Controlled Growth Leads to Success For Bulk Transportation Intermodal

Dec. 1, 1999
BULK TRANSPORTATION has 20 years of experience in intermodal service. The first facility opened in Stockton, California, in 1980. Today, the Walnut, California,

BULK TRANSPORTATION has 20 years of experience in intermodal service. The first facility opened in Stockton, California, in 1980. Today, the Walnut, California, tank truck carrier operates four truck and rail transfer stations, and a fifth is scheduled to open in January 2000. When the newest facility goes on line in Las Vegas, Nevada, Bulk Transportation will have more than 100 rail car spots in Arizona, Nevada, California, and a facility in Oregon that also serves Washington.

"Controlled growth has been the pattern of this company," says Gary K Cross, president and chief executive officer. "At the same time, we offer a variety of services that are fast and reliable. With transloading facilities scattered throughout our market area, we can respond to our customers' needs that often require specialized logistics."

Intermodal service is just one example of the carrier's diversification that has led to the current $33 million in annual revenue. Bulk Transportation has assembled an extensive package of services. On the list are product mixing, liquid bulk storage, tank containers, and warehousing. In addition to the new Las Vegas terminal, transloading sites are located in Stockton, California; Portland, Oregon; Buckeye, Arizona; and Tucson, Arizona.

The management team is led by Dwight Anderson, vice-president and director of logistics and marketing, John Erwin, vice-president of operations, and Karen Finley, chief financial officer.

Responding to customers' needs was the catalyst for the company's first intermodal service. The Stockton facility serves the San Francisco Bay Area and is linked to Union Pacific Railroad (UPSP). Products handled are bleach, iron chloride, pellet salt, liquid caustic, solvents, and latex. A majority of the products transloaded there are corrosives. The facility has nitrogen available to pressure cargoes off tank cars. Four to five rail cars are handled per month on 225 feet of railroad track. A scale is available. Thirty tractor-tank trailer units are based at the five-acre terminal.

"We are eyeing the future and anticipating a demand for storage services," Cross says. "That's why we are looking at the possibility of adding warehousing to transloading functions at Stockton."

Shipper Request After the first intermodal facility was established in Stockton, Bulk Transportation received a request from a shipper for intermodal services in Portland, Oregon, to handle anhydrous ammonia. The carrier had an established terminal in Portland, so already was operating in the area. As a result, Bulk Transportation set up a facility that accommodates 20 rail cars at loading racks. Today, liquid and dry chemicals are transloaded. The terminal is served by Union Pacific Railroad and Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway. One hundred rail cars can be parked on rail spurs on the property. Bulk Transportation currently domiciles 25 tractor-trailer units there.

Having established an intermodal presence up and down the West Coast, Bulk Transportation looked to the desert. Once again, the company was able to answer a customer's request - to provide a specialized service for a fire retardent products manufacturer in Buckeye near Phoenix. Rail cars deliver liquid and dry products to the transloading racks. Products include hydrochloric acid, sulfuric acid, and caustic soda. In addition, Bulk Transportation supplies chemical mixing services on site. Liquids are stored in 14 tanks with 10,000-gallon capacity and three tanks with 20,000-gallon capacity.

Property was available from UPSP that provided 28 rail spots where Bulk Transportation could move and store both liquid and dry chemicals for the manufacturer. About a minimum of seven truck loads per day are moved out of the rail facility.

"Product comes in by rail, is transferred to tank trailers, and then to the holding tanks," says Cross.

With 30 tractor-trailer units assigned to the five-acre terminal, the company built a tank cleaning facility and maintenance shop for vehicle in-house service.

Dispatchers are based at Buckeye and coordinate local and long-distance movements of product. Shipments are delivered to companies in Arizona, New Mexico, Nevada, and Colorado. Some product goes to an international terminal at the Arizona-Mexico border. Among products being hauled are hydrochloric acid, sulfuric acid, caustic soda, and motor oil.

Single Product In contrast to the multi-product Buckeye facility, a single product is handled at Bulk's intermodal office in Tucson.

About 18 tractors and 22 tank trailers are based at the location. Product is transported to the international border. A Mexican company, Gallegos Transportacion, takes over at the border and delivers product to copper mines in the Mexican interior.

Bulk Transportation's domestic intermodal business was growing at the company's planned and steady rate, so the company was prepared when opportunity arose in Las Vegas. The carrier was already operating a terminal for 40 trucks in Henderson, Nevada, near Las Vegas.

