Tampa Bay Truck Center focuses on full service

March 1, 2005
WHEN the Benson brothers say full service at Tampa Bay Truck Center, they mean full service. A new two-bay interior tank cleaning system dominates the

WHEN the Benson brothers say full service at Tampa Bay Truck Center, they mean full service.

A new two-bay interior tank cleaning system dominates the services offered at the Tampa, Florida, facility, but Shad and Nathan Benson decided when they started the company that a diversified business was the order of the day.

“We try to make it a one-stop facility all under one roof,” says Shad.

The brothers began the company in 1999 by leasing one bay for a truck wash, then leased a second truck wash bay in 2000. They further expanded by leasing the two interior cleaning bays in 2001, finalizing the company by buying the 11-acre facility in 2002.

In addition to interior tank cleaning, the truck center boasts two bays for exterior tank/truck cleaning, a commercial fuel island, a $100,000-retail parts and accessories inventory, and offices and parking spaces for carrier leasing.

Nine acres ensure enough room for 250 parking spaces. A third exterior truck/tank trailer wash bay is scheduled for completion by mid-2005.

The facility offers services from 7 am until 11 pm Monday through Friday and 7 am until 7 pm Saturdays.

Serving drivers

When drivers asked about chrome accessories for their trucks, the Bensons took notice. Today, shelves in the office glitter with a variety of hardware.

For further convenience, an independently-owned three-bay repair shop and a one-bay tire service company are located adjacent to the cleaning facilities. Wanting to focus on interior and exterior vehicle cleaning, the Bensons settled on leasing the shop and tire bays to others rather than offering those services themselves.

After initially leasing the property, the brothers decided to purchase the facility. Before they bought the company, they thought about building a new facility, but knew the importance of obtaining a tank cleaning facility that came with permits in place.

The tank cleaning bays originally were used for both foodgrade and chemical tank cleaning. The brothers recognized that the Tampa area was home to several companies that supply resins, as well as oils and other petroleum products. As a result, they decided to end the foodgrade cleaning and concentrate on tank trailers that haul chemicals and petroleum products.

They spent $20,000 to repair potholes in the parking lot, set up a commercial fueling island, and spent many hours on housekeeping details.

New wash system

The Niagara Model 8000 Series system comes prepiped and prewired. Since the facility does not have a boiler, the system is heated with a 1,250,000 BTU natural gas- forced-air burner assembly, which includes a thermostatically controlled Krondex furnace plant for heating the recirculated cleaning solution.

One reason the Bensons chose a heat-exchanger system was to get away from the use of boilers — and the subsequent employee training and certification that is required.

The tank has a prewired electronic, non-mechanical conductivity low water protection level control for shutting down the system in order to prevent the pumps from possibly running dry should there be a low water condition. It also includes stainless steel level rods.

The tank is insulated on all sides and at the top, except for the hinged access lids and includes a stainless steel outer skin over the insulation.

Surface skimmers remove foreign floating matter, such as petroleum oil in the heated re-circulated compartments.

The system uses Niagara Striker B-1000 and Niagara Power Blend #1250 detergents for hard-to-clean products, such as set-up resins, latex, and can liners.

A chemical blending tank for cleaning resins and other hard to clean chemical products has a 1,500-gallon capacity. Another 1,500-gallon vat is used for ambient water rinsing.

Plans are to expand the system to another 1,000-gallon heated detergent tank and one 1,000-gallon prerinse tank.

The prewired master control panel enables presetting of the timing cycle chosen to use in cleaning any particular product.

The System also includes:

  • Two 50-horsepower high volume, high impact spinner pumps.

  • Two high capacity, specially designed recirculating pumps.

  • Special two-inch chemical resistant drain valves with Teflon packing with welded fittings.

  • Specially designed filtering system with stainless steel, removable, filtering baskets.

  • Two emergency shutdown controls, one mounted on the main control panel and one on the remote control panel.

  • A prewired remote control panel on the catwalk houses push-button controls and timer for the preset cleaning cycles.

The new system compliments the tank wash's increased business that is occurring as a result of an improved nation-wide economy, says Shad.

Speeding process

About 30 tanks are cleaned each day in the wash bays, and the volume is expected to increase as the business grows.

The truck wash bays utilize a 1,600-psi Cat Pumps system and Zep detergent. With exterior cleaning demand growing, the company is planning an additional bay.

Even though the new cleaning equipment boosted business, the Bensons say their tank cleaning personnel are the icing on the cake. Hector Castanaza and Murat Pierre are longtime employees and have extended their expertise to the wash bays. Castanaza oversees tank cleaning and Pierre handles the exterior cleaning bay.

Safety training sessions include confined-entry sessions required for those assigned to tank cleaning.

“We place special emphasis on nitrogen-blanket dangers,” says Shad. “Workers test for nitrogen on all trailers, no matter what the cargo hauled. We treat tanks as if they all have nitrogen blankets.”

Wastewater handling

Wastewater is being handled by the original system that contains a solids separator, oil separator, and aeration system. A new pretreatment system is being installed to handle the additional volume from business growth and for future needs.

Wastewater is pumped into a 44,000-gallon tank where a compressor feeds air into the tank. After aeration is completed, wastewater is pumped into a city-owned lift station on the property. City inspectors monitor the tank cleaning facility's non-hazardous wastewater at the lift station on a quarterly basis.

At the same time the Bensons were concentrating on improvements to the cleaning operation, they realized the importance of site security. The terrorist attacks on the United States in 2001 resulted in a closer look at hazardous materials transported by the tank truck industry. Fearing terrorists might try to use a hazmat trailer in an attack, carriers and industry service providers stepped up their security operations.

The Bensons turned to SuperVision Surveillance, a Tampa company that supplies a digital recorder and 13 cameras that cover the yard and offices.

To insure that the system operates properly, SuperVision provides maintenance on the system for the life of the lease agreement.

Yard equipment

In addition to the camera surveillance, the yard is fenced and access is through code-entry gates. Inside the security area, the unattended electronic diesel service island with two pumps and 12,000-gallon storage tank is operated by COMDATA Corp equipment.

In the office, the Bensons chose QuickBooks to handle administration, including the company's scannable parts inventory as well as the work in the bays that provide exterior cleaning for vehicles.

For the tank cleaning bays, the work order begins when paperwork is initiated in the office and handed to workers in the rack. The workers then return the completed work order to the office where personnel enter the data into the QuickBooks program for accounting and billing.

With their business up and running, new equipment purchased, offices and parking areas leased to carriers, and customers at the bays, the Bensons say they owe a lot of their success to their father, Vernon, who put them to work cleaning trucks when they were kids.

Their father began a mobile exterior truck wash service in Denver, Colorado. After several years, he moved his family to Florida in 1984 and eventually retired in January of this year.

“I was washing trucks by the time I was 10 years old,” recalls Shad.

After the brothers graduated from high school, they joined their father fulltime in the mobile service. “But we always wanted a stationary truck wash,” says Nathan.

So when the Tampa Bay Truck Center came on the market, the Bensons jumped at the opportunity. They sold the mobile service and bought the property. “We saw the potential for the facility,” says Shad.

Since their father has retired from the business, the sons are the hands-on management team. They continue to examine the facility's potential and have plans for continued renovations — like paving the yard with asphalt.

Customer service remains the Benson's number-one priority. They keep customers apprised of work in progress, check vehicles parked on the yard to see if they are in need of any repairs, and look for other ways that they can offer assistance.

The decision to emphasize customer priorities in conjunction with offering diversified services has paid off for the Bensons, and the philosophy puts them in place to respond to new economic opportunities that arise.

About the Author

Mary Davis