Texas Transeastern Inc Focuses On Obtaining Top-Quality Image

July 1, 1999
IMAGE HAS a top priority at Texas Transeastern Inc, Pasadena, Texas, a petroleum carrier founded in 1984. "When we began this company, we saw a need for

IMAGE HAS a top priority at Texas Transeastern Inc, Pasadena, Texas, a petroleum carrier founded in 1984. "When we began this company, we saw a need for a carrier to provide quality service with professional drivers and clean equipment," says JJ Isbell, company president. "Image, and projecting it, has been key to our success. People couldn't believe it when we put our drivers in white uniform shirts to deliver product."

They believe it now. The driver ranks include 150 drivers. The fleet, containing 55 tractors and 75 tank trailers, moves product at any given time in an area covering most of Texas. The company also supplies customers in Louisiana and Oklahoma. Texas terminals are located in Austin, Beaumont, Corpus Christi, Harlingen, Dallas-Fort Worth, Bryan, Pasadena, Laredo, Lufkin, San Antonio, Tyler, and Waco.

Isbell chose to emphasize image because he wanted to solicit the business of high-profile major oil company clients. Their requirements for customer service and safety are rigorous, he points out. However, obtaining the majors wasn't an overnight accomplishment. Isbell had to demonstrate his company's ability to meet the demands. At first, Texas Transeastern clients were small jobbers in metropolitan Houston that the distributor serviced with three tank trailers. Soon, Isbell had acquired a company in Tyler, and the fleet was boosted by five transports. By 1987, 10 more tank trailers were on the road and had caught the attention of a major oil company.

"Shell gave us our first chance," he says. "We were a back-up carrier for two years and then became one of their primary carriers."

Today, the company's clients include Motiva Enterprises (formerly Shell & Texaco), Diamond Shamrock, Exxon, Coastal, and Chevron. Texas Transeastern dedicates some of its equipment to Motiva and Coastal Mart deliveries. The tank trailers carry the companies' colors and logos, and haul gasoline and diesel.

One way Texas Transeastern provides specialized service is by using a satellite Teletrac Tracking System. The system provides vehicle location and truck number for instant communication. "If we have to change a delivery, we can search for the closest truck and make the adjustment," he says. "We can tell a customer exactly where a load is."

Customer orders come into the dispatching center via fax and phone. Some customer monitoring devices download data to the Texas Transeastern computer system, and dispatchers then coordinate the deliveries.

Routine orders are entered into the company's computerized system, ticket deliveries printed, and drivers' loads scheduled. Drivers pick up the ticket at the t erminal before starting out on routes.

"We hire professional people and provide the necessary training," Isbell says. "Our business depends on well-trained employees. I really stress equipment utilization, and the only way to do that is to have plenty of drivers. We just don't have trucks not moving. We like to think we are quality in motion."

Minimum qualifications for drivers include a Class A commercial driver license with an X endorsement, and two years current and verifiable tractor/trailer driving experience or one year of current experience with proof of completion of an approved driver training education program.

Applicants must be at least 23 years old, have an acceptable driving record for the past three years, and demonstrate a stable work history. They must meet Department of Transportation requirements and be able to satisfactorily complete a company prescribed road test. In keeping with the company's goal of a positive image, they must conform to the company's hair and dress code.

The philosophy of training, safety, and rules enforcement comes easily for Isbell who spent 10 years as a deputy sheriff and patrol officer with the Harris County Sheriff's Office.

As a result, Texas Transeastern veteran drivers go through a three-day refresher program each year that includes reviews and updates on safety procedures, customer service, and company policies. All newly hired drivers are required to complete a minimum of two weeks on-the-job training with a driver instructor. An instruction progress report must be completed in detail for each day of training. At the end of each day, the driver instructor updates the terminal manager or dispatcher on duty as to the progress of the new employee.

