Dupré Logistics

April 21, 2010
Dupré Logistics LLC can be described in many ways: Dedicated logistics provider, third party logistics manager, fuel distribution specialist

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DUPRE Logistics LLC can be described in many ways: Dedicated logistics provider, third party logistics manager, fuel distribution specialist. What the firm is not is a traditional trucking company even though it operates hundreds of tractor-trailer rigs.

Managers of the Lafayette, Louisiana-based logistics specialist say they have developed a different operating model, one that enables their company to build customized transportation and distribution services for a wide array of shipper customers. This operating model gives Dupré Logistics tremendous flexibility in responding to changes in customer distribution requirements.

“Our services can evolve with our customers, and that is one reason our future looks very bright,” says Tom Voelkel, Dupré Logistics president and chief operating officer. “We have become a diversified third-party logistics provider. Dupré Logistics is not a trucking company and hasn't been for a long time. We are a company that has trucks, and we always will have trucks.

“We believe that the diversified nature of our operation was instrumental in helping us weather the severe recession of the past two years. Our economist tells us that it might take five to seven years for the US economy to get back to where it was in 2007.

“However, we have no doubt that this company will be better than it was at the start of the recession. We are on a growth course, and we believe we have a lot of good things working for us. Our goal is to double the size of our overall operation in three years.”

Three decades

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Reggie Dupré, Dupré Logistics chief executive officer, adds that the most recent recession was just one of many challenges faced by the company during its three decades of operation. Dupré Logistics celebrated its 30th anniversary on March 20.

“We have much to be thankful for and much to celebrate here at Dupré Logistics,” Dupré says. Many organizations never have the opportunity to celebrate 30 years in business. This milestone puts Dupré Logistics in a select small group of companies. It is who we are, what we're made of, and why we are so optimistic about the future.”

The company started in 1980 as a family-owned gasoline hauler with 10 employees. Chemical hauling was added in 1985, and the young company acquired a dry freight carrier in 1986. From there, Dupré Logistics evolved into a diversified logistics service which today has more than 1,000 team members across 67 locations nationwide.

Today, the company operates more than 1,200 pieces of transportation and material handling equipment managed with sophisticated technology. Dupré's services are used by more than 200 companies throughout the United States and parts of Canada and Mexico.

“Buying a freight carrier in 1986 changed our viewpoint of this business,” Dupré says. “We met a more diverse group of customers, and we discovered how important technology was to them. We began to see logistics as a strategic, rather than tactical, concept. As we came to that understanding, we developed the operating model that we are using today.

“We look for customers that share our logistics partnership mindset. We do our best to stay away from trends and fads, because those business approaches often result in lower revenues and lower returns. We do our best to monetize our technology while creating value for our customers. We're making progress, but we're still learning. We're constantly improving our operating model.”

Diverse model

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Dupré Logistics developed a diverse operating model that blends three distinctive segments of the transportation industry. The Site and Private Fleet Services business group provides dedicated logistics. The company's Strategic Capacity Services (SCS) business group provides clients with full-service third-party logistics (3PL) for hazardous and non-hazardous shipments. Finally, fuel hauling remains a cornerstone of the Dupré operation through the Energy Distribution Services business group.

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Of the three groups, Site and Private Fleet Services is growing fastest, according to Voelkel. This business group provides customers with captive- and private-fleet management and dedicated site operations. Chemicals account for 60% to 70% of the unit's activity, and it is steadily expanding operations across the country.

“Next year, this group will reach a revenue level equivalent to that of our fuel hauling operation,” Voelkel says. “Ultimately, we think Site and Private Fleet Services could be our largest business group.”

Site got its start in 1996 with two chemical companies in Louisiana. It now serves nearly 20 customers, and the management team for the division sees it as a strong growth vehicle for Dupré Logistics.

“Over the past couple of years, we've added some exciting new business, and we see more opportunities ahead,” says Doug Roberie, director of operations for the Site and Private Fleet Services business group. “We are problem solvers. We help our customers solve problems they don't necessarily know they have. Our solutions normally save our customers 10% to 20%. We can provide the dedicated resources that our customers need. We get very involved with our customers' businesses. We work very closely with them, and we build strong relationships.

“We look for business with high utilization opportunities. We like 24/7 operations. We're taking outsourcing to the next level. In addition to fleet services, we run loading racks for some of our customers. About 40% of our business calls for self loading.”

Michael J Matte, regional operations manager for the Site and Private Fleet Services division, adds that site logistics have taken Dupré Logistics to a new level. “We are no longer a 48-state common carrier,” he says. “We serve 48 states, but our trucks are all dedicated to specific customers.”

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He describes Dupré Logistics as a true pioneer in this type of business. “We don't see many other companies using our type of model to serve the chemical industry,” he says. “However, we're seeing more interest in this type of transportation service from the chemical companies, particularly as transportation capacity has shrunk. They want to focus on making and selling chemicals. Supply chain management is not part of their core business. Even chemical distributors are exiting the transportation side of the business. They recognize that they are not trucking companies, and many of them no longer want to deal with the liability, regulations, and complexity involved with transportation.”

