Technology Offers a Competitive Edge For Transportes Dalcoquio in Brazil

Jan. 1, 2000
WITH miles of palm-tree-lined sandy beaches nearby, Itajai, Santa Catarina, may be best known in Brazil as a vacation destination. However, it is also

WITH miles of palm-tree-lined sandy beaches nearby, Itajai, Santa Catarina, may be best known in Brazil as a vacation destination. However, it is also a bustling port and commercial center. Among the companies that have thrived in this city that dates back almost two centuries is a very modern tank truck carrier-Transportes Dalcoquio SA. Operating throughout the Mercosur region, the carrier runs a fleet that includes 300 company tractors, 250 owner-operator units, and 700 tank trailers.

"In contrast to the city of Itajai, our company has only been in existence for 31 years," says Augusto Dalcoquio, president of Transportes Dalcoquio. "We plan to be around for a long time, though. We have invested a lot in this company to make it as modern as possible.

"We are very open to new technology, especially systems designed to protect the environment. We believe that has been one of the keys to our success. We are very proud of receiving the 1998 transport sector award for energy conservation and fuel economy from the Ministry of Mines and Energy.

"We are taking steps to qualify for ISO 9002 certification. We have completed many of the written procedures, and we should be able to finalize the process within the next two years. Customer demand will dictate whether we obtain the certificate."

Brazil Army Dalcoquio was drawn to the trucking industry after learning to drive a truck while serving in the Brazilian army in 1960. By 1965, he was driving his own truck.

The operation that became Transportes Dalcoquio was started in 1968 with an International Harvester tractor and a petroleum tank trailer. The company was running 80 rigs in 1975 when it was chartered as Transportes Dalcoquio Ltda.

The fleet was up to 150 rigs in 1983 when the company adopted full incorporated status. At that time, Petrobras, the state-owned petroleum extraction and refining monopoly, purchased a 40% share in Transportes Dalcoquio. That share will be sold when Petrobras is privatized in the near future.

Over the years, the company has expanded into other areas, including truck stop management and warehousing. Both of the truck stops owned by Transportes Dalcoquio are in Itajai, and one is next door to the headquarters terminal. The 50,000-square-meter (538,200-sq-ft) warehouse is in the Itajai port area.

Responsibility for overseeing the increasingly diverse operation falls on a relatively young management team that includes several Dalcoquio family members. Augusto's son, Emilio, is operations superintendent. Daughter Isabel handles human relations for the trucking company, while daughter Regina is finance manager for a subsidiary company-Distribuidora Dalcoquio.

Core Business While the company has expanded in different directions, the management team hasn't lost sight of the core business-tank truck carriage. They have worked hard to build a safe and efficient operation. Several customers have recognized their achievement. Most recently, Transportes Dalcoquio was named top chemical carrier for 1998 by Rhodia Brazil Ltda.

"Among other things, competitors were ranked by on-time deliveries and driver performance," Emilio Dalcoquio says. "These are areas we give a lot of attention. The award also took into account the fact that we had no accidents in three million kilometers (1.8 million miles)."

Refined petroleum continues to be the primary liquid cargo hauled by the carrier, but chemicals are increasingly important. The product mix includes caustic, acids, sodium hypochloride, ferric chloride, asphalt, LP-gas, acrylates, glycol, resins, soy and pine oils, polyvinyl chloride powder, manioc flour, and chicken feed ingredients.

Shipments are hauled throughout Brazil and the other Mercosur countries. Trips range from as little as 40 kilometers (25 miles) for gasoline to 5,000 kilometers for a dedicated chemical shipment from Bahia in northeastern Brazil to Buenos Aires, Argentina. The trip takes eight days each way partly because Transportes Dalcoquio drivers are only allowed to drive during daylight hours. Total mileage for the fleet in 1998 was 60 million kilometers (37.2 million miles).

In addition to the main terminal, operations are conducted out of nine other full-service facilities and 18 satellite locations. Terminals are concentrated in eastern and southeastern Brazil.

They are linked by a computer network running the Microsoft Windows NT system. Microsoft Office 2000 provides basic word processing, spreadsheet, and database capabilities, but fleet-specific applications are developed in-house.

The computer network is making it easier to coordinate various operations, including marketing. Transportes Dalcoquio mounts a strong marketing effort with four outside and four inside sales representatives. Terminal managers also make some sales calls. Day-to-day customer contact is the responsibility of the customer service center in Itajai. Customer requests are relayed to the terminals, and vehicles are assigned to specific shipments. In many cases, tractor-trailer rigs are dedicated to a customer.

