Highway Transport eyes Houston-area expansion

Feb. 21, 2024
Family-owned carrier plans to open seven-bay shop on a newly purchased property in La Porte, Texas, and expand its tank cleaning facility—sending a clear message to customers

HOUSTON—Highway Transport is on the road to an expanded presence in the country’s chemical capital.

The Tennessee-based tank truck carrier is planning to relocate its Houston-area shop to a seven-bay building on a recently purchased property nextdoor to its La Porte, Texas, terminal in a move that also will free up space to upgrade its tank cleaning facility.

Leaders hope to begin using the new 10,500-sq.-ft. building this summer.

“It will increase our workflow like the company’s never seen before—and I’m excited for it,” said Eddie Gutierrez, Highway Transport shop manager in Houston.

The repurposed maintenance and repair facility sits on 3.55 acres of land previously owned by WesMor Cryogenics, which manufactured cryogenic tanks. The building, which still features a 15-ton overhead crane from ProservCrane, already is gutted and ready for move in, as soon as Highway Transport receives final approval and permits. It will replace a three-bay shop on the carrier’s original property, allowing a terminal that dispatches 200 loads per week to turn trailers faster, said Doug Vineyard, managing director of equipment services.

“If you look at the size of our current facilities, these guys are turning equipment as fast as they can,” Vineyard said. “And if they have one glitch, it backs things up and kills service, so we have to retain more trucks and trailers.”

Highway Transport purchased the adjacent property in June 2023. It includes seven bays, with one reserved for parts storage, training, and offices. Gutierrez plans to dedicate two bays for truck work, one for “triaging” equipment on deadline, and three for trailer maintenance and repairs, including work previously outsourced to other shops. “We’ve never done thorough work on our tankers here,” he said. “The majority of the time we send them out to shops that are R-stamp certified or have more experience with skin work.

“So, my plan is to train our mechanics to do some of those jobs.”

Tank cleaning expansion

The carrier currently uses a five-bay facility for tank cleaning and maintenance, with two bays for cleaning and three for maintenance. It will begin converting the building into a 9,000-sq.-ft., five-bay wash rack after the new shop is operational, Vineyard said. He’s aiming for completion by the end of the year, allowing Highway Transport—which now turns 400 trailers per month at the facility—to handle more work in house.

“We still send out 30-40% of our cleans here,” Vineyard lamented. “And there’s a 2½-day turn on that equipment once you send it out, because it has to go over there, and then make its way back over here, and that also causes us to grow our trailer fleet because our customers are shipping products every day.”

The “state-of-the-art” facility, designed by A-One Chemicals & Equipment, will feature advanced automation and high-efficiency pumps, improving safety and sustainability, while also enabling Highway Transport to handle a wider variety of cleans, Vineyard added, including acrylates, acetones, and oils it previously avoided. “A lot of these tank washes were built for the business model of the moment, but we looked at this project totally different,” he said. “We’re building it to grow our business, not to support it.”

The carrier also plans to add a new flare system for air emissions, Vineyard added.

The expansion is part of the family-owned company’s plan to grow its Gulf Coast business—while sending a clear message to customers. “We’re here to stay,” Vineyard vowed. “There are a lot of rumors going around that we’ve been bought. Highway has not been bought. We’re still expanding and growing—and we’re growing in the Houston market.”

About the Author

Jason McDaniel

Jason McDaniel, based in the Houston TX area, has more than 20 years of experience as an award-winning journalist. He spent 15 writing and editing for daily newspapers, including the Houston Chronicle, and began covering the commercial vehicle industry in 2018. He was named editor of Bulk Transporter and Refrigerated Transporter magazines in July 2020.