Copper commitment

Oct. 1, 2006
THAR'S copper in them thar hills in eastern Arizona, and B J Cecil Trucking Inc of Claypool, about 80 miles east of Phoenix, has been serving that industry

THAR'S copper in them thar hills in eastern Arizona, and B J Cecil Trucking Inc of Claypool, about 80 miles east of Phoenix, has been serving that industry through three generations of owners.

The late Walter Cecil started the company in the mid-1940s with a single-axle dump truck. His son, B J Cecil, later assumed the reins, continuing to expand the transportation services that among other things included hauling shredded metal on flatbed trailers.

Eventually, his son, Chris L Cecil, now the current owner, took over management and grew the company to its present status. All of that adds up to a business that can claim more than 50 years in the trucking industry.

Today, the company transports sulfuric acid used in copper refining processes, as well as for other industries involved in water treatment, power generation, and milk processing.

“Our market changed when the mining here in the 1980s switched from conventional production to a procedure that involves leaching that required sulfuric acid,” says Bill Ward, company treasurer. “Sulfuric acid that had been produced in the refining process was a waste product, but with new technology in place, it became a viable source of business for us.”

Prior to that point, the carrier had been providing different bulk transport services to the mines. When the new mining operation became active, B J Cecil Trucking had established its service reputation with mining companies, so they asked the carrier to handle the latest transportation needs.

Growing fleet

The carrier purchased 10 liquid bulk trailers to handle the new service, and that part of the business soon dominated the operation. In 2003, pneumatic trailers were added to haul lime, also used in the mining operation.

Now, about 65% of the business involves transporting bulk liquids, 20% for lime hauling, and 15% devoted to products hauled in end-dump trailers and on flatbeds.

The operation is coordinated from corporate headquarters in Claypool, as well as from satellite terminals in Duncan and Mammoth, Arizona, says Jack Wagner, operations manager.

“We basically cover the Southwest and California,” Wagner adds. “But most of our runs are within Arizona.”

Hours-of-service regulations have impacted the operation because of just-in-time delivery schedules. In addition, the improved national economy has increased the company's business. As a result, the need for new drivers has grown, which prompted the carrier to step up recruiting.

Despite driver shortages across Arizona, the carrier has managed to keep the driver pool filled with the combination of veteran company drivers, owner-operators, and new hires.

The carrier currently employs 85 drivers, 45 of whom are assigned to the bulk division. Another 21 are owner-operators. Many drive in a slip-seat routine.

To be selected, driver applicants must be at least 21 years old, have two years over-the-road experience, provide a current certified motor vehicle report from the state in which their commercial driver license (CDL) is issued, and also have a current physical.

Driver training

New hires not only receive instruction in company policies, Department of Transportation (DOT) regulations, defensive driving, and hazardous materials handling, they also receive training by the Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) that includes safety procedures and material handling, says Melvin Maxwell, safety director.

A representative from MSHA reviews the training program annually. Maxwell also conducts MSHA training for other companies upon request.

New hires are required to have site-specific training at the mines, and all drivers renew that training annually.

The length of time in training varies, depending on experience and ability, but new hires go through at least a week of on-the-job training with a driver trainer, in addition to classroom instruction.

Driver retention

To encourage driver retention, the carrier offers financial incentives quarterly to those who maintain a driving record with no citations, exhibit a good relationship with customers, and are dependable in the workplace. An additional bonus is awarded to those who qualify for all four quarterly performance incentives.

The company's operating schedule is a plus for retention because most drivers have few overnight stays over the road. Another advantage is that they aren't often tied up waiting to load and unload.

Drivers are issued Nextel cell phones for communicating with dispatchers, says Bill Wagner, central dispatcher for the liquid bulk division. Dry bulk dispatching is handled by Wayne Purcella.

Contributing to good driver morale is a full-service maintenance shop that keeps vehicles in good condition, which reduces breakdowns on the road that often contribute to driver aggravation. The Claypool facility includes two separate shops, one for tractors and the other for trailers.

“We are just too far from Phoenix not to have a well-qualified shop,” says Wagner. “Our vehicles are running about 12,000 to 15,000 miles on the road each month. And a lot of the roads in this area are hard on the equipment.”

Bill Navarro oversees tractor maintenance and his brother, Jubie Navarro, oversees the two-bay trailer shop that has an “R” Stamp for tank repair and fabrication.

All maintenance and repairs are tracked with a computer program from Ron Turley and Associates in Phoenix. The application also manages parts inventory. After work orders are created, mechanics enter data into shop computer terminals as work progresses.

The carrier's 65 Kenworths receive preventive maintenance at 6,000 miles, which includes a check of engine and running gear and a lube service. Oil is changed at 12,000 miles. The 50,000-mile inspection includes routine service and checks on wheel bearings — the same service is conducted at 100,000 miles.

B J Cecil Trucking typically trades tractors every four years, but more recently has been rebuilding engines and refurbishing the cabs to keep them in service longer.

The Kenworths are equipped with Cummins 370- to 400-horsepower engines and 10-speed Eaton Fuller transmissions, but other specifications vary depending on use.

Tank trailers

The carrier has 130 DOT412 tank trailers in the fleet. The 3,500-gallon trailers were built by Polar Corp. They are small tanks compared to some chemical trailers because they have to accommodate the sulfuric acid, which weighs in at 15.4 pounds per gallon.

“We're at 80,000 pounds gross,” Wagner points out.

The trailers have a design temperature of 125°F and are equipped with Betts internal emergency valves and Allegheny secondary valves. Girard supplies pressure-relief venting.

The fleet also has Heil, J&L, Fruehauf, and Polar dry bulk trailers. Capacities range from 900 cubic feet to 1,600 cubic feet. Dry bulk trailers typically have Sure Seal butterfly valves and aerators. Blowers for the bulkers are mounted on the tractors and are supplied by Gardner Denver/Drum.

Running gear on the trailers generally includes Hendrickson and Hutch suspensions, MeritorWABCO antilock braking systems, and Austin landing gears.

Also in the fleet are Comptank Corp and Tankcon FRP Inc fiberglass reinforced plastics tank trailers leased from Jack Olsta Company.

The Comptank 5,765-gallon tank trailer has Asahi valves and Girard pressure-relief vent and vacuum breaker. Tankcon provides a 5,400-gallon tank trailer with Girard pressure-relief vent and Bray Controls valves.

With a diverse fleet that can respond to a growing economy, B J Cecil Trucking is in a solid position for continued success as it serves the mining industry just as it has for more than 50 years.

About the Author

Mary Davis