Harmac Transpportation on Profits From Full Range of Bulk Cargo

July 1, 1998
Hard work and determination have brought steady growth for Harmac Transportation Inc during the 15 years it has been in business. Managers continue to

Hard work and determination have brought steady growth for Harmac Transportation Inc during the 15 years it has been in business. Managers continue to find new opportunities for the Canadian tank truck carrier.

Based in Concord, Ontario, the company has assembled a fleet that consists of 160 tractors, 60 petroleum B-trains, 275 stainless steel tank trailers, and 20 dry bulkers. The carrier hauls a range of products that has expanded to include refined petroleum, acids, resins, and foodgrade cargoes.

"My partner and I started Harmac in 1983 because we saw promising opportunities even though the Canadian trucking industry was still regulated at the time," says Gord Pryce, Harmac president and co-owner. "I came in with a background in petroleum distribution, and we opened for business with three units hauling refined petroleum products and lube oils for Shell Canada.

"We have found plenty of chances to grow, both internally and through acquisitions. We're serving customers throughout Canada and the United States, and we even have some business in Mexico. We believe we're well positioned for continued success."

Pryce's partner is Al Wortzman, who established Concord Transportation Inc in 1973. Wortzman built the company from the ground up, even selling his car to come up with the downpayment for his first tractor. Concord is a dry freight hauler that runs about 200 tractors.

Harmac and Concord operate separately out of the same headquarters facility in Concord. Pryce and Wortzman each have a corner office-on opposite ends of the two-year-old building. Also on site is a shared maintenance shop that is set up as a separate profit center. Mechanics do work for both fleets, owner-operators, and even other carriers.

A large tank wash rack next door to the office building operates as a separate corporation. Called Pro-Kleen, the four-bay commercial rack cleans chemical and foodgrade tank trailers and tank containers. It is owned by Pryce and Wortzman and is managed by Jeff Coles.

Harmac tank trailers move through the wash rack in a steady procession, kept busy by strong economic conditions throughout North America. Pryce and Wortzman are generally pleased with current levels of business.

"We're on target to achieve Harmac's growth objective of 15% to 20% annually," Pryce says. "The only uncertainty is coming from the fleet consolidation activity in the United States. It does have an impact on Canadian fleets .

"We observed some firming of rates, but we still see prices that make absolutely no sense. In addition, US carriers that are trying to operate in Ontario for the first time are still cutting rates to gain a toehold."

Hitting the growth target was easier during the past year or so, because Harmac captured some of the business that was put up for grabs when Provost Bulk Transport Inc ceased operations in 1997. Harmac concentrated on Provost's Ontario activity.

Acquisitions have been a regular contributor to Harmac's growth. The carrier took its first big step into chemical hauling in 1988 with the purchase of Provincial Tankers. The deal added about 40 tank trailers to the Harmac fleet. In 1992, the carrier bought out Shell Canada's chemical and petroleum fleet, which included 25 petroleum B-trains.

Harmac established its own leasing division after purchasing the tank leasing segment of Caravan. Forty stainless steel tank trailers came with that deal. "We're primarily meeting the needs of customers that want tanks for storage and such," Pryce says.

The fleet is dispersed among five terminals. Besides the headquarters facility in Concord, Harmac has locations in Brockville, Orillia, and Sarnia, Ontario, and Montreal and Temiscaming, Quebec.

Chemical hauling has begun to dominate the operation, and dedicated service accounts for about 25% of the chemical activity. Pryce says petroleum hauling is now about 35% of Harmac's overall business.

Average length of haul is around 500 miles, but longhaul movements regularly take the carrier into New Jersey, Georgia, California, and Texas. "We go as far south as the Mexico border," Pryce says. "For loads going to customers in Mexico, we interline with Transportes Inter-Mex in Brownsville, Texas."

Each of the five Harmac terminals handles dispatch for shorthaul chemical runs and the outbound segment of longer trips. However, overall control of longhaul activity resides with the central dispatch at headquarters. Central dispatch also coordinates all refined petroleum activities.

