Vermont Carrier Uses Experience to Nab Success

HERB Bartemy knows trucking inside and out. The outside knowledge was acquired as the son of a Vermont refrigerated carrier, and the inside was perfected while spending six years with Ryder Truck Leasing as a mechanic, working his way up to assistant service manager. That experience under his belt, it's not surprising that he and his wife, Lynn, now operate a successful foodgrade transportation company, Transport Dynamics Inc (TDI), in St Albans, Vermont.

In 1992 while working at Ryder, Bartemy learned that a cheese factory in Swanton, Vermont, Lucille Farm Products, needed a carrier to transport whey from its plant to a drying facility in Georgia, Vermont. Bartemy and his wife decided the time was right to start the company. That's when Ronnie Charlebois, owner of a Volvo and Freightliner dealership in Williston, Vermont, came in. A longtime friend of the Bartemys, he provided the couple with a 6,300-gallon Bar-Bel tank trailer without requiring immediate financing.

"Ronnie was a big part of the startup," says Bartemy. "He let us go 90 days without a payment on the trailer."

After renting an International tractor to haul the tank trailer, Bartemy set off hauling product. Soon, though, Charlebois acquired a used Freightliner that had belonged to Ryder and which Bartemy had worked on. Knowing the tractor like the back of his hand, Bartemy bought it - and continues to prefer Freightliners for the fleet. With equipment on the road and more shippers calling for service, the company began to expand. Today, the couple operates a fleet of 43 tank trailers and 20 Freightliners delivering dairy products, orange juice, liquid yeast, whey, vinegar, chocolate, and soybean, cottonseed, vegetable, and coconut oils. The company covers a region that reaches from Montreal, Canada, to cities in Florida, and as far west as Minnesota, and as far south as Texas.

From whey, TDI began hauling milk and cream. Later, an edible oils shipper heard about the company and asked for service. "We've never advertised our services," Bartemy says. "It's always just been word of mouth."

The Bartemys say their business has grown because they emphasize customized service for shippers. "I look at every customer to give them a special spot," he says. "We emphasize equipment cleanliness. In most instances, we try to be the house carrier. If we don't provide them with excellent service, they are going to go elsewhere for the business."

Bartemy handles almost all of the customer calls, believing that the personal service is another advantage he can offer. Because of its operational agility, TDI is able to respond quickly to special requests from shippers. At the same time, Bartemy conducts research to assure that products the company hauls are compatible.

Bartemy is also familiar with the problems of drivers, having learned to drive a truck when he was young and doing all the driving when the business was initially established. As a matter of fact, he is so interested in drivers that he is considering starting a driver training school.

TDI employs 17 fulltime and three part-time drivers. He contracted Gary Peterson, a former police officer and Vermont Department of Transportation official, to develop the driver training program and help prepare the company's safety manual.

"We expect a commitment to quality service," says Bartemy. "We consider our drivers the key factor in our service commitment and have placed high standards of quality on them. We expect them to maintain our standards of professionalism and safety. Drivers are our field representatives, and a large unheralded part of their job is assuming and taking responsibility of this role and performing it to the best of their ability."

All newly hired drivers are required to attend and participate in an orientation session before they begin employment. Topics covered include company policies, procedures, Department of Transportation regulations, defensive driving, product handling, and proper use of equipment.

Tractor Equipment Tractors are equipped with spill kits, and drivers are trained in their use. In addition, drivers are issued cameras, witness cards, and accident report forms for use in the event of an accident. Dispatch orders are issued when drivers call into the office in the morning and in the afternoon. Nationwide pagers from Contac Communications also are used.

While on the road, drivers drop logs and product delivery forms into Trip Pac delivery facilities located at truck stops. The information is processed by Trip Pac and sent to TDI where it is entered into the company's Frontline computer program system that also is used for dispatching, payables, receivables, and driver mileage. The driver information is analyzed, and available driving time is forecast.

Drivers haul product to many different sites. Typically, milk is hauled to dairy plants, and cream is transported for ice cream manufacturers. TDI hauls orange juice for bottling plants and liquid sugar for ice cream and juice plants. The oils handled are used in the manufacturing of baby food, potato chips, and baked goods. Vinegar goes to bottling plants.

