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RAYMOND R Preiss III and Rebecca L Miller, a brother/sister team that owns DBL Tank Services Inc, are experiencing more business coming into their Manheim, Pennsylvania, shop partly because of an increasing number of carriers outsourcing vehicle maintenance.

“Fleets have to outsource because they can't find qualified mechanics,” says Preiss. “The biggest challenge today is finding good people to work with you. It's a common thread among our customers.”

The good news is that not only can DBL Tank Services step in to ease carriers' maintenance pains, but their customers who formerly operated an in-house shop understand the repair facility's demands as well.

Preiss and Miller say they inherited their father's philosophy for running the company with customer service in mind. The brother and sister came to the ownership sooner than they expected when their father, Raymond Preiss Jr, died suddenly in 2003 after having established the business only five years earlier in 1998.

Before beginning the business, their father had been a long-time employee of Heil Trailer International and was known throughout the tank trailer industry, Miller says.

“We are following his vision of keeping the customer in mind and the commitment to serving the tank industry with quality, value, and 24-hour emergency service,” she adds.

The 12-bay facility stays busy handling pneumatic, chemical, petroleum, and foodgrade tank trailers.

“We're fortunate to have pneumatic trailers in this area,” says Preiss. “Carriers are trucking cement farther than ever before. They use some of the bulkers for portable storage tanks as well.”

Carriers in the south-central area of Pennsylvania also are hauling products such as lime, gasoline, diesel, fuel oil, chemicals, milk, and of course the product that is synonymous with Pennsylvania — chocolate.

The DBL Tank Services location near the Pennsylvania Turnpike and several Interstate highways draws business from New York and New Jersey carriers hauling chemicals.“We think of our market as about a 500-mile radius of Manheim.

“Petroleum carriers are running all the time, and constantly loading and unloading,” he adds. “We see a lot of rear-end structural repairs caused by drivers backing over curbs. In the last few months, we've had more rebuilds and refurbishing than in the last few years.”

Amish farms in Lancaster County have small herds of cows, which means less milk production than farms with larger herds. Tank trailers are filled gradually as the driver travels from farm-to-farm, producing an unstable load vulnerable to rollovers. As a result, the shop handles a significant number of repairs caused by rollovers.

“Some of the milk haulers use two-compartment trailers, which cuts down on the surge factor,” Preiss notes.

Heated tank trailers used to transport chocolate frequently develop weld breaks in the steam panels that have to be repaired. “We're installing steam-jacketed valves on those trailers,” he says.

Services offered

In addition to structural modifications, frame repairs, rebuilds, major barrel repair, and running gear repairs, DBL Tank Services provides external and internal visual inspections, lining inspections, leakage testing, pressure retesting, thickness testing, MC330/331 retesting, vapor recovery testing, bottom-loading conversion, sandblasting/painting, tank changeouts, hydraulics, fuel delivery truck repairs, meter calibration, and custom fabrication.

In the 15,000-square-foot shop, mechanics work in specific areas dedicated to certain services. Three bays are set aside for repairs that can be completed quickly, while six bays are for projects that will take a significant amount of time.

Three bays are dedicated to fabrication of components, including upper coupler plates, light boxes, as well as specialty items.

“We pride ourselves on the unparalleled flexibility in duplicating existing parts or construction of custom parts to customer requirements in our fabrication department,” Miller says.

The shop is certified with a National Board “R” stamp for tank repair and fabrication and is equipped with two overhead five-ton cranes from Konicre, a Cyrill-Bath press brake, and a Lodge and Shipley shear press.

Company mechanics built an in-house roll for 20-gauge stainless steel used in jacketing. The system includes a plastic coating device.

“We maintain the shop machinery ourselves,” says Preiss. “We also make a lot of smaller tools, such as an attachment that we use to pull aluminum I-beam rings.

Shop employees

The shop crew includes eight mechanics for trailer repairs and two for fabrication. All mechanics can handle welding. Doug Rummel oversees the work as shop manager. Preiss, who was trained by his father, also can step in when needed.

Shop employee safety training includes information provided by Lackawanna Insurance, the company's provider. A safety meeting is conducted monthly when emphasis is placed on fall prevention and confined space entry procedures.

Adjacent to the shop is the area for $300,000 parts inventory coordinated by Phil Gerhart.

“Parts sales are a big part of our business,” Preiss says.

The company is a distributor for Allegheny Coupling, Betts Industries, Blackmer, Buyers Products, Dixon/Bayco, Deighan Equipment/Crystal Metal, Emco Wheaton, Flotech, Girard Equipment, IRPCO, Newman Sanitary Gasket, NuSeal, Petroleum Meter & Pumps, Philly Flow Control, Scully, Time Savings Fills, and L C Thomsen.

The company also is a distributor for tank trailers from Walker Stainless Equipment Co and Trail King Industries in Pennsylvania, Maryland, New Jersey, Delaware, and New York.

They also sell truck-mounted tanks for Advanced Tank Systems.

Fran Braun leads the new and used sales department for the company. “He is the perfect fit for this position because he has over 29 years in the industry,” Miller adds.

The company has parking space for 80 to 90 tank trailers and is adding another 12.6 acres to accommodate more vehicles.

As for the future, Preiss and Miller are anticipating continued growth in the short term. “This is a cyclical industry,” Preiss says. “It typically cycles every 10 years or so.”

With the training and reputation that came from their father, as well as a facility equipped to handle the repair market, Preiss and Miller are in a good position to meet the needs of their customers.

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