CHARLES W Eichholz, president of Prospect Transportation Inc, says his company spent about three to four years developing a computerized system that would enhance the operation. The result was worth the effort, he adds.
“Our efficiency has improved immensely,” Eichholz says of his petroleum operation based in Carlstadt, New Jersey.
In 2000, Eichholz opened additional terminals in New Jersey at Wharton, Sewaren, and Lakewood. “A lot of our drivers were living in those areas, so it just made sense to establish a presence there,” he adds.
When recent hurricanes in the Gulf State region prompted shippers to call on him for help, Eichholz established a presence in Port Everglades, Florida, by obtaining parking space at a Shell Motiva storage and terminaling facility.
“Being a small carrier we are able to provide a service that our customers need on an emergency basis,” Eichholz says. “We saw an opportunity to supply drivers and trucks when resources in the area become limited for reasons such as weather, pipeline problems, or other supply issues. It's a service that our customers have used and are using, and it's an added value to have a team of five or six people on the road working different areas as needed.”
The carrier transports gasoline, jet fuel, ethanol, diesel, biodiesel, and heating oil, totaling about 300 to 350 loads per day. “We also will be dedicating tank trailers to meet demand for ultra low sulfur diesel (ULSD),” he adds.
The operation will begin ULSD hauling with five retrofitted tank trailers already in the fleet, and the company is ordering new Heil double taper, low center of gravity trailers that will eventually replace retrofits.
By March 2006, the carrier had begun hauling ULSD in trial runs for some petroleum terminals.
Typical customers for all of the refined petroleum products transported by Prospect include convenience stores, fleets, ferries, buses, and airports. “We transport about 20 loads per day of jet fuel,” he says.
With petroleum transports hauling product throughout New Jersey and in southern Florida, having a computer program in place that manages dispatching, maintenance, and administration was essential, he points out.
Creative Energies developed software designed specifically for the carrier's operation. The Creative Energies tank truck dispatching program has been installed at more than a half dozen other petroleum carriers, but the original dispatch board and design came directly from Eichholz, says Howard Ehrlich of Creative Energies.
The dispatch board is displayed on large 32-inch wide-screen liquid crystal displays for easy viewing and gives dispatchers a clear graphical view of drivers, loads, start time, expected work hours, running hours-of-service (HOS), load details, pick up points, and status of each load with color coding.
Load information is dragged and dropped around the board with the click of a mouse. Load changes, including pin numbers or any traffic or safety conditions, can be forwarded to driver cell phones.
When drivers begin their work day, they log in and print out route sheets and manifests. The system logs their time in. It also prevents drivers from entering the system unless they have been off work a sufficient time to meet hours-of-service (HOS) requirements.
Manifests include unloading information such as storage tank identification, driving directions, and diagrams with site layout details. Loading information includes pin numbers required by terminals, products to be loaded, terminal identification, and names of shippers. Photos of some delivery locations are available.
“These diagrams and photos are just one more way to avoid product cross-contamination,” says Eichholz.
At the end of their shifts, drivers punch out of the system, recording their mileage. Work hours are recorded automatically. Drivers also complete load details, including bills of lading numbers and gallons delivered. They then print a recap report of their work for the day.
HOS are updated and reflected immediately on the dispatch board through color coding. Should a dispatcher be making changes to a driver's work when the driver is logging in and printing out his work, the dispatcher receives a warning message.
Billing is managed within the same program from the dispatch board itself, making it easy to visualize each driver's work day. The system indicates if the driver has turned in all paperwork, calculates pricing, and allows overrides for demurrage or unscheduled split charges.
Since drivers have completed loading, corrected loading changes, and entered loading bills of lading, a large portion of billing information is already in the system, which keeps the billing personnel function simpler and more efficient.
Bills of lading documents are scanned in, automatically indexed, and e-mailed to those customers that require them. Bills of lading images will appear with a click on each load on the dispatch board so that billing personnel don't have to gather and manage them.
“Of course, split loads, no-fits etc complicate the process, but that's the nature of the beast,” says Eichholz.
The program also furnishes numerous reports and graphs that can be used for efficiency evaluation and provides instantaneous snapshots of activity and productivity — key information Eichholz says is required to maintain a profitable business.
Creative Energies has installed a convenience store inventory system which collects storage tanks readings and projects inventories. By the end of 2006, the system will generate and insert orders directly into the dispatch system (along with current inventory and storage tank capacity requirements so dispatchers can modify load information). Dispatchers will be able to click on information about a station or a load from their dispatch board and have instantaneous readout of storage tank capacity requirement to modify load data.
Although Eichholz is a champion of management technology, it doesn't get the full credit for explaining the efficiency of his operation. He emphasizes the importance of hiring “good, safe” drivers, providing them with appropriate training, and seeing that their schedules are reasonable.
Training includes company policies, Department of Transportation regulations, defensive driving, and hazardous materials handling. “It takes about eight weeks for them to complete training,” Eichholz says.
A program Exxon uses with its designated carriers to certify drivers for their product handling was adopted for Prospect drivers. “It includes both safety and security aspects,” says Eichholz.
