Roy Brothers Development Leads To Plans for Intermodal Expansion

Dec. 1, 1998
Roy Brothers Inc of Billerica, Massachusetts, was incorporated in 1948, had rigs on the road by 1950, and today operates 110 trailers, 35 tractors, and

Roy Brothers Inc of Billerica, Massachusetts, was incorporated in 1948, had rigs on the road by 1950, and today operates 110 trailers, 35 tractors, and additional power equipment driven by owner-operators. The growth led to plans for intermodal development, which has begun with the Guilford Rail System near the carrier's headquarters.

Two years ago, Roy Brothers leased 30 loading spots on three sections of track and began rail-truck movement in mostly nonhazardous materials. Leo Roy, a second generation family member, recognizes the intermodal possibilities, expects the market to expand, and notes a foundation already in place.

"The track is grounded to prevent sparks so that it can be used for rail cars that haul flammables," he says. "And in addition, we could bring in dry bulk there because we have the capability for those products. The intermodal market is significant here and offers us an opportunity to go after it aggressively." When further development occurs, the company will have access to a range of commodities to transload.

For now, Roy Brothers occasionally unloads product from rail cars into tank trailers by utilizing a driver and an additional attendant. Top loading is required from rail car to tank trailer for most products. As a result, one person works atop the rail car and the other atop the trailer.

"That's a safety precaution and one of the reasons why we use two people," says Leo.

Bottom loading is also required, usually with latex products. When dry materials demand bottom loading, tractor-mounted vacuum/air conveyors are used to move the product.

Another market Roy Brothers' owners are eyeing is the tank container industry. The company has two drop-frame chassis trailers in anticipation of expanded ISO container hauling. The Port of Boston has improved facilities and tank container traffic is growing, especially from Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada, and New Jersey, says Leo. The infrastructure development offers significant possibilities for carriers.

Roy Brothers also provides vacuum services when a rail car incident results in spilled plastic pellets. The company dedicates one trailer for the venture.

Although intermodal transportation is a small part of the current Roy Broth ers business, the owners expect it to increase. If the history of the company is any indication, their expectations are likely to be fulfilled.

The founding owners, Arthur and Maurice Roy, and their sister, Theresa Tabor, continue to run the business, but the second generation is very active in the company. Leo, whose late father was also a founder, Maurice Roy Jr, and Deborah Roy, Arthur's daughter, are actively immersed in the day-to-day routines.

Arthur points out that in 1948, the brothers and their sister borrowed $3,000 from their mother to start the dry freight brokerage business. "I'm not sure if we ever paid her back," he says, smiling. But since that time, the owners have avoided debt. "If we can't pay cash for it, we don't buy it."

The brothers and their sister moved quickly into hauling bagged fertilizer. Soon, the purchase of a company with chemical authority put Roy Brothers into the tank truck business. The first product transported was sulfuric acid picked up and delivered in the Boston, Massachusetts, area. "The company has grown gradually with the customer base that is here in Greater Boston," says Arthur.

Smaller companies make up the majority of Roy Brothers clients. They include those who handle tanning oils, extracts, plasticizers, latex, soaps, and acids. In addition, Roy Brothers carries out customer pick-ups for Exxon Chemical Company, Van Waters and Rogers Inc, Ashland Chemical Company, George Mann Company, BASF Corporation, and Akzo Nobel Chemical Inc.

In addition to chemicals, the company distributes one food product. "We have one dedicated chocolate trailer for hauling product to a Mansfield, Massachusetts, candy manufacturer," says Arthur.

Products including acid, dry bulk pellets, and specialty chemicals are picked up and delivered in an area east of the Mississippi and stretching from Canada to Georgia. Seven company drivers and 35 owner-operators keep the vehicles moving.

"We don't have much of a driver turnover problem," says Arthur. "Most of them are home on weekends, and some are home every night."

When new drivers are needed, the company has found that word-of-mouth among drivers brings in enough applicants to fill the gap so that the company rarely has to recruit.

Training for company drivers and owner-operators is overseen by Leo Roy, who conducts routine safety sessions every month. A more in-depth session is conducted annually. New drivers undergo training for handling hazardous materials and spend approximately two weeks under the eye of company veteran drivers. "The thing we really depend on is that our long-time drivers are honest about when the new drivers are ready to be put on the road alone," says Leo.

