CTL Distribution Pursues Quality In Cleaning of Tank Truck Trailers

March 1, 1998
ALTHOUGH CTL Distribution Inc operates a couple of its own wash racks, the company is not in the tank cleaning business. In fact, most of the carrier's

ALTHOUGH CTL Distribution Inc operates a couple of its own wash racks, the company is not in the tank cleaning business. In fact, most of the carrier's cleaning needs are met by commercial wash racks.

The in-house tank cleaning facilities meet a couple of needs: they are located in areas where CTL Distribution has a lot of traffic, and they provide a comparison for measuring the performance of commercial wash racks.

"Wash racks are expensive to build and operate," says Steve Craig, vice-president of maintenance for CTL Distribution of Mulberry, Florida. "It's not practical to build our own unless we have sufficient business in a given area to support a wash rack. Our chemical transport operations are widely dispersed for the most part.

"A further complication is the rapid rate at which CTL Distribution has been expanding. In some areas, we're sharing terminal facilities with sister companies. In others, where we have just a handful of trucks, it's often more cost effective to find office and parking space at a commercial wash rack."

CTL Distribution is the tank truck carrier subsidiary of Comcar Industries Inc and operates 400 tractors and about 600 tank trailers. The tank truck carrier has two operating units-the phosphate and fertilizer division and the general chemical division.

Backhaul Doubles Dedicated to the phosphate division are some of the more unusual tank trailers in the US tank truck industry. Often called "Doubles," the units consist of a dry bulk hopper mounted on a liquid product tank. The specially designed equipment helps maximize loaded miles.

The 970-cubic-foot dry bulk section is used to transport fertilizer, which is produced in the Mulberry area. The 3,700-gallon liquid product tanks are sometimes used to backhaul molten sulfur to the Mulberry area, where it is used to make sulfuric acid, which is required for producing phosphoric acid.

While the phosphate fleet runs around the clock throughout the year, trips generally are no more than 30 to 60 miles. Drivers work 12-hour shifts and will handle four to six loads per shift.

The general chemical division is quite different. A wide range of liquid chemicals are transported by the division's tractor-trailer rigs. Operations include local, regional, and longhaul activities. One- to two-day trips are typical, although some rigs are out 10 days or more.

Dedicated Tanks Since deregulation, the general chemical division has worked aggressively to maximize loaded miles. However, that management philosophy is changing. "We're running more dedicated equipment," Craig says. "It reduces our cleaning requirements and the costs associated with cleaning. The chance of contamination also is reduced."

Equipment used by the general chemical division includes Mack CH613 tractors with 64-inch sleepers. Tractors are specified with 330/350-horsepower Mack engines, nine-speed Mack transmissions, Davco fuel/water separators, Schwitzer turbochargers, Bendix air compressors, and Roper product pumps.

Stainless steel chemical trailers are supplied by Brenner Tank Inc, Polar Tank Trailer Inc, and Trailmaster Inc. The newest units are DOT407 tanks with 7,000-gallon capacity. They are specified with Girard pressure-relief vents, Betts domelids and discharge outlets, Meritor axles, and Meritor WABCO antilock braking.

Eleven Terminals The general chemical fleet operates out of 11 terminals, including the Mulberry headquarters. The other locations are Mobile, Alabama; Jacksonville and Tampa, Florida; Savannah, Georgia; St Gabriel and Sterlington, Louisiana; East St Louis and Chicago, Illinois; Memphis, Tennessee; and Houston, Texas.

While some of the terminals are shared with other Comcar Industries units, the general chemical division also leases terminal space from a number of commercial wash racks. "Hoyer Terminal Service Inc in Pasadena, Texas, is the newest addition to our terminal system," Craig says. "We also terminal rigs at Mast Tank Cleaning in Charlotte (North Carolina), Calumet Tank & Equipment Co in Chicago (Illinois), and Tank Trailer Cleaning in St Louis (Missouri)."

Other commercial wash racks used by CTL Distribution include Quala Systems Inc, Foxcraft Trailers Inc, Brite-Sol Services Inc, and Phillip Services Corp.

Selection Factors A number of factors are considered when wash racks are selected. CTL Distribution management looks for wash rack operators with a progressive focus and a commitment to continuous quality improvement. Proof of the commitment can be seen in worker retention and the safety and environmental programs that are in place.

"We have no difficulty finding commercial wash racks in most locations," Craig says. "Our biggest challenge is finding wash racks that do a thorough job of cleaning a tank. We sometimes have disagreements over what is really clean. How clean is clean? Is it clean enough if it's just to the point that the next load won't be contaminated?"

"Our stance is that all product residue must be removed," he adds. "Any residue left in the tank will come back to bite us at some point. We want to know anytime built-up residue is found in one of our tank trailers."

Standards of acceptability have changed, and chemical shippers are much more critical of trailer condition, Craig says. Cargo purity problems can be costly and often can be traced to cleaning failures.

Quality Control Craig encourages commercial wash racks to develop better quality control standards for processes such as valve and vent cleaning. In many cases, valves and vents from one trailer are disassembled and cleaned with similar parts from other trailers. Reassembled components often contain a mix of parts.

