THIS has been a great year to be a chemical hauler on the US Gulf Coast. For instance, Sprint Transport LLC has been running flat out to provide chemical shippers with award-winning service.
Pasadena, Texas-based Sprint Transport recently was recognized for outstanding logistics performance in North America by BASF, which was one of the carrier’s first chemical shipper customers. Sprint Transport was honored, in part, for handling more than 600 shipments that had not been assigned for transport.
“We do everything we can to provide our chemical shipper customers with the best possible service,” says Josh Noworatzky, president of Sprint Transport. “We provide high-performance, time-sensitive services that keep customer operations running at peak performance levels.
“Our biggest challenge right now is keeping up with customer demand. Plant expansions launched by the oil and gas shale boom have come on-line, and it has become the perfect storm. We’re seeing more capital spending on new production facilities. This is a crazy time, but it’s a great time to be a young chemical hauler that wants to grow.”
Established in 2010, Sprint Transport has grown into a $26.6 million tank truck carrier. While the focus is on the Gulf Coast, the company provides service across the United States with a fleet that includes 100 tractors and more than 400 tank trailers.
About 18 months ago, Sprint Transport bought a 10-acre facility with offices and a maintenance shop in Pasadena that now serves as the headquarters terminal. The carrier also has terminals in Nederland, Texas, and Saint Gabriel, Louisiana. A fourth terminal is under development in Freeport, Texas.
TMW Suite software is used for fleet management, including dispatch. “Each terminal has its own dispatchers,” Noworatzky says. “It’s part of our culture, because we want dispatchers local dispatchers to know the drivers operating out each terminal. We want them to build personal relationships. We also want dispatchers to know our customers and have a passion for the needs of those customers.”
Sprint Transport operates as an independent business within The Sprint Companies. In business for more than 30 years and employing over 500 personnel, The Sprint Companies own, operate, and invest in a variety of basic and niche businesses throughout the Houston area. While each company operates independently, every effort is made to cross-sell services where it makes sense.
“We’ve built about 30 businesses over the years, all of them service businesses where we can differentiate ourselves from the competition by working harder,” says Joe Swinbank, a co-founder of The Sprint Companies. We’ve concentrated our efforts on waste handling, trucking, and construction materials. “We promise our customers on-time pick-up and delivery, and we carry through on that promise. We also have become very adept at developing services that solve problems for our customers.
“The company grew where it made strong business sense, expanding into complementary markets and adding services that benefited core customers. The Gulf Coast’s oil and gas sector was a natural fit, and by adding the ability to collect and dispose of oilfield waste and refining and petrochemical by-products, we were able to partner with the world’s largest energy companies to manage their entire waste stream.”
Sprint Transport often works in close proximity to Sprint Waste Services, a sister company that offers a wide range of services in refineries, chemical plants, and storage terminals along the Gulf Coast. Sprint Transport provides hazardous and non-hazardous product hauling and tank trailer rentals, while Sprint Waste Services offerings include vacuum trucks and trailers for liquid wastes, roll-off containers, sludge and residuals containment and removal, refuse hauling, real-time tracking and reporting capabilities, and managed services including onsite staffing.
Chemicals transported by Spring Transport include sodium and potassium hydroxide, glycols, methanol, water treatment chemicals, sulfuric acid, phosphoric acid, solvents, naphthalene, and isopropyl alcohol.
“We have seven transports hauling molten sulfur, and we also transport some crude oil,” Noworatzky says. “We haul the products that our customers need transported. We have good relationships with our customers. We always ask what we can do to serve them better.
“Discussions with our customers have given us the opportunity to develop new products and services. We began running specialized equipment, such as high-heat tanks, after some of those discussions. In other cases, we have purchased extra equipment in anticipation of increased output of a chemical product.
“Some of our customers have said they need more storage capacity for certain chemical products. As a result, we are renting more tank trailers to the plants for short-term storage. We have roughly 200 tank trailers rented out right now.”
A good thing about the rental arrangement is that Sprint Transport usually hauls the load to the delivery destination. Chemical shipments handled by Sprint Transport go all over the United States.
“We go coast-to-coast, but all of our trips are out and back,” Noworatzky says. “Drivers will spend two to three nights on the road before returning home. Shipments to Oregon are the exception. Those round-trips take eight days.”
To meet the rental demand, as well as its own growth needs, the tank truck carrier is buying 60 new chemical tank trailers each years. In addition, the company is buying 12 to 14 new tractors annually—all for expansion.
The newest chemical tanks are from Bulk by Wabash National, but the carrier also runs tank trailers built by Brenner and Polar Corporation. The insulated, straight-bore DOT407 tanks are constructed of 2205 lean duplex steel are rated for temperatures up to 400°F.
“We’ve been buying tanks made of lean duplex for four years and now have 200 of them in our fleet,” Noworatzky says. “We can haul just about any chemical product in these trailers, including molten wax. They work well for some corrosive products that would normally require a DOT412.”
The 7,000-gallon tanks have a 1/8-inch shell with a 50,000-psi tensile strength. The corrosion allowance is almost double that of 316 stainless steel.
The trailers are configured for center and rear unloading and have ground-level vapor recovery. Tank hardware includes Betts valves and domelid, Garnet digital level gauges, and Girard pressure- and vacuum-relief vents.
Running gear includes Hendrickson Intraax axle/air suspension systems, and the axles are spec’d with Hendrickson’s HLX7 pressure-sealed greased hubs. Trailers also have Bendix roll stability and air disc brakes. Tires are from Continental, Goodyear, and Michelin.
The newest company tractors are Kenworth T680s with 76-inch sleepers and Freightliner Cascadia daycabs. The T680s have Cummins X15 engines rated at 450 horsepower, and the Cascadia’s come with the Detroit DD15 engine. All of the tractors have Eaton 10-speed manual transmissions.
“For company trucks, we’re about 50/50 for daycabs and sleepers,” Noworatzky says. “We’ve stayed with manual transmissions because they are easier to maintain.”
Tractors have Omnitracs on-board computers, which have been used for electronic driver logs for the past eight years. All tractors have the Bendix Wingman safety technology package.
Paragon’s HydraAir hydraulic drive/product compressor is paired with a Roper reversible product pump. The modular system includes a back-of-cab platform and hose rack. Other tractor equipment includes LED headlights, SAF Holland steel fifthwheel, and Merritt toolbox.
The equipment is spec’d for professional truck drivers. Sprint Transport requires at least two years of chemical tank experience. “This isn’t a job for beginners,” Noworatzky says.
Applicants need a clean driving record and a good CSA (Compliance, Safety, Accountability program) score. They also must pass a road test.
A week of orientation training at the terminal includes computer-based instruction. Sprint Transport worked with the Houston Area Safety Council to develop Sprint-specific in compliance with chemical company safety requirements.
A day of hands-on training at the terminal covers product pump and compressor operation. New hires also spend three days on the job with a driver trainer. Pre-trip and post-trip inspections get a lot of attention.
Drivers learn from the very start that they are a critical part of the fleet maintenance program. Sprint Transport managers stress the importance of thorough pre-trip and post-trip inspections.
Each terminal in the Sprint Transport system has a maintenance shop. Preventive maintenance is the primary focus for tractors. Warranty work is sent to the truck is sent out.
Shop mechanics perform thorough 90-day inspections on every tractor and trailer. Mechanics also handle tank trailer inspections and tests, including hydrostatic pressure tests. Any code tank work is contracted out.
“From hiring superior drivers to running a well-maintained, state-of-the-art fleet, we do all we can to ensure the best possible service for our customers,” Noworatzky says.