Third-party logistics

As a 3PL, the SCS business group offers a broad range of logistics services that are complimentary to the Site Logistics and Private Fleet Services business group, and it covers all surface transportation modes, according to Kevin Smith, SCS director of logistics. SCS operates predominately in the United States, but service is available to customers throughout North America.

The SCS operation was launched in 1992 for dry van and refrigerated shipments. Liquid and dry bulk was added in 1998. Packaged freight accounted for about 53% of the business in 2009. Bulk shipments have grown to about 30%, and hazardous materials account for close to 60% of the shipments.

The SCS division can tap into all of the assets and resources of Dupré Logistics. SCS also works with approximately 200 additional carriers of all types. Customer freight is analyzed by size and transit needs to determine the proper mode. The SCS management team optimizes the transport provider selection process by sorting for service, price, and long-term reliability.

“We take total responsibility for the shipments tendered to us,” Smith says. “We provide our 3PL customers with a dedicated team of industry professionals to service their needs 24/7, and we handle the full supply chain for them, including reverse logistics.

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“We use the capacity of other carriers to handle our customers' spikes in business levels, campaign work, and emergencies. Our thorough carrier safety approval process (handled by the Dupré Logistics safety department) and regular audits ensure that our carriers remain compliant to our customers' customized key performance indicators. Our monthly, quarterly, and annual metrics are customized to customer needs and provide the data needed to analyze all facets of their transportation network.”

Until recently, the SCS operations were managed from the Dupré Logistics headquarters in Lafayette. However, SCS opened a second office in Colorado Springs, Colorado, in March. That office will be used to build a stronger presence in the Rocky Mountain region and beyond.

“Our team is thrilled with the expansion into Colorado,” says Jeff Colonna, SCS corporate director of operations. “This strategic expansion will help us build density throughout the West and will give us the opportunity to continue building the SCS group.”

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Finally, the fuel hauling operation that gave Dupré Logistics its start has evolved into the Energy Distribution Services (EDS) division. It still accounts for the highest percentage of the company's revenue and it employs the most drivers (365 of them operating 140 transports).

“Fuel transportation remains an important core element at Dupré Logistics,” says Jim Butler, operations director for the Energy Distribution Services division. “We manage the inventories of thousands of retail and fleet fueling stations and are equipped to offer dedicated fleets. Energy Distribution Services has achieved 99.7% error-free service over the past five years.

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“We create value for our customers with a stable, talented, flexible workforce. We have SWAT teams that we can move around our system to launch service for a new customer or expansion into a new area. With six drivers for every two tractors, we can keep our fleet running around the clock seven days a week. We get maximum productivity out of every vehicle.”

The petroleum business has transports based at 15 terminals. Operations extend north to Nashville, Tennessee; east to Birmingham, Alabama; and west to Dallas and San Antonio, Texas.

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“We've branched out and expanded to meet customer demand,” says Jeff Leblanc, western region manager for EDS. “We're planning further expansion in all directions, especially in large markets. We want to leverage our position with national accounts. We want to expand at the right pace and make sure we can maintain service levels.”

Recent expansion included opening a terminal in Birmingham, Alabama, in 2009. “This was an exciting move for us, because we see good growth opportunities in our eastern region,” Butler says. “We're also growing to the west. We've increased the number of professional drivers on staff in San Antonio (Texas) and we've expanded operations in the Dallas/Fort Worth (Texas) area by partnering with Classic Star Group Inc, a wholesale-retail fuel dealer.”

Information technology

Along with the other divisions, EDS benefits from a diverse and sophisticated in-house information technology (IT) capability. Dupré Logistics software that was developed in-house, as well as third-party products, enables the company to manage and track any logistics service a customer might require.

“We employ technology as a strategic weapon in the marketplace,” Dupré says in a company marketing brochure. “It's how we give our customers a strong competitive advantage.”

Technology tools include an IBM hardware platform, and Dupré Logistics has developed multiple redundancies to ensure that the system remains operational under virtually any situation. Backup servers are available at multiple locations.

“As part of our disaster preparedness plan, we have data backup locally and in Atlanta (Georgia), says Stuart P Suffern, Dupré Logistics director of information systems. “We have clustered, redundant network systems that are designed to ensure business continuity. Located along the Gulf Coast, we learned a long time ago that it was critical to prepare well in advance for emergencies, such as hurricanes and tornados.”

Core software

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The fleet management software used across the Dupré Logistics operation is built around TMW's TL2000 application. “It has been heavily customized by our own technicians to fit the needs of our various operations,” says Stuart P Suffern, Dupré Logistics director of information systems. “We've written a lot of custom dispatch software to handle the emerging needs of our operations.”

Six developers are on the IT staff to build applications tailored to specific customers. Products include customized web portals that collect and share relevant data about client schedules, assets, tanks, and inventories in real time. Dupré Logistics is able to post delivery verification and provide instant access to load history.

Business-to-business connectivity software allows Dupré Logistics to manage the integration and automation of business processes with key suppliers, partners, and customers via the Internet. While numerous customized applications have been developed in-house, the IT department also manages third-party products, such as the TMT fleet maintenance software.

