Hudson Petroleum Begins Shift--To Bottom Loading Operations

Jan. 1, 1999
Significant canges are underway in the terminal and transportation operations of Hudson Petroleum, one of the largest independent petroleum marketers

Significant canges are underway in the terminal and transportation operations of Hudson Petroleum, one of the largest independent petroleum marketers in Brazil. The changes are designed to boost efficiency and reduce operating costs.

Most importantly, the Sao Paulo-based company is outsourcing transportation to a contract operator. In addition, trucks and loading racks are being converted to bottom loading. The changes began in the fourth quarter of 1998 and will be completed before mid 1999.

"We've turned to an outside contractor to run our fleet because we want to separate transportation from the marketing operation," says Fernando de Oliveira, director of logistics and operations at Hudson Petroleum. "Transportation is not our core focus. We want to concentrate on the central part of our business. We believe it's better to turn over transportation to a specialist.

"We're converting to bottom loading for several reasons. First, we believe we can improve safety at the loading rack, while cutting loading times by a third. There are benefits to the environment because we reduce the amount of vapors that are released."

The process of shifting the fleet operation to a third party began in November 1998 with the petroleum transports. Control of tankwagons remains with the petroleum marketer for at least the next three months. All of the vehicles will continue to carry the Hudson Petroleum logo.

Even as control of the fleet changed hands, Hudson Petroleum managers were hard at work directing the switch to bottom loading. The effort started with one lane of the loading rack at Hudson's bulk plant in Guarulhos, a Sao Paulo suburb.

"We completed the first rack installation in December (1998)," de Oliveira says. "When we're done, we will have converted all but one lane at each of our four bulk plants. We will still have to top load some shipments in trucks belonging to other companies.

"We've been using Emco Wheaton top loading arms for years, so it seemed only natural to select them for the bottom loading hardware at the rack. We also are converting the trucks in our fleet to bottom loading as we make the rack conversions."

Bulk Plants Besides the bulk plant in Guarulhos, Hudson Petroleum has distribution facilities in Paulinia, Sao Paulo; Barra do Garias, Mato Grosso; and Goienia, Goics. Between 60 and 70 million liters (16 and 18 million gallons) is transferred through the bulk plants every month.

Plant operations are fully controlled by a Daniel TP6000 computer system that is based on the Microsoft Windows NT platform. Inventory is monitored constantly, and the program provides detailed loading information and daily shipment reports.

The bulk plants handle two grades of unleaded gasoline and alcohol. De Oliveira points out that gasoline marketed in Brazil has 24% alcohol, and some cars still use pure alcohol as fuel. "Volkswagen and Fiat have announced plans to continue selling alcohol-fueled versions of their smaller cars," he says. "It's a result of political pressure from the sugar cane lobby."

Hudson Petroleum's 30-vehicle fleet transports most shipments from the bulk plants, with perhaps 20% contracted to for-hire carriers. Deliveries are made to Hudson's 150 service stations and Hora H! convenience stores that are spread through the southeastern and central part of the country.

The company runs a single driver shift, but vehicles are dispatched on a staggered schedule starting at 5 am and ending at 4 pm. Drivers work a 10-hour day and average two loads. Trips rarely exceed 80 kilometers (50 miles), and the average is 20 kilometers (12 miles). Finding drivers in Brazil is no problem, according to de Oliveira. Truck driving is still a prestigious job, and sons follow their fathers. Typical driver wages are around 1,500 reals (around $1,200) a month. That is considered a good wage in Brazil, and tank truck drivers generally earn more than their counterparts in other areas of trucking.

Hudson Petroleum looks for truck drivers who are at least 26 years old and have a minimum of three years of petroleum hauling experience. The company prefers to hire truck drivers who are married because they are more stable and reliable.

Newly hired drivers receive 15 days of training, including a hazardous materials handling course that is required by the federal government. The hazmat course covers security, safety, product handling, and first-aid. A refresher course is required every two years. During the training, new hires receive a thorough orientation on the vehicles used by Hudson Petroleum. The company operates tankwagons with 10,000- to 15,000-liter (2,600- to 3,900-gallon) capacities. Tank trailers hold 30,000 liters (7,900 gallons).

"We have two- and three-compartment tanks on the tankwagons, and each compartment holds 5,000 liters (1,300 gallons)," de Oliveira says. "The trailers have six compartments. Small compartments work best because many of the independent service stations we serve can only afford to take 5,000 liters at a time."

Most of the trailers are from Randon, the largest trailer manufacturer in Brazil. Truck-mounted tanks are fabricated by a variety of small builders. All of the tanks have 18-inch domelids and faucet discharge valves, which are the standard in Brazil.