ABOUT once a month, a ship docks at Regional Enterprises Inc to offload bulk liquid chemicals and petroleum products in the storage and terminaling facility on the James River near Richmond, Virginia. Each week, two to three barges arrive with loads of asphalt. Product is offloaded into one of the 16 above-ground tanks varying in size from 10,000 gallons to 1.7 million gallons. Total capacity adds up to 13 million gallons.
A short distance from the pier are 14 railcar spots served by Norfolk Southern Railroad, which spots chemical and petroleum products for Regional Enterprises' teamtrack customers.
Although the five-acre terminaling and storage facility is a significant part of Regional Enterprises' business, it is second to the transportation fleet in generating revenue. Transportation is responsible for about 70% of annual revenue. The fleet of 25 tractors and 42 tank trailers keeps product moving.
"We are different," says Gary Farrar III, vice-president of marketing, and son of owner, Gary Farrar Jr. "Regional offers many services, liquid bulk storage, transportation, and transloading - all by one company. This provides service accountability. If there is a problem, there is no one else to blame."
His father points out that the trucking operations are created through the storage and terminaling, and the off-site services the company provides from the company headquarters in Hopewell, Virginia.
Both men are proud of their employees. "Our employees make the difference with their outstanding work ethic," says Farrar III. "Their dedication and perseverance toward raising the performance bar make me very proud to say that I'm a part of their team and they are a part of mine."
He praised the company's transportation manager, Roy Glickman, who has transformed the transportation side of the business in the last five years. "He provides complete customer and company planning, and always has his drivers' best interest in mind," says Farrar.
The terminal manager, Dan Matthews, also receives the vice-president's praises for bringing creativity and a can-do attitude to challenges.
Managing the daily schedule is Joe Siltz, dispatcher. "He is the puzzle master," says Farrar. "Our truck utilization is up significantly.
"Driver relationships are built on written guidelines and mutual respect. To work with these men and women is truly an honor."
Complementing transportation of a variety of products are 11 truck loading racks: three for asphalt, one for caustic soda, two for number 6 oil, one for sulfuric acid, and four for chemicals and light oil products. Typically, product is loaded at 75-200 gallons per minute, depending on the product. Steam and hot oil heat are available at the facility.
Railcar loading from the tank farm is provided as well. Steam heat and compressed air are available at each railcar spot. Product can be transferred from railcar to truck, railcar to storage tank, or storage tank to railcar.
"We operate a customer-oriented liquid bulk service," says the senior Farrar. "Because we are centrally located in Virginia and have this marine, rail, and transportation facility, we can tailor services for our customers. We have few backhauls due to the local aspect of our business. We increase our business because of our ability to provide just-in-time service."
Farrar III seconds his father's comments: "The customers know the job is going to get done. Our philosophy is to cater to their individual needs. We are in a position to guarantee a certain number of loads in a 24-hour period."
Products Handled Among the products that are handled at the tank storage facility are acetate, alum, caustic potash, number 6 oil, asphalt, number 2 diesel fuel, fish oil, fish solubles, formaldehyde, gluconate, corn syrup, hydrochloric acid solution, hydrogen peroxide, leachate, mellowleaf sugar, methanol, 30% nitrogen fertilizer, nitric acid, petroleum interface, rosin sizing, sodium bisulfate, sodium hydrosulfide, sodium silicate, soy sauce, and sulfuric acid.
Storage tanks vary in size and composition, based on product. The tanks used for caustic soda are lined. A specialty fiberglass tank was added last year. The used tank was moved to the facility, repaired, and put into service. It has a stainless steel pump and piping, and is used in storage of a resin.
"Tank farms require a special engineering survey, which was done again last year to insure that the spill containment is adequate," says Farrar III. "Dike walls are earthen and made of non-porous clay."
Recently, the company installed a fiberglass pipeline for transferring caustic soda. "It provides the same purity as stainless steel but is much more cost effective," says Farrar III. "Nevertheless, it is rated at 225 pounds per square inch (psi), which is necessary because of the pressure from the ship."
Most of the pipelines used with the marine service, including the fiberglass line, are six inches in diameter. The exceptions are the lines for asphalt, which are 10-inch.
Regional Enterprises specifies Goodall hoses for asphalt and caustic soda.
Pumps mounted on the tanks are from Blackmer and Viking, and range from two-inch to 10-inch. Emco Wheaton supplies Series D123 loading arms. Another loading arm used at the terminal is from CE-Loading Systems, which comes with a four-inch spring balance. Both are used for loading two different asphalt products.
Brooks electromagnetic flowmeters and transmitters are used with caustic solutions. For transloading acids, the company has installed Contract batch controllers and turbine flowmeters. The turbine flowmeter used in this operation is small and requires little maintenance, says Farrar III.
The equipment, infrastructure, and the company's specialized customer services are responsible for a healthy annual revenue growth rate that has doubled each of the last two years, says the senior Farrar.
Customer Service Some of the ways the company caters to customer individual needs include ordering and scheduling. "Based on pre-established instructions from our customers, we order and schedule product receipts via water, and deliveries via rail and truck," says the senior Farrar. "We also gauge tanks and vessels, and will schedule independent inspectors when required. Our office personnel will provide the customer's accounting and shipping departments with bill of lading preparation, daily inventory reports, monthly physical inventory reports, and daily shipment and weights for invoicing customers via fax, phone, or mail."
Tailoring customer service began with the company's inception in 1972 when the senior Farrar and two partners rented one of the storage tanks from the company that owned the facility at the time. Farrar saw that local manufacturing plants with cogeneration facilities were converting coal-powered furnaces to oil. He anticipated the oil market growth as a result and started the company with the goal to meet the new demand. A plant across town from the storage facility was in need of 750,000 barrels per year. The partners acquired a used International tractor and two Heil tank trailers, and began to transport number 6 oil.
