FOR WELL over 30 years, Reber Corporation has been transporting dry bulk cargoes throughout a region that stretches from New England to North Carolina. In the process, the Morrisville, Pennsylvania, carrier has established a reputation for excellent customer service.
Customer needs are met with a fleet that consists of 37 tractors and 85 trailers. Dry bulkers predominate and are used for a wide variety of products, including lime, cement, fly ash, sand, catalyst, salt, soda ash, and clay.
"Our customers know that they can count on us to provide the right types of equipment, deliver shipments on time, and avoid contamination," says Randall S Reber, president of Reber Corporation. "We can complete virtually any type of dry bulk transfer that a customer might require."
Coal Hauler Customer service was a key focus from the very start. Incorporated in 1966 by Floyd A Reber, the operation began as a coal hauler with a single dump truck. Reber moved his young company into other dry bulk products after buying another carrier's authority. Soon, the company was transporting cement, lime, and fly ash. Other products were added to reduce the cyclical nature of the business. Industrial products have proven particularly attractive because they make it easier to calculate business volumes.
"We wanted to be able to stay active throughout the year," Reber says. "We also wanted enough product diversification to protect our revenues. One of our first big breaks came in 1982, when we got an account at International Salt. That opened a lot of doors."
While the basic product mix hasn't changed a lot in the past few years, Reber Corporation hauls a wider variety of those products. For instance, the carrier is transporting salt for use in foodgrade applications, water treatment, textiles, and leather tanning.
Regardless of type, salt is somewhat challenging to handle. "It's one of the products we point to as proof that we can meet virtually any customer needs," Reber says. "If it's at all damp, it will clump up when hit with warm blower air. In addition, salt is a corrosive product."
Two Terminals Most of the business is concentrated in the area surrounding Morrisville. However, the carrier has opened a satellite terminal in Canaan, Connecticut. The facility includes offices, a shop, and a wash bay.
Reber Corporation also has a small rail transloading yard not far from the main Morrisville terminal. A variety of products are handled, including foundry sand, salt, and catalyst clay. Leased from Norfolk Southern railroad, the facility has 35 car spots. Equipment at the site consists of an auger, belt conveyor, and small pneumatic transfer machine.
"We handle about 10 loads a day from the transfer site," Reber says. "It's one more service that we are able to offer our customers, and it is generating more business all the time." Most of the deliveries made by Reber Corporation are to points within a 200-mile radius of the carrier's facilities. While some trips are overnight, short-distance shuttle runs are common. Drivers can make as many as five to six shuttle trips a day.
Three dispatchers at the Morrisville terminal coordinate operations to ensure that the carrier's 38 drivers are kept busy. Drivers on overnight trips check in at least once a day, while those assignedto shorthaul loads report after every trip. Overlapping dispatch shifts keep the office open from 2 am to 9 pm, Monday through Saturday.
Two dispatch objectives are to keep the vehicles loaded and the drivers busy. Although a few trailers are dedicated to specialty products or certain customers, the carrier is achieving 65% to 70% loaded miles.
Finding the drivers to keep the rigs rolling has not been overly difficult. Reber explains that the carrier pays a competitive salary, the work is consistent, and most of the drivers are home at the end of every shift.
To be hired, an applicant must have at least one year of experience operating a tractor-trailer rig. Driving records are verified through DAC Services and can show no more than one moving violation and one chargeable accident. The carrier rejects anyone with a conviction within the past five years for driving under the influence.
Also rejected are job-hopping drivers. "We look at three years of references, and we turn down anyone who changes jobs even once a year," Reber says. "It just costs too much to train them."
Training for new hires typically lasts three days but can take up to a week and a half. Instructional materials include dry bulk operations on videotape. A driver trainer oversees the training process and works one-on-one with each new driver.
Safety is stressed throughout the training process. Reber Corporation holds three to four formal safety meetings every year, and the company has an incentive program that rewards drivers with as much as 2% of their gross pay for achieving accident-free performance. The incentive total is reduced, but not eliminated, by minor vehicle damage to tires, fenders, and mirrors.
Reliable Tractors Drivers are assigned to tractors that are specified for comfort and reliable bulk service. The carrier operates on a five- to six-year trade cycle, with tractors accumulating about 600,000 miles during that time.
Mack, Kenworth, and Peterbilt products are favored, and most of the units are daycabs that tip the scale at around 15,500 pounds. "We have found that tractors in this tare-weight range give us the best durability," says Rob Cuthbertson, maintenance director at Reber Corporation.
Big power is preferred, and current specifications call for Caterpillar C-12 and Mack E-7 engines rated for 400 horsepower and above. Along with a drivetrain that includes a 10-speed Fuller transmission and Eaton or Fuller drive tandem, the engines are delivering five to six miles per gallon.
Vogel automatic chassis lube systems have been specified on all tractors. They also have Jacobs engine brakes, Spinner II oil filtration, Webb fuel/water separators, and Fontaine fifthwheels.
Tractor-mounted product-handling equipment consists of Gardner Denver DuroFlow blowers and Chelsea PTOs. The blowers are mounted horizontally, and Reber Corporation mechanics make a number of modifications to ensure a 12-year life.
For running gear, tractors have Meritor automatic slack adjusters, Alcoa aluminum disc wheels, and Michelin 11R22.5 steel-belted radial tires. Every effort is made to get two retreads out of every casing. Reber Corporation uses Bandag materials for retreads.
Aluminum Trailers In the trailer fleet, the carrier runs aluminum dry bulkers from Fruehauf and J&L Tank. Capacities range from 1,000 to 1,600 cubic feet. Hardware includes Knappco domelids, Sure Seal butterfly valves, full-opening tees for gravity unloading, and Boston and Goodyear product hoses.
For running gear, the trailers have either Pro-Par or Meritor axles. The newest ones were specified with Hendrickson air suspensions, which are credited with reducing wear and tear and extending trailer life.
The fleet gives Reber Corporation the flexibility to meet the diverse needs of its customers. The equipment is maintained in top shape to help ensure that loads are delivered on time wherever they are needed.