Driving School Decision Pays Off For Goodman Tank Lines Owners

Nov. 1, 2001
WHEN Craig Goodman's brother signed up for truck driving school many years ago, he asked his brother to accompany him, so Goodman agreed to tag along.

WHEN Craig Goodman's brother signed up for truck driving school many years ago, he asked his brother to accompany him, so Goodman agreed to tag along. As fate would have it, his brother backed out at the last minute.

“I decided to go on with the school even though he didn't,” says Goodman, laughing. “I had no idea then that eventually I would be the owner of a trucking company.”

It took a few years, but the driver training paid off for Goodman. Today, he and his wife, Ellen, operate Goodman Tank Lines in Stowe, Pennsylvania, a company that earned $3 million in annual revenue in 2000. Although the company's primary service area is a 200-mile radius of Stowe, some lanes extend as far west as Chicago, Illinois, and along the East Coast from Massachusetts to North Carolina.

Goodman's professional trucking career began after he completed the driving school and became a company team driver. “My partner was a veteran driver,” he says. “He taught me a lot about the business.”

Having been a driver for several years before starting his own fleet, Goodman is a good judge of what makes drivers satisfied with their work. In his opinion, a large part of driver retention is based significantly on tractor appearance, comfort, power, and maneuverability. In choosing his newest tractors, Goodman decided on the 2001 Freightliner Century ST C112, purchased from Freightliner of Harrisburg and Lancaster. He specifies the tractors with maximum chrome trim for added driver appeal.

“The tractor has EzyRider seats with a wide and thick seat back and bottom cushion,” says Goodman. “I like them for the comfort. They also have a large adjustment range for drivers who are tall or short. The cabs have a lot of insulation, so it cuts down on the noise, which I believe contributes to fatigue.”

Premium Model

He has chosen Freightliner's premium Signature Class interiors that include quality patterned vinyl and cloth materials, cabinets with doors, and burl wood trim accents.

Drivers like the wrap-around windshield and lowered hood that makes it easier for them to see the areas around the front of the truck, he adds.

Tractors are powered by a Caterpillar C-12 engine with 430 horsepower. ZF Meritor supplies the 10-speed transmission. The running gear includes a 40,000-pound Freightliner air-ride suspension, MeritorWABCO antilock braking, and ArvinMeritor drive tandem with a 3.90 ratio. Aluminum wheels are from Alcoa. Meritor supplies front hubs, and ConMet provides rear hubs. The Simplex fifthwheel is from ASF Inc. Light-emitting-diode (LED) lamps are supplied by Truck-Lite. Drum hydraulic drive systems are mounted on tractors.

Goodman has ordered nine new Freightliners with automatic transmissions. “By removing the shifting, we eliminate one thing the driver has to think about,” he says. “It's pretty hard to be perfect shifting. And the driver is being bombarded with technology in the cab, so having one less thing to do is just going to help get rid of some of the distractions.”

First Tractor

Goodman's opinions on tractors began to take shape in 1978 when he purchased his first tractor and became an owner-operator. About that time, deregulation was taking hold of the trucking industry. “It was very hard to succeed then,” he says.

Despite the downturn, Goodman observed the companies' operations where he worked, particularly one company that he thought excelled in driver management. After a few years had passed, he bought a dump trailer and started hauling sand and gravel. Before long, the Goodmans decided they wanted to establish a carrier business of their own. Like many family-owned businesses before them, the couple soon brought their dreams to fruition.

“We started planning in 1994,” he recalls. By 1998, the Goodmans were ready to enter the asphalt business with two newly purchased tank trailers. Ellen left her job at a bank to devote full time to the business. They found a location and rented parking space for the trailers and one bay for a shop. Within a few months, they bought a petroleum trailer to begin hauling gasoline, diesel, and aviation fuel.