"The decision to establish the Las Vegas intermodal terminal was really customer spawned," says Cross. "We've had numerous requests to serve the Nevada area. There was no rail transfer facility concentrating on specialty liquid and dry chemicals, which prevented many eastern shippers from moving product into the area. An added attraction was the location. It is excellent, particularly because Las Vegas is only four hours from Los Angeles."

Bulk Transportation purchased an 11 1/2-acre site with 45 rail-car spots served by UPSP. The carrier is constructing the necessary rail spurs and truck and rail bulk loading racks. A 200,000-square-foot warehouse will be available, and future plans entertain the possibility of a tank farm for liquid storage. The facility is designed to meet environmental concerns and will embody a full product containment infrastructure.

Tank Containers The Las Vegas facility isn't the only recent intermodal development. The company's success in diversification stimulated a move into tank container service. "It was a logical step in our growth," says Cross.

Tank container service is coordinated from Portland for import-export activity, according to Jana Corder, who directs the division. Bulk Transportation uses tank container equipment from TransAmerica, Twinstar, and Chassis King. Other major lessors also provide vehicles.

The division is set up to provide total logistics, including owning or leasing for short- or long-term periods. Maintenance on external tank components and chassis repair is provided by Bulk Transportation. ISO-certified shops are contracted for other maintenance requirements.

Tank containers are exported to Europe, the Far East, and South America. Imports are received from the Far East and Europe. Some business comes from domestic shippers. Products being shipped include chemicals, but Bulk Transportation specializes in high-purity liquids. The company also receives commodity chemicals for the paper industry.

The tank container division has about doubled its growth since its inception in April this year and continues to keep up the pace.

Company Acquisition Another example of the company's diversification came from its acquisition of DTI in Compton, California, 15 years ago. Although each company operates independently, each profits from the expertise that is available. Availability of additional equipment helps both companies. Having enough of the right equipment available when a customer calls is critical to providing service, says Cross.

"This acquisition enabled us to broaden our service capabilities," says Cross. Providing excellent customer service also calls for quality equipment. Tractors are traded every five years because the company believes the best return on investment comes from that schedule. Having new tractors improves driver satisfaction and provides assurance for customers.

Bulk Transportation has standardized on Kenworth tractors with Cummins 370-horsepower engines. The company specifies both nine-speed and 10-speed Fuller transmissions. Tractors are equipped with Meritor front axles and Eaton drive axles with a 3.70 ratio. They have Eaton brakes and Spicer clutches. The newest trucks have Kenworth suspensions and Alcoa aluminum wheels. The wheels and a single 100-gallon fuel tank are part of an effort to reduce tare weight. The fleet has a total of 251 tractors.

Tank Trailers Bulk Transportation has 299 tank trailers. Some of the newest trailers are Polar DOT407 stainless steel chemical tank trailers. Components include Girard pressure relief vents and vacuum breakers and Betts emergency and secondary valves. Trailers have Hendrickson air ride suspension, Alcoa aluminum wheels, and Michelin tires.

Three types of Polar DOT412 trailers are in the Bulk Transportation fleet. Stainless steel trailers come equipped with Betts domelids and emergency valves and Girard pressure relief vents.

Carbon steel acid trailers are equipped with Polar domelids, Ultra-Flo air-operated butterfly valves, and Girard pressure relief vents. An aluminum DOT412 natural-rubber-lined trailer comes similarly equipped and is used to haul hydrochloric acid. All three have Hendrickson suspensions, Alcoa aluminum wheels, and Michelin tires.

Two 11,400-gallon truck and trailer combinations are used to haul propane for Ferrell Gas, Coast Gas, and Suburban Propane.

Dry bulk trailers that are 102 inches wide come from Heil and are built for extra ground clearance and lower overall height. The 1,600-cu-ft trailers are equipped with Sure Seal aerators and butterfly valves. Spicer supplies drop center axles, and air ride suspension is from Hendrickson. Running gear also includes ConMet preset aluminum unimount hubs and Alcoa 22.5-inch aluminum wheels. Dry bulk trailers with 1,200-cu-ft capacity are equipped with similar components, Hendrickson Intraax suspension, and are used for cement service.

Bulk Transportation prides itself on its vehicle maintenance. The shop in Walnut is certified to do Kenworth warranty work. Tank trailer repairs are provided at the shop as well, except for major vessel repairs.

The Walnut terminal has an in-house designed tank cleaning facility equipped with Spray System spinners. About 50 trailers can be cleaned daily. Approximately 60% of the fleet is cleaned in house. The cleaning system has Peerless pumps and a Miura 70-horsepower boiler. Cleaning agents are from Advanced Blending. The cleaning facility provides commercial service as well as in-house service, just one more example of Bulk's controlled growth and diversification into transportation-related businesses.