Dispatchers talk by telephone with drivers at least twice a day. About 20% of the tractors in the fleet have cellular phones, and Harmac managers are considering whether to put the phones in all of the power units. Satellite communications systems also are being studied.

Despite dispatch oversight, primary responsibility for a successful trip falls on the drivers. The carrier expects its drivers to be professionals, and it has established strict selection criteria. Harmac accepts only three out of every 25 applicants.

The carrier rejects any truck driver with less than three years of over-the-road experience. Clean driving records are mandatory, and Harmac prefers applicants with an air-brake endorsement. In Canada, the air-brake endorsement is voluntary. There is no tank endorsement in Canada.

Newly hired drivers go through a two-day orientation class that covers defensive driving, dangerous goods requirements, and emergency response procedures. This is followed by two to three weeks of in-cab training with a driver instructor.

Harmac has developed an eight-point spill action program that is detailed during the classroom training. The program calls for the driver to stop the flow of product, eliminate fire/explosion hazards, control the hazard situation, get help, contain the spill, and recover visible product/contaminated material.

Drivers call Harmac to report the location, amount of the spill, steps being taken, and any enforcement officials who are on hand. Harmac's emergency response coordinator arranges the cleanup and notifies the appropriate government agencies.

Even without the risks inherent in a tank truck operation, driving has become a more challenging job in Harmac's home province of Ontario. The instructors make sure that newly hired drivers understand their obligations under the law. Two relatively new regulations can have serious consequences for drivers.

Truck drivers can be fined up to C$50,000 if their vehicle loses a wheel on the road. The law is directed solely at commercial vehicles, and absolute liability is applied, which means the driver has no defense in court.

"This law came about after three people died as a result of wheel-loss accidents in Ontario," says Ted Dezsenyi, safety director for Harmac's petroleum division. "No fines have been issued so far."

Newly hired drivers receive a copy of the Harmac wheel maintenance policy, and wheel inspections are stressed during the in-cab training. Cab cards showing proper wheel installation are handed out to vendor mechanics when tire repairs are needed on the road.

Ontario's new truck jails are reviewed during the classroom training. Provincial law enforcement authorities can lock up a tractor-trailer rig for 15 to 60 days if certain critical defects are found during roadside inspections.

"The inspectors target critical defects that should be caught during preventive maintenance and pre-trip inspections," Dezsenyi says. "It is anything that shows a blatant disregard for safety."

Fines and fees are levied against the vehicle owner. A first offense brings a 15-day detention, followed by 30 days for a second and 60 days for a third time. Carriers are given a certain amount of time to remove the cargo, and the defect must be repaired at the impound site.

Updates on these regulations and others are included in Harmac's safety meetings. Safety also is encouraged through a system of awards and bonuses. Harmac participates in the safety award program sponsored by the Ontario Safety League.

Each driver is eligible for a C$1,200 safety bonus. The total amount that is potentially available for all drivers goes into a pool at the beginning of the year. Half the cost of any accident or incident is deducted from the cash pool. The driver who is at fault also loses a percentage of his eligibility for the bonus.

"We're achieving very good results with this program," Dezsenyi says. "There is a lot of peer pressure to avoid accidents. We see more drivers helping each other in backing and other activities."

Backing is a concern because Harmac operates some very large vehicles. A majority of petroleum deliveries are made with B-trains that have a gross combination weight of 139,400 pounds. "These rigs actually are very maneuverable, and Canadian service stations and convenience stores are laid out to provide good drive-in access," Dezsenyi says.

A majority of the company tractors are Kenworth T800 conventionals. Daycabs are used in the petroleum operation. Sleepers are preferred for tractors assigned to chemical hauling. The newest over-the-road tractors have 62-inch sleepers. Cab equipment includes National air-ride seats for driver and passenger, air-conditioning, AM-FM stereo radio, daylight doors for better side visibility, power windows, and convex mirrors.

Harmac specifies Cummins N14 engines rated at 435 horsepower. Also part of the drivetrain is a Fuller 13-speed transmission, Spicer Solo self-adjusting clutch and Permalube driveline, and Eaton drive tandem rated at 46,000 pounds. Other components include Fuel Pro fuel/water separators, Horton fan clutches, and Bendix air dryers.