The company does not select drivers under the age of 21. Applicants must have a valid commercial driver license with hazardous materials and tank endorsements. Drug testing and physical examinations are required for those who are selected.

Drivers Dispatched Once on the road, drivers are dispatched from the Billerica headquarters and two satellite terminals, one in Carteret, New Jersey, and the other in Newark, New Jersey. "The main terminal is here," says Leo. "At any given time, we aren't likely to have more than 20 trailers in New Jersey terminals."

Orders come in to the Billerica office and are processed from 7 am until 6 pm Monday through Friday. At other times, dispatchers are on call for special orders.

Drivers call in every afternoon between 4:30 and 5 pm to check on assignments and report in before every pick-up and after unloading. Some drivers have pagers and others also have cellular telephones.

Keeping the trucks on the road requires close scrutiny of equipment. Roy Brothers prefers to keep tractors and tank trailers well maintained so the vehicles will provide long service. Four mechanics work in the Billerica shop and oversee engine overhauls, other repairs, and preventive maintenance, including oil and filter changes on tractors every 12,000 miles and routine checks on trailers. Major vessel repairs are sent to outside vendors, but company mechanics rebuild trailer subframes and replace tank vessels' skin when needed. Insulation also can be installed at the shop.

About 20 to 25 trailers a day pass through the on-site cleaning rack in Billerica. "We can wash just about anything," says Leo. Two 80-horsepower Cleaver Brooks boilers are used in conjunction with Butterworth Inc spinners. In addition to steam for cleaning, caustics and detergents are available.

Wastewater from the cleaning is treated and discharged into the municipal system. The in-house designed wastewater system uses an Abcor ultra filtration product. A Great Lakes vacuum machine removes solids. Sludge is hauled away to an incinerator. About 1,000 gallons of heel is shipped to a disposal site every 90 days.

Fleet Vehicles About 85% to 90% of the fleet is composed of 5,000-gallon to 7,500-gallon MC307 and DOT407 chemical tank trailers. The majority are supplied by Brenner, Nova, Tremcar, and Fruehauf. About half of them are compartmentalized, double bulkheads, and double conical.

Equipment on the chemical trailers varies, but includes Betts internal and external valves. Either PTO-driven Roper or Blackmer pumps are mounted on the tractors. Compressors are supplied by Englo. Pressure and relief vents are from Girard. Running and brake lights are supplied by Betts.

Ferric chloride and bleach are hauled in 5,000-gallon MC312 and DOT412 tank trailers from Bar-Bel and Fruehauf. Hardware includes Zook bursting discs and Xomox vapor recovery systems.

Two Comptank fiberglass-reinforced-plastic trailers are used for transporting bleach and acids. The 5,600-gallon vehicles are equipped with Zook bursting discs and Drum compressors and vacuum pumps.

A few Fruehauf and Butler dry bulk trailers used to haul plastic pellets are in the fleet. The 1,500 to 1,600 cubic-foot trailers have tractor-mounted Drum blowers that are PTO driven. Tractors in the company-owned fleet include Peterbilt, Freightliner, White, and Volvo. Engines vary from 350 to 525 horsepower. Similarly, transmissions vary from nine-speed to 10-speed to 13-speed. A few new tractors are equipped with 18-speed transmissions. Some tractors have Alcoa aluminum wheels and hubs, and most tires are supplied by Goodyear.

The company relies on its owner-operators to run reliable and well-maintained power units to haul Roy Brothers tank trailers.

Customer service has always been a major Roy Brothers consideration, and owners credit it for their success. "We want to give customers what they need," says Leo. "We are small and family-owned. It's easy for anyone to call and talk to the owner. We provide hands-on service."

With the key to success firmly established as a company yardstick, customer service will play a large role as the company continues to grow. "We don't want to overextend," says Leo. "But we have to expand to stay active, which means we want controlled growth." With the years of experience Roy Brothers has accumulated, the company is ready to meet the growth that is anticipated in not only the carrier market, but in the intermodal and tank container industries.