As the fleet grew, so did the demand for office, repair, and parking space. In 1999, the Goodmans found a building on a 3 1/2-acre lot. After purchasing the property, they rolled up their sleeves and remodeled the building into office and shop. Plans are on the drawing board for a building expansion in 2002 that will include additional office space, an improved driver lounge, an enlarged shop with a drive-through bay, and a wash bay for exterior vehicle cleaning.

Today, the fleet totals 45 vehicles, including owner-operators. There are 15 Freightliner tractors, 13 petroleum trailers, 10 asphalt trailers, and seven owner-operator tractors. Five new tractors and five new tank trailers are on order.

“The business has grown because of the good economy and the relationship we maintain with our customers,” he says.

Koch Industries has been a major asphalt customer since the Goodmans established their business — and continues to hold that title today. ExxonMobil and Sunoco are other customers regularly served by the petroleum trailers that haul gasoline and diesel. Goodman also transports gasoline and diesel for A V Fuel Corp, a company with facilities located on the East Coast from Connecticut to North and South Carolina.

“We emphasize our personal service,” says Goodman. He works directly with all the customers, overseeing the accounts and marketing personally. “I want to give them solid service, and part of that means we will go anywhere, anytime.”

The Goodmans divide the management duties, Ellen supervising office administration while her husband recruits drivers and directs their training.

Having been a driver for so many years, he is cognizant of the problems drivers face on the road, especially from traffic congestion and road construction. He pays his drivers on average 58 cents per mile. If they have to wait at a terminal for more than an hour, the additional time is covered. “This averages about $14 to $18 per hour,” Craig says. “You have to make it attractive to them, or you can't keep them,” he added.

Driver schedules are set a week in advance. Craig handles dispatching. Drivers call into the office the night before coming in to get their orders.

Job Qualifications

To apply for a job at Goodman, drivers must have one year of tank trailer experience and no driving citations. Training includes company orientation and policies, Department of Transportation regulations, defensive driving, and hazardous materials handling. New hires spend from two-to-three weeks on the road with one of the veteran drivers. Both Koch and ExxonMobil require carrier managers to attend their training sessions once a year. Most of the petroleum terminals provide loading and unloading training for the drivers.

Goodman strives to improve driver working conditions. “They need to spend time with their families,” he says. “I try to balance 10-12 hours at work with 10-12 hours at home. Driver schedules everywhere are going to have to be changed because of congested traffic and extensive highway construction.”

Just as important as improving driver working conditions is operating a fine fleet of vehicles. Petroleum and asphalt trailers are provided by Polar Tank Trailer Inc. The DOT406 aluminum petroleum tank trailer has 9,500 gallons capacity and four compartments. Air-operated internal emergency valves and American Petroleum Institute (API) dry disconnect adaptors with bubble sight glass are from Emco Wheaton. Goodman specifies a bar-style interlock installed over the outlet valves and vapor outlets. The bar must be raised before loading can begin.

Scully supplies the overfill protection system. Manhole and vapor recovery are provided by Betts Industries. Civacon supplies the air vent for the vapor recovery system.

Asphalt Tanks

The newest aluminum single-compartment asphalt trailers have 7,500-gallon capacity. They are insulated with five inches of fiberglass compressed to four inches and designed for maximum temperature of 375° F. Betts supplies aluminum asphalt valves.

Running gear on petroleum and asphalt trailers includes Hendrickson Intraax air-ride suspension and axles. The antilock braking system is from MeritorWABCO. Alcoa supplies aluminum wheels and Walther Engineering supplies Dura-Lite hubs. Lighting is from Truck-Lite.

Goodman emphasizes the importance of clean vehicles to his drivers, which is one reason for the plans to build the exterior cleaning bay in the new facility. He also has new trailers detailed by Vince Lombardi, owner of Clear Shine. Vehicle appearance is all part of customer service, Goodman says.

Clean trailers, state-of-the-art tractors, and satisfied drivers give Goodman Tank Lines the ability to meet the needs of customers. Goodman has learned his lessons well, beginning with the decision to go on to truck driving school even though his brother had changed his mind.

About the Author

Mary Davis