Liquid yeast is the largest revenue producer, about 25%, and is transported to bakeries. Dairy products add up to about 15% of the business. Whey continues to have a strong 15% spot. Vinegar, oils, and orange juice make up the remaining 45%. One tank trailer is dedicated to chocolate.

TDI uses 6,200-gallon stainless steel Walker tank trailers to haul the whey. About 50,000 pounds of product are needed per customer. For yeast transportation, the company has seven tank trailers from Tremcar, four from Walker, and two from Polar. Each has six inches of insulation compressed to four inches in order to maintain product within a few degrees of loading temperature, typically 32 degreesF to 36 degrees F. Bartemy adds insulation to the discharge valve assembly where he says significant heat is transferred. In addition, insufficient insulation around the front head can make the tank susceptible to heat from the tractor exhaust.

The Freightliner FLD120 tractors are specified with 500-horsepower Cummins engines and Eaton 10-speed transmissions. Bartemy says he receives positive feedback from drivers about the Freightliners. They like the roomy cab and the powerful engine, he says. Meritor supplies drive axles for the tractors, and the antilock brake system is from MeritorWABCO. Fifthwheels are from Holland. Bartemy prefers Goodyear G6302 tires for the drive axle wheels. "They've been good for traction in the winter months and have a good tread life," he says.

TDI uses Drum hydraulic drive systems mounted on the tractors to power the trailer-mounted pumps.

Maintenance Program The shop is equipped to handle almost all of the tank trailer and tractor maintenance. The shop is staffed with four mechanics: Mack Hammel, maintenance director, and Maurice Harris, Denny Gabree, and Keith Sylvester. Harris, a skilled tank trailer mechanic, has enabled TDI to rebuild used or damaged trailers for resale.

The 4,816-square-foot, two-bay shop is equipped with Snap On Tools Company diagnostic technology used in tractor repairs. Information can be downloaded that includes engine functions such as idling time and vehicle speeds. Engine performance is monitored so that fuel efficiency can be determined. In addition, the information can be used as a training tool for drivers to alert them to excessive idling time. Bartemy likes the technology for many reasons, not the least for providing documentation. "If a mechanic tests an alternator after it is repaired and then later it goes out, the mechanic has the document that shows he repaired it and it tested out all right," he says.

Tractors and trailers receive preventive main-tenance that includes a greasing at every 10,000 miles and oil samples and change at 20,000. If Bartemy thinks that new trailers need additional insulation, the mechanics open up the skin and add the material. Tank trailers are inspected monthly for pitting.

The majority of the tank trailers in the fleet are from Tremcar and Walker and vary from 5,000 to 7,000 gallons in capacity. Most of the trailers are owned by TDI, but a few are leased from Blue Grass Tank and Equipment Co. Fifteen trailers were ordered with weather-protecting rear cabinets for eventual installation of product pumps. Typically, TDI uses Ibex and Roper pumps. The cabinets enclose hose tubes to prevent theft. Trailers carry two 20-foot sections of Goodyear foodgrade hoses. Three-inch camlock Dixon fittings are specified on the hoses.

All new trailers have spill dams at the manhole and stainless steel ladders and walkways. In an effort to provide a safer work area, walkways are ordered in 24-inch widths.

Components include Thomsen valves and Olsen relief vents. The fleet has standardized on Hendrickson Intraax air suspensions. Oil seals are supplied by Eaton, and MeritorWABCO supplies the braking systems. The trailers have Conmet aluminum hubs and Alcoa aluminum wheels. Landing gear is from Jost and Holland. As new trailers are ordered, TDI is specifying Truck Lite light-emitting diode (LED) lamps that are much brighter day and night, and come with a lifetime warranty.

Handling perishable products calls for well-maintained equipment, Bartemy points out. At Ryder, he learned not only mechanical skills but the importance of balancing parts onhand with keeping a conservative inventory. He also completed training in computer and management programs. Bartemy believes the hands-on experience helps in managing his own mechanics because he understands their work-related problems. At the same time, he often can help solve problems for drivers who are having mechanical problems on the road.

"I like being able to help. I really enjoy the maintenance end of the business," Bartemy says. Keeping equipment upgraded and well maintained contributes to the company's reputation for cleanliness and is top priority for a foodgrade carrier, he adds. With that reputation in place, TDI is poised for further expansion as the market demands.

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