EMPHASIS on customer service at Tank Trailer Cleaning Inc (TTC) begins inside the office where driver amenities take top priority and continues into the six wash bays where efficient and dependable equipment is on hand. The East St Louis, Illinois, company designed its facilities with service in mind.
At the same time, meeting environmental requirements has always been at the top of the focus list. Tank Trailer's wastewater treatment system was developed to meet the most stringent regulations.
“We believe these things have been the reason our business has grown,” says Charlie Stock, vice-president. “Our goal is to partner with carriers by providing the very best in tank cleaning.”
Attending to drivers' comfort includes access to automatic teller machines and modem-equipped computers, weather forecasts, a cafeteria, video game room, television lounge, and showers. Two cafeteria workers serve up home-cooked food every day. A comfortable dining area adjoins the kitchen. Snacks and beverages are available at a side counter.
As more and more drivers use computers to communicate with their companies, having the workstation hookup has become a requirement, says Stock.
Stock and his partner, Gary Hunter, understand the needs of drivers, as well as the demand for quality cleaning, having previously owned a foodgrade tank truck business. During the time when they were still running the trucking company, they started the cleaning operation because they recognized an opportunity for a wash rack in the St Louis area.
Hunter's father owned the 12-acre site near I-70 and I-55 and I-64. After deciding on the location, the pair had the foodgrade tank cleaning business up and running with two bays in operation by 1984. Before long, Stock and Hunter, who is president of Tank Trailer Cleaning, sold their tractors and tank trailers to concentrate on the cleaning business.
Initially, two bays were dedicated to foodgrade cleaning. An expansion provided four bays for chemicals.
Today, the company offers interior and exterior cleaning of tank trailers, tank containers, and intermediate bulk containers. Capabilities include caustic and hot detergent, and hot and cold water washes. Presolve and interior tank passivation are available. Other services include hazardous materials handling, water blasting, and steaming.
One way the company emphasized its dedication to service was by setting up an environmental health and safety regulations department headed by Mark Ellison. Overseeing all the day-to-day operations is Dewey White, facility manager. TTC also dedicates one employee per shift to tank inspections after the cleaning process is completed for quality control.
In addition to the cleaning services, TTC provides leased space to CTL Transport and Fort Transfer Company. Slay Transportation Company and Matlack Inc have full terminals nearby. CTL and Fort rent office space for dispatchers and also have repair facilities on site. Six acres are available for parking.
However, tank cleaning is the main function of TTC. An in-house-designed, vat-style cleaning system with Gamajet spinners is used in the chemical bays. TTC uses Gamajet spinners exclusively. The cleaning system operates at 150 gallons per minute.
“We are seeing more and more products that are difficult to clean,” says Stock. “That means we must keep equipment in top condition.”
A 75-horsepower Durco pump operating at 300 pounds per square inch (psi) is dedicated to one bay used to clean tanks that have hauled hard-to-clean resins. When not needed for hard-to-clean jobs, the bay is used for typical chemical cleaning.
In addition, TTC uses diesel fuel heated to 70°F to clean tank trailers that haul heavy lube oil. A caustic wash and hot water rinse is then applied to finish out the process.
In the Kosher-certified foodgrade bays, TTC uses a Niagara National Corp stainless steel vat system. Hot water at 190°F is used to rinse. No wastewater is recycled in the cleaning process in either foodgrade or chemical bays.
TTC uses two boilers in its operation, alternating them each month. By having two boilers, the company avoids the potential of an unscheduled shutdown. The efficiency that results from the process produces an 8% to 12% savings, Stock estimates. One boiler is a 150-horsepower Kewanee, and the other is a 100-horsepower Johnston. Both operate at a maximum of 75 psi.
“We can control costs of just about every type, with the exception of electricity and water, by being efficient,” says Stock, adding that replacement motors, replacement pumps, and a backup air compressor are on hand in the event of a failure. “We just see this as one more way to serve our customers.”
Equipment isn't the only thing that can cause an operations shutdown. Not meeting environmental regulations can lead not only to shutdowns, but penalties. TTC managers understand the importance of operating an efficient wastewater system that meets regulations.
“We've been proactive in environmental considerations for years,” says Stock.
The wastewater system used at the cleaning facility was custom designed in-house. During treatment, wastewater passes into a drain in the floor and into one of two 15,000-gallon holding tanks where oil and water are separated. The oil is shipped to energy recovery facilities. The water is pumped into a 1,000-gallon mix tank. Chemicals are added for treatment before it flows into a clarifier. Solids are removed and pumped into a sludge press. They are removed to a landfill. Although regulations only require the sludge to be tested every five years, TTC checks it every year.
After the sludge is removed, the water is pumped back into the pretreatment tank for adjustment of pH and other factors. It is then discharged to the sewer. Should the discharge not meet environmental specifications, the system can be shutdown without interfering with the cleaning operation.
Heel that is removed from the trailers is placed in drums, labeled, and hauled off by a licensed carrier to a licensed waste disposal facility.
With the complexities involved in tank cleaning, it is essential that employees stay current with procedures and regulations, says Stock. TTC cleaning rack employees receive eight-hour refresher training every year. New hires go through a series of training using video programs and on-job instruction. Typically, they will not be on their own for six to eight weeks. Training subjects include confined space entry, use of respiratory equipment, pollution management, Occupational Safety and Health Administration regulations, and others required by federal rules. The company conducts quarterly safety meetings, and all training is carefully documented.
Employees operate the wash rack around the clock, seven days a week. Weekends with less traffic are used to repair equipment and perform other facility maintenance projects.
TTC is particularly wary of tank trailers that may have held nitrogen blankets. All tanks brought into the facility are tested for internal atmosphere before work begins on them. The facility also provides nitrogen blanketing service.
To stay in direct communication with the office, tank cleaners carry two-way Motorola TalkAbout radios.
For administrative purposes, TTC uses computers with proprietary software designed by PC Professionals of St Louis. The system was upgraded last year as a result of Y2K concerns.
And it is service demand that has driven TTC to its present stature in the tank cleaning industry. Stock expects the market demand to grow and the environmental concerns to become rigorous. With its sound operation in place, the company will be ready to meet the challenge.