Donald Peck, safety director and a former Prospect driver, oversees the training program. After new hires have completed classroom instruction, they begin training with two veteran driver trainers (one at a time) for on-the-road experience and loading and unloading procedures. Eventually, drivers must meet the approval of the two veteran drivers, as well as Eichholz himself.
In addition to having a skilled and safe driver force that contributes to efficiency, Eichholz also is an ardent proponent of Mack's heavy-duty Granite trucks. He has used Macks exclusively since 1974, and gives the tractors credit for enhancing his operation with reliable performance despite rough roads and a demanding work schedule.
This year, he has ordered 15 new Mack Granites from Cambria Mack Distributors, specifying Mack 427-horsepower engines and nine-speed Eaton Fuller transmissions. Blackmer product pumps are mounted on the tractors.
“Mack offers excellent customer service,” he says. “I like the electronics on the trucks. We're able to see key performance information like trip summaries, maintenance data, engine duty cycles, and driver stop and go activities.”
In addition, the carrier is cooperating with Mack in a trial run of one of the manufacturer's new Pinnacle highway models, specifically a day cab, equipped with the company's recently-introduced MP Engine Series designed to meet 2007 emission regulations. The Pinnacle that Prospect is evaluating features the Mack MP7-395C MaxiCruise engine, Mack PowerLeash engine brake, and Mack T-306G six-speed transmission.
Eichholz, pleased with performance, says the engine is less complex than others he has run in the fleet, and gets about 1.2 miles per gallon better fuel efficiency.
Tank trailers in the fleet are typically supplied by Heil Trailer International and LBT Inc. Four-compartment tank trailers used for gasoline, fuel oil, and diesel have 9,400-gallon capacity while those dedicated to jet fuel are single-compartment 8,400-gallon units.
Newest Heil DOT406 low profile tank trailers are provided by Garafano Tank Service and are equipped with Civacon vapor collection vents, emergency and discharge valves, and overfill detection systems. A Scully truck identification computer chip also is installed as part of the electronic system to permit loading after the driver has been authorized. Other components include Tiona-Betts domelids and Truck-Lite LED lighting and wiring. Running gear includes Hendrickson Intraax suspensions and axles, MeritorWABCO antilocking brake system, and Binkley landing gear. Michelin supplies 11R22.5 radial tires.
Newest LBT 9,200-gallon four-compartment tank trailers are supplied by Paragon Trailer Center LLC. DOT406 trailers are equipped with Betts domelids and vents, Truck-Lite lighting systems, Civacon emergency relief valves, and Emco Wheaton API adapters and outlet fittings. Knappco supplies an air-operated manifold to control the valves and brake interlock. Emco Wheaton supplies an emergency shutdown system. Scully Signal Co provides IntelliCheck II overfill systems.
Running gear includes Hendrickson Intraax suspensions and axles, MeritorWABCO antilock braking systems, and Haldex automatic slack adjusters. Trailers have Walther EMC hubs and Bridgestone 11R22.5 tires. Binkley furnishes landing gear. The carrier specifies Kuriyama product hoses.
Eichholz insists on keeping equipment pristine with exterior cleaning. Tractors and trailers are washed every three days, and more often if necessary, with a Power America system that includes detergent dispensing and a hand-held spray wand.
For a quick wash, the carrier installed an over-head spray at the wash bay entry door that can be used to dispense soap as vehicles are driven in. A follow up rinse with the wand soon has them back on the road.
Each time vehicles are washed, they receive a 10-point check, including brakes, lighting, hoses, and fittings.
“In addition to keeping them clean, we have found that when the men are washing vehicles, they often spot problems that can be addressed immediately so that there isn't a breakdown on the road,” Eichholz adds.
Preventive maintenance is conducted at 10,000 miles and again at 20,000 miles.
The Transman fleet management system from TMTSoftware Company runs preventive maintenance schedules, parts inventory, and fuel and tire usage.
Maintenance work orders are entered into the data base and updated when work is completed. Scanners are used to enter parts identification numbers for the $700,000 inventory.
The two-bay shop in Carlstadt (in addition to the wash bay) handles almost all of vehicle maintenance and repairs. Eichholz's son, Charles H Eichholz, is a trained mechanic and oversees the maintenance department.
Charles H, and his sister, Melissa Eichholz, are the fourth generation to be involved in the trucking company. Their mother, Patricia, also participates in administrative duties, and Derick, the youngest sibling, is in high school.
Charles F Eichholz, the company's founder, started hauling fuel oil in 1941, followed by his son, Charles J Eichholz, who started Prospect Transportation after the end of World War II. Other petroleum products soon were added to the services.
In 1986, the current owner took over from his father. At that time, there were seven trucks in the fleet and 15 drivers. The New Jersey petroleum market grew and the carrier grew along with it, culminating in today's fleet of 60 tractors and 80 tank trailers.
Eichholz says he expects the company to continue to grow over the next few years at a rate of 8% to 10%, if the market remains viable and driver recruitment and retention are stable.
With those factors in place, Prospect Transportation, with its technology online and equipment up to date, will be ready to meet the projections and continue to serve its customers with an efficient operation.