"This is a problem for us," Craig says. "Wash racks need procedures for ensuring that components are reassembled with the correct parts and that the right component goes back on each tank. When valves are reassembled with the wrong parts, we face the risks of leaks and other problems."

The tank cleaning industry has changed considerably in the past few years, and it demands a new type of rack worker who knows about chemistry and other technical subjects. Steps must be taken to improve worker retention.

"We all pay for turnover at commercial wash racks," Craig says. "We pay for it in terms of sloppy cleaning and unnecessary accidents and injuries."

Facility Evaluations CTL Distribution is in the process of reevaluating every commercial wash rack it uses. As a starting point, it is reviewing the National Tank Truck Carriers wash rack audit form that all of the facilities have filled out. Site visits will be conducted this year.

"Ideally, we would like to schedule site visits two to three times a year," Craig says. "We want to make sure operations are being conducted properly. Wash rack visits help us avoid surprise problems.

"Site visits help build a closer relationship with our tank cleaning vendors. Wash racks will be more open to suggestions if we work with them and show an interest in their operations."

The CTL Distribution managers are looking at a number of things during the site visits. Safety tops the list, and nowhere is safety more crucial than in tank entry.

The carrier believes tank trailers must be inspected after cleaning. Somebody has to go inside, and it is crucial that commercial wash racks have comprehensive confined-space-entry programs that are rigorously enforced.

"You can't cut corners on confined-space procedures," Craig says. "Workers have to take a little extra time to do it right. A confined-space permit should be written for each tank entered, and tanks should be classified as Class C environments. No one should be sent into a hazardous environment. Further, tanks should be ventilated by blowers anytime anyone is inside."

Physical conditions at each commercial wash rack also come under scrutiny. Craig and his inspection team note the amount of parking space available. Parking often is at a premium, and that leads to minor accidents when vehicles are trying to maneuver. Company Racks

When evaluating commercial wash racks, CTL Distribution managers draw on lessons learned at the carrier's own cleaning facilities in Mulberry and Memphis. The two wash racks are reserved for the CTL Distribution fleet and are capable of cleaning virtually anything transported by the general chemical fleet.

Built eight years ago, the Mulberry wash rack has a vat-type system that serves three bays. The wash system was designed and built in-house. About 150 tanks are cleaned each week.

Four 2,000-gallon solution tanks hold rinse water, caustic, and detergent. Hot water and steam are supplied by a 25-hp Fulton boiler. Spraying Systems Inc spinners are dropped into the tank trailers for cleaning.

Exterior cleaning is handled by a propane-fired Delco pressure washer. "Phosphate is our biggest exterior wash challenge," says C D "Buddy" Collins, CTL Distribution manager of cleaning facilities and environmental compliance. "It sets up like concrete on the outside of tractors and trailers."

The Mulberry wash rack is a zero-discharge facility, and all wastewater is recycled. Wastewater is treated in 5,000-gallon batches. During treatment, flocculents are added and pH is adjusted. Non-hazardous waste sludge is collected in a filter press.

Treated water is discharged into one of two 5,000-gallon plastic storage tanks and is chlorinated. After passing through a series of carbon filters, the water is reused at the wash rack.

Memphis Rack The Memphis wash rack has just a single bay and cleans about 15 trailers a day. The Kelton wash system operates at 500 to 600 psi and uses 40 to 60 gallons per minute. Available for cleaning are caustic with booster and wetting agents, detergent, steam, and hot water.

Wastewater goes through a Great Lakes Environmental oil/water separator and then to a settling tank where pH is adjusted. The pretreated water is discharged to an industrial treatment plant.

Four employees split between two shifts keep the Memphis wash rack open from 7 am to 1 am, five days a week. The Mulberry wash rack has 12 workers and is open from 6:30 am to 3:30 am, seven days a week.

Worker Retention CTL Distribution works hard to keep its wash rack employees, and several have been with the company more than 10 years. "We can't afford turnover because it takes a long time to adequately train a tank cleaning specialist," Collins says.

The initial training takes three months just for the basics. Most new hires start out with exterior cleaning, and they learn the more complicated processes in stages. Most of the training is done on the job.

Safety is an exception. Wash rack workers go into the classroom to learn about safety procedures, and they hear a lot about this topic. The initial safety orientation takes about a day and covers topics such as fall protection and confined-space entry.

Particular attention is paid to atmosphere testing. CTL Distribution uses Lumidor Micro-Max instruments to check oxygen content, lower explosion level, and for the presence of toxics.

Employees have to qualify for confined-space duties, but once they do they get a lot of practice. "We try to perform an internal inspection of every general chemical division tank after cleaning," Collins says. "Ninety-percent of our entries are for inspection. Workers spend approximately three minutes in a tank, and it takes seven to 10 minutes to get set up."

Workers rotate duties at the wash racks weekly. "Everybody gets to do everything this way," Collins says. "It keeps people from becoming complacent and helps ensure a high level of cleaning quality."

Managers at all levels of the general chemical division stress the importance of cleaning quality. "We expect the commercial racks to show the same commitment to quality," Collins says. "Our customers expect no less."