Dedicated Drivers Drivers also are dedicated to specific customers. That is one reason that Transportes Dalcoquio is so selective in its driver hiring process. It takes about a month for someone to complete the hiring and training process, and this goes for owner-operators as well as company drivers.

Driver selection follows a 15-step process that starts with verification that the driver has a valid driver license and certificate of dangerous goods training. The 40-hour training program is mandatory in Brazil and must be renewed every five years.

Owner-operators have one additional hurdle to clear initially. They must prove that they possess a tractor that is no more than five years old and has an engine rated for at least 300 horsepower.

Applicants for driving jobs are given a written test for mechanical aptitude and must prove that they can perform basic tasks, such as adjusting brakes and replacing hoses. They must provide a verifiable record of truck driving experience. Past employers are contacted.

After that, applicants are sent to the headquarters and the real hiring process starts. They meet with all department managers. Next comes a road test in a rig hauling water. The route includes mountain and city driving.

Family Meeting Transportes Dalcoquio managers meet with an applicant's family as part of the hiring process. While the interviews and tests are underway, applicant driving records are reviewed for citations and convictions.

"We want to know as much as we can about the applicant because he is the part of our company that our customers and the public see every day," says Emilio Dalcoquio. "We want to ensure that we are hiring someone with a real commitment to safety and good customer service."

Applicants who seem promising begin the Transportes Dalcoquio training program. Those who will be assigned to the various terminals around the country stay in a dormitory at the headquarters terminal. All meals are provided while they are there.

The initial training program runs two to four weeks and includes a combination of live instruction and videotapes. Every stage of training brings written and practical tests. It must be noted that the driver is still considered an applicant at this point. He has not actually been hired at this point.

Mixed in with the training are psychological testing and a general medical checkup. Transportes Dalcoquio has its own medical clinic and doctor at the headquarters terminal.

Classes generally have about 10 drivers, but these are not all new applicants. "We believe it is beneficial to mix applicants with our own experienced drivers who are undergoing annual or disciplinary retraining," says Sonia Alves, training supervisor at Transportes Dalcoquio. "For our veteran drivers, we vary the content to help avoid boredom. The retraining focus changes every three years."

Training Aids Training aids include numerous functioning models, cutaway examples, and failed components. Training materials come from many sources. For instance, Transportes Dalcoquio even uses the

"No-Zone" program from the US Department of Transportation. It's no accident that elements of US programs are turning up in the carrier's safety training. Several Transportes Dalcoquio managers, including Emilio Dalcoquio, visited US tank truck carriers last year. In August, Francisco Souza, safety supervisor, and Antonio Borba Neto, safety assistant, completed the 40-hour hazardous materials technician course at the Transportation Technology Center Inc in Pueblo, Colorado.

Safe driving and product handling are stressed throughout the training program. However, drivers also receive detailed instruction on how to respond in the event of any emergency. They learn about the emergency response program that has been developed at Transportes Dalcoquio and the equipment that will be sent to an emergency.

Drivers also learn a lot about the vehicles in the fleet and how to properly operate the equipment. Company tractors are from Volvo, Mercedes-Benz, and Scania. Most are conventionals, and sleeper units predominate.

Engine Horsepower Horsepower ratings for the engine are similar to what is found in the United States-356 to 362. Sixteen-speed ZF synchronized transmissions are popular, but the fleet does specify some 10-speed gear boxes. Drive axle ratios range from 3.16 to 3.89.

Inside every tractor cab is a Keinzle tachograph. Disks are checked primarily to monitor speed and driving hours. "Each driving shift is 10 hours," Emilio Dalcoquio says. "More importantly, we only allow our drivers to run from 5 am to 11 pm. We developed that policy because we felt too many accidents were occurring late at night and in the very early morning hours."

Transportes Dalcoquio has standardized on Randon SA, the largest trailer builder in South America, for trailers, and the carrier runs a diverse fleet. In addition to 700 tank trailers of all types, the carrier has dry bulkers, flatbeds, vans, and container chassis.

Petroleum tanks are constructed of carbon steel and typically have a 30,000-liter (7,900-gallon) capacity. With bottom-loading becoming widespread throughout Brazil, more of the petroleum trailers in the fleet are configured for it. Bottom-loading hardware comes from a number of suppliers, including Civacon, MGN, and Vlados. Overfill protection is from Scully.