Three months later, one of the partners decided to sell his share of the company. The remaining two partners purchased the Hopewell storage and terminaling facility. Thereafter, Farrar's remaining partner, Chris Lyne, retired in 1987.
By 1990, the company was operating six tractors and eight tank trailers. "We were very local," the senior Farrar says.
However, the transloading side of the business began to prosper. Norfolk Southern managers heard about the rail spots that were available and were soon on board.
Farrar III joined his father in 1997 to expand a marketing program that focused on the company's reputation for accountability to customers. "Accountability is key," he says. "And we have an excellent safety record and outstanding drivers," he says.
Safe Delivery Getting the products delivered safely and on time is a priority for the company's 29 drivers. "We want our drivers to act as managers," says the senior Farrar. "They are helping us grow the business."
Drivers are trained through a program designed by the company that provides on-the-job and classroom training by product and by customer - just one more example of the company's dedication to specialized customer service.
"We use videos and written step-by-step procedures for drivers to learn how to protect themselves and others while transferring product," says Farrar III.
Using videos and written procedures isn't the only way the company structures training. Regional Enterprises focuses on company orientation and policies, Department of Transportation (DOT) regulations, defensive driving, and hazardous materials handling.
Throughout classroom and on-the-job training, safety is constantly emphasized. The company's safety record is 3,244 days without an accident. Currently, employees are working toward a 5.75 million-mile accident-free record and are currently at three million miles of that goal.
"Our management fully supports our drivers and mechanics with recognition for a job well done through the Safety First program," says Farrar III. "We have regular driver meetings and provide an expense-paid beach weekend conference for drivers and their spouses."
The safety effort has won the company recognition from Trailmobile and the Virginia Trucking Association for seven of the last 10 years. This year, National Tank Truck Carriers honored the company as a 1999 Competitive Safety Contest winner in the less than two million miles category. The company won a grand award in the category and was noted for having no accidents during the year. Glickman was honored with the grand award in the 1999 Personnel Safety Contest. NTTC also honored Regional Enterprises for being a second-year winner in its 1999 Improvement Contest.
In addition to the company-designed training program, a computerized log maintenance program was instituted to enhance driver accountability. Based on previous hours driven, dispatcher Joe Siltz can enter a certain number of proposed hours for a driver's week in order to determine if the time is available.
Each driver is required to contact the dispatcher every day to verify the log and check in with the dispatcher upon return. Drivers stay in contact with the office via Motorola cellular phones provided in each tractor. "A lot of our drivers carry their own beepers and cell phones," says Siltz.
Fleet Equipment There are 42 tank trailers in the fleet, including 11 rubber-lined and four chlorobutyl-lined carbon and stainless steel tank trailers. There are also 11 insulated and seven noninsulated stainless steel trailers. Many of the trailers have Roper stainless steel specialty pumps. The average age of the chemical trailers is less than five years.
Newest tank trailers are from Brenner. DOT407 trailers have 7,000-gallon capacity and are equipped with Betts domelids and internal and external valves. Pressure- and vacuum-relief vents are from Girard Equipment. Trailer-mounted pumps are powered with Drum Hydrapak units.
The spring suspension is from Reyco, and axles are supplied by Meritor. Wheel hubs are from Hayes Lemmerz, and landing gear is from Kysor Westran. Meritor WABCO provides the antilock braking system. Steel-belted radial tires are from Goodyear.
The company specifies Truck-Lite light emitting diode (LED) lighting and Goodall hoses for all of its tank trailers.
Brenner 5,000-gallon DOT412 lined carbon steel trailers have Ultraflo internal and external valves, Betts domelids, and Girard vents. Running gear includes Reyco suspension, Meritor axles, and Meritor WABCO antilock braking systems. Also in the fleet are Brenner DOT412 stainless steel tank trailers with 5,000-gallon capacity. Hardware includes Betts internal and external valves, Girard vents, and Betts domelids. Roper PTO-driven stainless steel pumps are mounted on the tractor.
The tractors' six-cylinder Mack engines have 400 horsepower and are equipped with 10-speed Fuller transmission. Mack tandem-drive 38,000-pound axles have a 3.86 ratio. Steering axle capacity is 12,000 pounds. Meritor WABCO supplies the antilock braking system. Steel wheels in the drive positions are from Accuride, and Alcoa wheels are preferred in the steering positions.
Terminal Locations The company has satellite truck terminals in Norfolk, Virginia; Wilmington, North Carolina; Baltimore, Maryland; and Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Operations are predominantly on the East Coast between Delaware and Georgia. Ninety percent of the operation is local.
Another aspect of the company's accountability to customers is the maintenance program. Most company maintenance is conducted at the Hopewell shop. Tractors receive computerized routine checkups to insure reliable service. Two on-site mechanics respond daily to all safety-related repair orders for tractors and tank trailers.
"Our current DOT out-of-service percentage is only five percent," says Farrar III. "That is far below the industry average of 27.3%. We recently increased our spare parts inventory and are emphasizing preventive maintenance even more than we have in the past. We want the out-of-service percentage to be even lower."
A one-bay wash rack is used to clean tank trailers with cold and hot water. The company is permitted to wash certain items based on a list of criteria provided in the permit with the Hopewell Waste Water Treatment Plant.
With its strong maintenance and training system firmly in place, and the ability to offer its customers a diversified service, Regional Enterprises is looking toward the future. "We are searching for acquisition opportunities and otherwise plan to grow 20 percent annually," says the senior Farrar. "We can continue to offer customers reliable service, greater flexibility, and improved economics as we reach out to serve a larger market."