director.

The TEATSA fleet now stands at almost 300 tractors and 385 trailers. Tanks account for the vast majority of trailers. They include 95 that are in dedicated liquid sweetener service and are leased from MTL Inc. Another 60 leased tanks are used for international hauling of chemicals.

Doubles trains are an important part of the operation within Mexico because 70-tonne (154,000-lb) payloads are allowed. Tractor-semitrailer rigs can carry a maximum of 35 tonnes (77,000 pounds).

The tank trailers haul a broad range of liquid cargoes. Besides liquid sweeteners and edible oils, TEATSA transports mineral oils, caustic soda, fuel additives, fatty acids, fatty alcohols, and latex.

Customers are served out of six terminals, all of them in Mexico. Besides Guadalajara and Mexico City, the carrier has facilities in Nuevo Laredo and Matamoros, Tamaulipas; Cuautitlan Izcalli, Estado de Mexico, and Monterrey, Nuevo Len. A second terminal is planned for Cuautitlan Izcalli, and the carrier intends to build a facility in Quertaro, Quertaro.

A computer network links the terminals through e-mail communications. TEATSA is in the process of upgrading the computer software used to manage the operation. Dispatch and maintenance modules that are part of Sistema de Informacin de Logstica y Trfico have been installed. The Microsoft Windows 98-based software was purchased from Logstica Ingeniera y Sistemas, San Nicolas los Garza, Nuevo Len.

Satellite tracking of vehicles also is part of the computerized fleet management system. By mid year, every tractor in the TEATSA fleet will have been equipped with the Qualcomm system.

"With the satellite system, we have very good control over our tractors and drivers," says De la Torre Jr. "We are in constant communication with our drivers, and this makes it possible to give our clients much better service."

The Mexico City terminals were the first to be opened by the tank truck carrier. Facilities at the primary Mexico City terminal include a four-bay wash rack for chemical cleaning. Steam and caustic meet most of the cleaning requirements at the rack, which serves just the TEATSA fleet. About 20 tanks a day are washed at the rack.

Opened five years ago, the Guadalajara terminal is the largest in the TEATSA system. The liquid sweetener business is concentrated at this terminal, but it also has plenty of liquid chemical and dry freight activity.

Situated on the 44-acre site is a maintenance shop that provides preventive maintenance and minor repairs. Major repair jobs are sent to the main Mexico City terminal that has full rebuild capabilities, including a well-equipped machine shop. Most tank repairs are contracted out.

Next to the maintenance shop is a two-bay wash rack for chemical cleaning. Only steam cleaning is done at the Guadalajara wash facility. Two wash operators are assigned to the rack, which cleans about five tank trailers a day. The chemical rack is used only for

With the arrival of the liquid sweeteners business, the need for dedicated foodgrade cleaning became acute. "Cleaning is a critical factor when liquid sweeteners are transported," says De la Torre Jr. "Contamination is a big concern. Sophisticated cleaning systems are needed, and wash operators must be thoroughly trained."

TEATSA hauls liquid sweeteners for a single customer for distribution throughout Mexico. The shipper and carrier worked closely in defining the foodgrade cleaning requirements. Among other things, the shipper requested that TEATSA provide foodgrade cleaning to other carriers. This was acceptable because it offered an additional source of revenue to offset the cost of developing the facility.

The new dedicated, four-bay foodgrade wash rack was operational by May 1998 and was a success from the start. An eight-man crew keeps the facility running from 7 am to 10 pm, seven days a week. They handle 30 to 40 tank trailers a day.

Hot water and steam are all that are used for the foodgrade cleaning. No oil-based edibles are cleaned at the foodgrade rack.

The foodgrade cleaning system is housed in a free-standing building that is well away from the chemical wash rack. "We wanted to do everything possible to minimize the potential for con-tamination," says De la Torre Jr. "The building can be expanded easily to accommodate growth in edibles cleaning."

For the wash system, the carrier turned to a US manufacturer-Applied Mechanical Technology Inc, Crestwood, Illinois. The company is a supplier of modular, portable cleaning and boiler systems that are assembled inside 40-ft ISO box containers.

Two containerized systems were assembled for TEATSA. One container holds a 60-horsepower Cleaver Brooks boiler and water softening system. The other container has a 4,000-liter (1,000-gallon) hot water tank, A O Smith ultraviolet water treatment system, pumps, and blower for drying tanks. Water temperature is monitored by Partlow chart recorders.

The foodgrade cleaning process takes approximately 35 minutes and uses 500 to 600 liters (130 to 150 gallons) per tank trailer. Pumps and hoses are cleaned with the trailer. Tanks are steamed for five minutes, and the interior temperature reaches 180 F. The spinners are then activated, and the tank is rinsed with hot water for 15 minutes. Drying takes five to 10 minutes.

Exterior cleaning is done at a covered area next to the foodgrade wash rack. "We wash the exteriors before moving vehicles into the foodgrade bays," De la Torre Jr says. "This is part of our effort to ensure that tanks are fully cleaned and sanitized when they leave the foodgrade rack."

A Karcher pressure washer is used for the exterior cleaning and has performed well. Exterior cleaning generally takes about 20 minutes per trailer.

Wastewater from the foodgrade cleaning operation is pumped into a 15,000-liter (3,900-gallon) storage tank. The water is hauled to TEATSA's liquid sweetener shipper for treatment and disposal.

Wastes from the chemical cleaning operations at the Guadalajara terminal are drummed and hauled away for disposal at an authorized facility. The disposal facility is government certified.

"We face a lot more environmental scrutiny today," says De la Torre Verduzco. "Federal regulations have become more stringent in Mexico over the past 10 years, and violations can bring heavy fines. Facilities can even be shut down. Mexico's environmental agency checks our wash racks at least once a year."

Increased government scrutiny, along with customer requests, has encouraged the tank truck carrier to run more equipment that follows US design requirements. For instance, most of the foodgrade trailers in the fleet were built to DOT407 code.

The trailers are constructed of stainless steel and are insulated with fiberglass. Tanks used in tractor-trailer combinations carry 7,600 gallons, while those operated in doubles trains have a 6,000-gallon capacity.

Electrically powered stainless steel product pumps from Bombas MAV and Flo-Tech are carried in belly-mounted cabinets. Other tank hardware includes Definox stainless steel butterfly valves, Betts domelids, and Girard vents with DuPont Kalrez seals.

All of the tractors in the TEATSA fleet are Kenworth T800 conventionals, and most are no more than three years old. They are powered by Cummins N14 or M11 engines. Eighty percent have Fuller transmissions, with Spicer supplying the remainder.

A modern fleet and a state-of-the-art foodgrade wash rack positions TEATSA for continued growth. The tank truck carrier has come a long way in 53 years and is well positioned to move into the new millennium.