Most are three-axle trailers. Running gear includes spring suspensions, Vigin tire inflation system, steel disc wheels, and Firestone tires.

Chemical Trailers A wide range of chemical trailers are in service. General chemical trailers are constructed of 316 or 304 stainless steel and typically can carry 27,000 liters (7,100 gallons) of product. Transportes Dalcoquio runs both insulated and noninsulated chemical trailers. Most are three-axle units, and a few have air suspensions.

For acids and other corrosives, the carrier has stainless steel and lined carbon steel and aluminum. Among the linings are fiberglass. Corrosives hauled include 98% nitric acid, which is transported in unlined aluminum tanks.

The four dry bulk trailers in the fleet are constructed of stainless steel and have a 53-cubic-meter (1,800-cu-ft) capacity. A Drum blower and an electric motor are mounted at the front of each. Electricity is supplied at customer facilities.

Fleet Performance Vehicle performance and condition are monitored closely by the maintenance department. Particular attention is paid to tractor fuel economy. Detailed charts are maintained on fuel economy, and daily performance is monitored by computer. The fleet average right now is around 2.55 kilometers per liter (5.9 miles per gallon).

Tires also receive close scrutiny. "Tires are a major cost item for any truck fleet, and they are expensive in Brazil," says Attila S Tavares, fleet chemical engineer. "We do everything we can to minimize that cost. For instance, owner-operators have to supply tires for their own tractors and for the trailers to which they are assigned. It makes them more willing to take care of the tires. Owner-operators usually are assigned to the same trailer all the time. We currently calculate our tire cost at .004 reals per kilometer (.003 cents per mile)."

To achieve that lifecycle cost, it is expected that tires will be retreaded twice. A new casing should run approximately 107,573 kilometers (66,845 miles). Next comes a drivelug retread that should deliver at least 79,169 kilometers (49,200 miles). The final retread is an all-position tread with an expected life of 94,498 kilometers (58,700 miles).

Tires are a part of every preventive maintenance inspection and service. Engine oil changes are scheduled at 15,000-km (9300-mile) intervals. Following a walk-around inspection, mechanics check the performance of the engine injection pump, engine brake, and belts and hoses. At 30,000 kilometers (18,600 miles), mechanics also check for suspension wear and brake system and transmission condition.

Preventive maintenance is performed in-house, as is most vehicle repair work at Transportes Dalcoquio. All of the full terminals have a maintenance shop, but the larger repair facilities are at the main terminal in Itajai and at the depot in Rio de Janiero.

Tractors and tank trailers can be repaired, and even rebuilt, in the main shop. A variety of components are overhauled, including transmissions and tachographs. Despite the repair capabilities, parts inventories are minimal.

"We keep our parts inventory as low as possible to keep cost down," Tavares says. "Mercedes-Benz, Volvo, and Scania dealers are within a mile of our shop. All we keep on hand are things like oil filters, brake shoes, and lights."

Tank Cleaning Tank cleaning is another in-house function. All of the terminals involved in chemical hauling have tank-cleaning capabilities. Until recently, cleaning was done by hand by wash rack personnel. However, Karcher spinners are now being installed at three wash racks, including the one at the main terminal.

When tanks arrive at the terminals, heels are drained off for disposal or returned to the customer. Tanks are washed with detergent and hot water. Steam is available for purging but is not generally used for cleaning. Ten to 12 tanks a day are cleaned at the main terminal.

Effluent from the main terminal wash rack goes to a treatment plant where pH is adjusted prior to discharge. About 12,000 liters (3,100 gallons) a week are treated at the plant. The other terminals send wastewater out for approved treatment and disposal.

"We are moving as fast as we can to adopt state-of-the-art processes in our operation," Emilio Dalcoquio says. "We believe that's the only way we can achieve the level of safety and efficiency that will be required in the future. We want this operation to be the best."

About the Author

Charles Wilson

Charles E. Wilson has spent 20 years covering the tank truck, tank container, and storage terminal industries throughout North, South, and Central America. He has been editor of Bulk Transporter since 1989. Prior to that, Wilson was managing editor of Bulk Transporter and Refrigerated Transporter and associate editor of Trailer/Body Builders. Before joining the three publications in Houston TX, he wrote for various food industry trade publications in other parts of the country. Wilson has a bachelor's degree in journalism from the University of Kansas and served three years in the U.S. Army.