"Coordination of training with terminal management is essential," says Isbell. "Drivers must learn the fundamentals of delivering product. Even after the driver-trainer checks off on the new-hires, the terminal manager will make the final decision that they are qualified." Drivers must learn hazardous materials handling and precautions, read the company's driver handbook, and become familiar with bottom-loading techniques.

Drivers are taught that infractions are not tolerated by company managers. "We're so committed to safety - and that includes not driving over the speed limit," he says. Meritor Trip Master equipment installed in the tractors monitors speed as well as hard braking, and other on-the-road statistics. Reports are printed every week and posted for drivers to review.

When new-hires finish training, a program exit quiz is administered to determine if adequate training was provided on specific loading and unloading procedures. "We want our employees to know the fundamentals of delivering a product," he says. "It's so easy to make a mistake, and we want to prevent that."

Texas Transeastern provides a bonus per quarter for drivers who demonstrate safe driving. An annual bonus is also available for cumulative safe driving. Isbell budgets $80,000 each year for the program, and drivers who qualify can receive as much as $900 annually. "And the majority of our guys get a bonus," he says.

In addition, each terminal names a professional of the quarter who competes for professional of the year. The winner takes home a $200 savings bond, plaque, engraved clipboard, and jacket.

Even with the emphasis on image and employee training, Texas Transeastern hasn't overlooked the importance of equipment. The company owns all its tank trailers and leases some of its tractors. "Our trucks are rolling all the time, 24 hours every day of the week," he points out, adding that tractors are replaced about every five years.

Freightliner power units are powered by 370-horsepower Cummins engines. In an effort to standardize components, Isbell has begun specifying Meritor transmissions and front and drive axles.

For driver comfort, cabs are fitted with "the best seats available," he says. The cabs have AM/FM radios and cassettes and are double insulated to cut down on noise and vibrations. The tractors and trailers are maintained under contract by outside shops, the majority operated by Ruan Transportation Management Systems and PacLease Truck Rental and Leasing. Preventive maintenance is scheduled every 15,000 miles.

A majority of the company's MC306 and DOT406 9,400-gallon tank aluminum trailers are from Heil. A few older trailers were supplied by Fruehauf and Custom. Typically they have four compartments: two with 1,200-gallon capacity, one with 3,500-gallon capacity, and one with 2,700-gallon capacity.

Their vapor collection system has components from Civacon, Betts, and EBW. Knappco supplies the emergency internal valves, and Civacon supplies the discharge valves. The OPW ROM II system is used for overfill prevention. Manholes are from Tiona. The bottom-loading lines, with a brake interlock, have a changeable placard to indicate the product in each compartment.

Trailers are equipped with Reyco Transpro Super Heavy Duty suspensions, Delco springs, and Meritor standard axles. Meritor Wabco supplies the antilock braking system. Brake linings are from Abex Friction Products.

The lighting system includes a Truck-Lite sealed lamp system and Betts turn signal indicators and swivel spot lights. Texas Transeastern specifies Bridgestone R194 low-profile steel belted radial tires.

Texas Transeastern drivers prefer open hose trays for easy hose handling. Isbell ordered lamps mounted at drops and at the front of the trailers to improve visibility at night. Markers are located at each bottom-loading head to avoid product mixing.

Blackmer pumps are mounted on tractors to pump product from trailers to above-ground tanks. Controls for the PTO-driven pump are installed inside a box for weather protection and also are mounted on the tractor. Drivers like this arrangement because it saves them steps, Isbell says.

Having state-of-the-art equipment, well-trained employees, and reliable vehicles enables Texas Transeastern to meet the needs of its customers and present the image they expect. "We strive to be the best at exceeding the expectations of our customers, employees, and the public," Isbell says.

Looking to the future, he expects the company to continue to grow both internally and by acquisition. "We want to focus on the core business," he adds. "We think we have unsurpassed responsiveness to our customers and can provide the value they are seeking. Placing high priority on building trust and consistently exhibiting trustworthy behavior will continue to be part of our values."

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