Filling the bill

Nov. 1, 2002
AIDING a pirate ship and a British frigate in a sea battle may seem like a peculiar job for a petroleum carrier based in the American desert, but River

AIDING a pirate ship and a British frigate in a sea battle may seem like a peculiar job for a petroleum carrier based in the American desert, but River City Petroleum, Las Vegas, Nevada, fills the bill — or rather, the tank. The ships in this case are part of Treasure Island hotel and casino's swashbuckling pyrotechnic outdoor theater. River City Petroleum makes sure the show goes on by supplying Mobil hydraulic oil for the intricate equipment used to propel the ships, as well as the other special effects that thrill audiences.

At the Bellagio casino where music and light combine with fountains for a water extravaganza, River City again supplies the Mobil hydraulic oil for the equipment. “We also provide a majority of the hotels with lubricants and diesel fuel for their backup generators,” says David Robinson, River City Petroleum regional manager.

In more conventional services, the petroleum distributor supplies products to convenience stores, commercial truck fleets, mines, federal and state offices, school districts, municipalities, utilities, and agriculture-related businesses. The geographic area served covers California, Nevada, Arizona, Utah, Oregon, and Idaho. Some of the customers the company serves include Exxon, Arco, Shell, and Mobil.

As a member of CFN Inc, a nationwide cardlock fueling network, River City serves both commercial and company vehicles. Fifteen facilities geared for commercial vehicles across the company's territories dispense gasoline and diesel. Customers and company drivers gain entrance to the facilities and fueling pumps with a card similar to those used in automatic teller machines.

“In addition to the tight controls, the key to cardlock fueling is ample reporting, allowing the customers to track and detail their fuel expenses, and site design and locations that speed drivers on their way,” says Robinson.

Sister company

River City is a sister company of Fredericksen Tank Lines Inc. They share common ownership and corporate headquarters in West Sacramento, California, with satellite offices in Sparks, Reno, and Las Vegas, Nevada. Leading the management team are Leonard Robinson, chief executive officer, and Jeanne Haskell Robinson, president.

Fredericksen began operations in 1940 in Sacramento. David Robinson, for whom the younger Robinson is named, was the founder. “He had one truck hauling diesel and gasoline,” says the founder's namesake.

Today, Fredericksen owns and operates a fleet with over 40 units. Fredericksen hauls for a diverse customer base that includes major oil companies, independent oil companies, government accounts, and various commercial and industrial accounts. Fredericksen's tank trucks haul gasoline, diesel fuel, jet fuel, bulk oils, pesticide, and propane.

The states primarily served by the carrier are California, Nevada, Utah, Oregon, and Arizona. Besides the headquarters terminal in West Sacramento, Fredericksen Tank Lines has fleet facilities in Chico, Martinez, Stockton, and Fresno, California, and Las Vegas and Reno, Nevada. Additional units are domiciled at several other locations within California.

Company growth

As the company grew, and as the business side of the operation dictated, River City Petroleum was formed in 1981 to operate independently with a focus on petroleum distribution and sales in Arizona, California, Nevada, Oregon, and Utah. The company received its name because of Fredericksen's location on the Sacramento River, as well as the many other rivers in that area, Robinson says.

Today, River City has annualized fuel sales of more than 210 million gallons.

“We use both major and independent refiners for our product supply, and distribute products through a common carrier and bulk terminal systems, supplying Northern and Southern California, Nevada, Arizona, Oregon, and Utah, “says Robinson. “We have 110,000 gallons of lubricant storage capacity and 60,000 gallons of fuel storage. At the Las Vegas terminal, we've recently added a new product, biodiesel comprised of 20% soybean or vegetable oil and 80% diesel.”

The equipment used to haul the products is primarily owned by Fredericksen, but River City has an additional six tankwagons for use in Las Vegas.

Vehicles used throughout the companies include 4,500-gallon, three-compartment tank trucks with 4,800-gallon, two-axle tank trailers. Also in combination with the tank trucks are four-axle 7,000-gallon trailers. The units are used for their flexibility in tight areas at commercial facilities where a larger semi-trailer is harder to maneuver.

Several tankwagons are dedicated to certain companies. For example, a Ford truck dedicated to ExxonMobil, specified with a 2,500-gallon, four-compartment tank, is used for lubricants.

“We've always had a mix of vehicles because of our varied customer base,” says Robinson.

Beall supplies the tank trailers and truck-mounted tanks. Components includes Emco Wheaton bottom-loading adapters, Scully overfill protection, Knappco emergency internal valves, and Veeder-Root meter registers.

Trucks are from Peterbilt, Kenworth, and Freightliner. Cummins 460-horsepower engines and 18-speed Eaton Fuller transmissions are typical for the trucks.

Keeping the vehicles in good maintenance falls to the Fredericksen-owned commercial shops, Nevada Truck and Trailer, located in Sacramento, Sparks, and Las Vegas. The Sacramento and Las Vegas full-service maintenance facilities hold National Board of Boiler and Pressure Vessel Inspectors “R” certificates for cargo tank repairs and alterations.

At Las Vegas, the largest shop, there are four drive-through bays, and in Sacramento, three drive-through bays are available for service. The Sparks facility has one bay.

Transportation operations are conducted around the clock with drivers working either day or night shifts. All dispatching, administration, and fuel inventory is managed with a software program from Advantage Inc. Dispatchers are located at each terminal, and drivers have company-provided cell phones for communication. CADEC computers on the trucks monitor engine speed, idle time, pump time, and driver hours of service.

Some customers are served on a regular route basis, while others are on a will-call routine. Some convenience stores have electronic tank monitoring while others require drivers on routes to stick-measure tanks manually. Orders come in via fax and e-mail. Drivers receive dispatch orders via company-provided cell phones.

Since most of the routes across the service area are local with drivers at home routinely, retaining drivers has not been a problem for the companies, Robinson says. When new drivers are hired, they receive training that typically includes company policies, Department of Transportation regulations, defensive driving, and hazardous materials handling. A driver-instructor rides with each new hire until performance is satisfactory.

In addition to company training, drivers receive training at the terminaling facilities. Terminal employees instruct all new drivers in loading and unloading procedures. When drivers have completed the terminal training, they are issued identification cards by the individual terminals in order to gain entry.

One of the fastest growing segments for River City is its lubricants service, established in 1999. Three years later, demand is continuing, says Robinson. Although the lubricants business now is limited to Las Vegas, he predicts the service will be expanded as demand increases.

For now, though, visitors to the casinos can be assured that with River City delivering the lubricants, the sea battles can continue.

About the Author

Mary Davis