ALTHOUGH some people are painting the tank truck industry with gray clouds, Roland Barbosa, owner of Mississauga Tankmaster, a tank repair shop in Mississauga, Ontario, Canada, sees a rosier picture.
“We have a bright future as far as our economy is concerned,” he says. “There is a lot of money out there. Some people are gun-shy today. They are shopping around a little more, eyeing the competition.”
Barbosa bases his forecast on almost three decades of experience in the trucking industry, having survived ups and downs associated with the Canadian and US markets. He points out that the Canadian economy typically follows US cycles, lagging about six months behind.
Today, the US-Canada exchange rate offers a boost to his business when US carriers take advantage of the difference to send vehicles to his 10,000-square-foot shop for maintenance and repairs. However, the overwhelming majority of Tankmaster's repair business comes from within Ontario.
The Mississauga facility offers services that range from simple repairs to testing to complete rebuilds. About 60-75 work orders are generated per month, says Andy Nietvelt, vice-president, sales.
New cargo tank regulations recently adopted in Canada have boosted business. “There is so much new in the market,” says Blair MacMillan, service manager. “Carriers are improving their overall fleet maintenance, and there are a lot of safety checks going on.”
Tankmaster employs 10 shop personnel — three mechanics, an apprentice, and six certified welders, all overseen by Charlie Rodway, shop supervisor.
The six-bay shop and its three outside pads are almost totally dedicated to tank trailers with only occasional work on other types of vehicles. The facility holds a US National Board “R” stamp for tank repair and fabrication, and meets requirements for Transport Canada B-620-98 certification.
Tankmaster requires all tanks to be purged and cleaned prior to service. In addition, tanks receive atmospheric testing before they are brought into the shop and again while under repair.
Testing services average about one customer per day. Ninety percent of pressure testing procedures utilizes water. Air is applied only for leak testing MC330-331 tank trailers. To supply the hydrostatic service, Tankmaster has two storage tanks, one that holds 22,000 imperial gallons (26,420 US gallons) and another with capacity of 30,000 imperial gallons (36,028 US gallons).
On the floor of the shop stand a 10-foot mechanical sheer for cutting three-eighths-inch materials and a 10-foot press brake for bending material, both supplied by Cincinnati. Overhead, a five-ton Demag crane is in place for lifting barrels and handling materials.
The company keeps about 4,000 parts in inventory, supplying shop needs and those of other customers. The warehouse covers about 2,000 square feet. Typically on hand are components from Bayco, Betts, Civacon, Fort Vale, Girard, Knappco, PT Coupling, and Scully.
A software program custom developed by Emdecs of Toronto manages parts control. Parts that are sold and those used in the shop are recorded by sales staff/mechanics and entered into the program by an office administrator. Subsequently, information is accessed by the accounting department for billing.
In addition to maintenance services and commercial parts business, Tankmaster sells tank trailers throughout Canada for US manufacturers: E D Etnyre & Co, Heil Trailer International, and Polar Tank Trailer. Of the total tank trailer sales, about 40 percent is generated in western Canada. The company also operates a leasing service.
About six acres are available on site for displaying new and used trailers, as well as for parking those that are in for repairs.
While the company today is dedicated to tank trailer sales and service, it really began when Barbosa went to work for a refrigerated trailer sales and service company. The owner offered Barbosa a partnership and Carrier Corp distributorship in 1975. By 1977, the partnership had become a Bedard Tankers Inc distributor with a shop. The partners also owned a Peterbilt dealership. In 1990, they sold their other companies to focus on tank trailer sales and service. Barbosa's partner died in 2002. He is now the sole owner of the company.
The road to Barbosa's success began in the Azores where he was born. As a teenager in 1964, he immigrated with his parents to Toronto, Canada. He learned to speak English and soon had a job picking mushrooms. At the age of 16, he joined Bulk Carriers, a Canadian carrier, and later Tank Truck Co, another carrier. At Tank Truck he became a mechanic's apprentice where he learned the shop lessons that would eventually lead to Mississauga Tankmaster.
As for the future, Barbosa says he plans to double the shop area to 20,000 square feet within the next three-to-four years, and hire some additional people for his sales staff.
“I think the industry has a great future,” he says.