Engines are ordered with the Celect electronic control system and the Cummins C-brake. Kleen-Oil bypass filters enable the carrier to run engine oil 60,000 miles between drain intervals. Shell Rotella 15W40 oil is used, and samples are analyzed every 20,000 miles.

Holset 30-cfm compressors are used for product handling. The compressor air is passed through a two-micron filter to remove contaminants. Tractors also have PTO-driven Roper product pumps.

Holland fifthwheels are standard for the tractors. Running gear includes Bridgestone and Michelin radial tires, Alcoa aluminum wheels, Con Met hubs, Stemco wheel seals, Haldex automatic slack adjusters, and Eaton Extended Service brakes.

Heil Trailer International is the primary supplier of aluminum petroleum trailers. The tanks are built to Canada's TC306 requirement, which is virtually identical to the US MC306 code. The Canadian code is expected to be updated to the DOT400 level by the end of this year.

All of the petroleum trailers at Harmac are operated in B-trains, which consist of two 30-ft tank trailers connected to each other by a fixed-position fifthwheel mounted on the lead trailer. Harmac prefers Holland's Kompensator fifthwheel because it provides improved stability.

B-trains have been popular in Canada for many years and are widely used in petroleum transport operations. B-trains are considered to be safer and more stable partly because a dolly is not needed. Dollies are blamed for off-tracking problems that occur with typical doubles units.

Each three-compartment petroleum trailer has a 13,000-gallon capacity. Double bulkheads separate the compartments. Tank hardware includes Scully Intelli-Check overfill protection, Betts internal valves and domelids, and Bayco bottom-loading adapters and delivery elbows.

Revolver upper coupler plates from Direct Dimension Inc reduce component wear and eliminate the need to grease the fifthwheels on tractors. The plate surface is a low-friction polymer material.

Maintenance requirements also have been reduced by the Groeneveld automatic lube system specified on each trailer. Other components include Peterson LED lighting and Hendrickson Intraax air suspension/axle assemblies.

Brenner is the preferred supplier of stainless steel chemical trailers. The typical unit is built to DOT407 code and has a 7,200-gallon capacity. Valves and domelids are from Betts, while Girard supplies the pressure-relief vents. The carrier operates chemical trailers with a variety of axle arrangements-tandems, triaxles, and quadaxles.

Keeping the fleet in top operating order is the responsibility of the Harmac maintenance department. Most of the Harmac terminals have small shops, but the main facility is at the headquarters in Concord.

The main shop is shared by Harmac and Concord Transportation. Staffed by 29 mechanics, the six-bay shop is open 24 hours a day, Monday through Friday. Seven mechanics keep the shop running for about 10 hours a day on weekends.

One of the six bays is called a cold bay and is reserved for loaded trailers or those with product residue. Non-vessel repairs, such as suspension spring replacements, are made in the bay, which is isolated from the other repair bays.

Another bay is called the speed bay and is used for vehicle inspections. Any rig scheduled for a longhaul run is sent through the speed bay, with its 80-foot pit, before being dispatched.

The Concord shop has a CT number from the US Department of Transportation, as well as Canadian registration. Tank tests and inspections are performed inhouse, but vessel repairs are sent out to code shops.

Under the Harmac preventive maintenance program, mechanics check brakes, lights, tires, and wheel hubs at least every 14 days. Vehicles are inspected as soon as they arrive at the terminal after a trip.

Tractors are serviced every 10,000 miles, as are petroleum tank trailers. Stainless steel chemical units are on a 15,000-mile schedule.

The Pro-Kleen wash rack also participates in the maintenance program. The wash handles testing of product hoses. Every 90 days, hoses are pressure tested to 11Ž2 times the rated pressure. The test lasts five to seven minutes, and the hose must hold pressure for the duration of the test.

Attention to detail in areas such as maintenance is one reason Harmac has thrived. Carrier management remains focused on doing everything possible to meet or exceed customer needs.