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Wheels up

MARK Sinibaldi learned the jobber business from the wheels up — starting when he was a teenager washing trucks and driving delivery trucks for a local company in the summers and then after college working fulltime for a bulk distributor, which was eventually acquired.

“I did a little bit of everything,” general manager of Allied Oil LLC recalls.

Today, he continues to apply what he learned — and to do a bit of everything — as he oversees the Hillsborough, New Jersey, company that distributes diesel fuel, biodiesel, gasoline, asphalt, and fuel oil to accounts in New Jersey.

“We think we are positioned to identify and take advantage of marketplace conditions that are most beneficial to our customers,” Sinibaldi says.

The company serves major oil companies, convenience stores, trucking fleets, construction sites, marinas, rental car companies, homes, government agencies, and even ships in port. Allied can transfer product to ships and barges that have the capacity of more than 10,000 gallons.

Back on shore, the company offers station owners a package to help them with the branding process, including assistance with financing, station design, marketing, and signage.

“In all that mix, we deliver millions of gallons of refined fuels annually,” says Sinibaldi.

Allied's fuel oil distribution is a small part of the business. Service is available on a will-call or degree-day system. Some customer storage tanks are automatically monitored.

About a year ago Allied added two new 7,000-gallon Polar tank trailers. The increased capacity allows Allied to serve multiple customers without having to return to a terminal to reload, and the trailers are more maneuverable than a larger transport. They are equipped with pumps, meters, and two-inch hose reels so product can be offloaded into above-ground tanks.

“Our dispatchers, management, and mechanics put their heads together to try to solve our problems with getting into and out of small areas,” says Sinibaldi. “We spec'd those 7,000-gallon trailers to meet our requirements and increase efficiency. We use them primarily to service our commercial accounts. We also have a fleet of 35 tankwagons and 11 transports, as well as three asphalt tank trailers.”

The company has grown since it was acquired in 1996 with five tankwagons and one tank trailer that handled 12 million gallons of fuel per year. Growth was prompted by acquisitions, aggressive marketing, and more demand from established customers, he says. Sinibaldi anticipates continued growth in the future.

Ultra low sulfur diesel

In that immediate future is the marketing of ultra low sulfur diesel (ULSD) that will require special handling to avoid sulfur contamination. Allied plans to use dedicated vehicles until the changeover is completed in the marketplace and distribution logistics are worked out.

For the past five years, Allied has had satellite tracking for its trucks and has changed to a new system from Networkcar Inc that merges GPS with wireless coverage. In addition to the satellite tracking, drivers are issued Nextel two-way radios to communicate with dispatchers while on routes.

“We average while on routes about 175 delivery stops per day,” says Sinibaldi. “The system updates every 15 seconds. It really helps us to track our efficiency. We also get engine performance data that is printed out and entered into our main database.”

Although Allied buys most of its new Boston Steel & Manufacturing tankwagons direct from Boston Steel, the Allied maintenance department has the capability to do changeovers on older vehicles in-house. “We've even assembled a few trucks for other companies,” he says. “Having mechanics who can handle almost all of our needs, with the exception of cargo tank repairs, brings us cost savings.”

As for routine service, tractors receive preventive maintenance at 10,000-mile intervals. Mileage is monitored by computers and oil changes are automatically scheduled as necessary.

Trailers are inspected every 30 days and are serviced with hub oil and grease at that time. Tires, landing gears, and hoses also are checked then.

Tri-axle trucks

The Boston Steel 6,000-gallon tanks are mounted on Mack's heavy-duty Granite tri-axle trucks. The 2,800-gallon tanks are on Peterbilt chassis, and the 4,400-gallon to 5,000-gallon tanks are mounted on Mack chassis. Allied has spec'd some Allison automatic transmissions for the tankwagons, but the majority are Eaton Fuller manual 10-speed gear boxes.

The trailer fleet also includes Heil, Polar, and Fruehauf 9,200-gallon tankers. All the tankwagons and tank trailers typically are equipped with Betts valves, Liquid Controls meters, Veeder-Root registers, Civacon and Emco Wheaton API adapters, Bayco elbows, and Scully overfill protection. Kuriyama of America supplies product and vapor hoses. Roper and Blackmer pumps are driven by Chelsea PTOs.

The asphalt business was started when a customer asked for transportation to a quarry. Allied purchased three Fruehauf 9,000-gallon insulated tank trailers with rear and side discharge capability.

“Adding asphalt turned out to be a good decision for us, particularly when seasonal slowdowns occur for other products,” he says. “We handle about 30,000 tons a year. In New Jersey, construction projects have been on an increase, so that's proved positive, too.”

A separate company affiliated with Allied Oil is Allied Trucking that has flatbed, low-boy, and drop-bed trailers for non-bulk customers, as well as asphalt and tanker service for bulk customers. Allied specified Mack power units with Blackmer or Roper pumps for use with bulk and non-bulk trailers.

Driver pool

Handling the vehicles is a pool of 43 drivers, which has remained relatively constant in number, Sinibaldi says. When new drivers are required, they receive training in an in-house program that includes company policies, Department of Transportation regulations, defensive driving, and hazardous materials handling. Allied's two dispatchers are former drivers. In addition to coordinating operations, they are involved in driver training instruction under the direction of Charles Rue, who is safety director.

Drivers begin their schedules each day at the Hillsborough headquarters. They typically handle routes within a 65-mile radius of the office. To encourage safe driving and reward drivers, Allied offers a quarterly bonus based on completing the period free of spills and accidents.

Coordinating customers are three customer service employees. Sales representatives meets regularly with customers and market the company's services.

Future plans

As for the future, Sinibaldi is in the process of adding biodiesel to the services. “It's more difficult to operate every year because of growing competition,” he says. “It's important for us to continue looking for new customers while offering the best service possible to our current clients. We're always analyzing acquisition possibilities to add to our plate, and we're planning to grow all segments of the business.”

Having learned the business from the truck up, and applying what he learned through the years, Sinibaldi has a perspective that puts him a step up to compete in today's vacillating fuels marketplace filled with challenges.

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