All Dupré Logistics tractors are outfitted with Qualcomm on-board tracking and communications systems. The equipment enables better driver management and greater operational flexibility. Clients can receive timely updates on shipment status and immediate delivery verification.

Using the Qualcomm system, Dupré Logistics made a full transition to electronic driver logs in 2007. The move was a complete success, and the company gained increased productivity and driver safety. Drivers say electronic logs are easier and more user-friendly.

Driver training

Electronic driver logs get plenty of attention in the new driver orientation program that is conducted at the Lafayette headquarters. Newly hired drivers find out very quickly that computer technology will play a big role in just about everything they do at Dupré Logistics.

That message is delivered very firmly by Margaret Richard, who directs the orientation program. Even the training program is computer-based. Newly hired drivers spend a week at the orientation program, learning about the Dupré culture and safety expectations.

During the orientation, drivers learn about the company's predictive analytics modeling program that is a key component in the safety program. Developed by Fleet Risk Advisors, the program includes data collection and interpretation tools that enable the safety department to forecast driver behavior, which helps prevent accidents. More than 400 metrics are tracked.

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“We measure virtually everything,” says Al LaCombe, certified director of safety at Dupré Logistics. “Primary components are fatigue management, driver performance, and data aggregation and analytics. We use a predictive model that scores drivers on their likelihood of having an accident or service failure.

“We focus a lot of attention on the big four accidents: rollovers, lane changes, rear end collisions, and intersection crashes. We're constantly refining and tweaking the process. We've made changes in our operating procedures, such as switching all of our drivers to hourly pay. We know the program is working, because over the last three years all accidents are down 23%, serious accidents fell 81%, and driver productivity increased 12%.”

Fatigue management

The fatigue management program was developed in partnership with Circadian Technologies and was launched in 2001. “We realize we can't eliminate all driver fatigue, but we can manage the risk,” LaCombe says. “We've changed driver schedules from top to bottom. We work with our drivers to promote healthy habits that can reduce fatigue.”

Dupré Logistics continues to upgrade its safety program. The newest enhancement is the GreenRoad technology. GreenRoad continuously measures and analyzes maneuvers that most impact safe driving, fuel efficiency, and vehicle emissions. Constant reinforcement in the form of a simple red-yellow-green in-cab display promote correct driving behavior. Fleet and safety managers can monitor driving performance via email and the GreenRoad web portal that provides individual trip details, risk analysis, and coaching to help drivers sustain improvement.

“We've put a lot of money into programs like GreenRoad,” LaCombe says. “We believe GreenRoad will pay for itself when we get a 2.0% fuel mileage improvement. Beyond that, we are very confident that the program will help prevent accidents by helping drivers change their behavior.”

Fleet program

Safe and efficient vehicles are just as important as safe and efficient drivers. A SmartWay Transport partner with the Environmental Protection Agency since 2006, Dupré Logistics announced in late 2009 that it was adding the latest generation of SmartWay spec'd tractors to its fleet, and will have the latest aerodynamic treatments, engine technology, tires management, and idle control.

“We'll buy approximately 50 new replacement tractors this year,” says Stephen Choate, Dupré Logistics director of maintenance and fleet assets. “Those tractors will meet the SmartWay spec. We bought 70 new tractors over the past year, and we plan to stay on our regular replacement schedule. We also expect additional growth through fleet expansion.”

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The newest tractors are Freightliner Cascadias with Detroit Diesel DD13 engines in daycabs and DD15 engines in sleeper units. Both engines are rated for 450 horsepower. The powertrain includes Eaton Fuller 10-speed transmissions and Meritor and Alliance tandem-drive axles.

“The new engines, with all of the emission control technology, bring a 700-pound increase,” Choate says. “We're trying to avoid increased tare weight by pulling weight out of other components, and we believe we'll just about break even with our new specifications.

“In addition, we're switching from automated to manual transmissions. We believe the manual transmission will be a better fit for our operation. We had seen higher operating and maintenance costs with the automated transmissions. We believe we will have less downtime with the manual gearboxes.”

The fleet runs a mix of widebase and dual tires tractor drive and trailer positions. Widebase tires perform well in petroleum and over-the-road operations. Duals are best for severe-service applications.

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About 500 tractors and trailers in the fleet have been fitted with the Stemco Air Bat tire-pressure monitor. “We believe the Air Bat will help us avoid run-flats and save some widebase tires,” Choate says. “A warning light flashes on the tractor dash when tire pressure drops below 95 psi.”

Trailer diversity

The company runs a diverse trailer fleet. More than 150 are petroleum units, all of them built by Heil Trailer International. The carrier runs 9,200-gallon units across the system, and 10,200-gallon petroleum trailers are specified for Louisiana.

The company has standardized on Civacon hardware for the trailers. Also standard are aluminum side guards. Newer trailers have lifting rear axle for more fuel-efficient operation when the cargo tank is empty.

Brenner Trailer LLC supplies the 5,000- and 7,000-gallon stainless steel chemical trailers in the fleet. The carrier specifies straight-barrel and double-conical units, most of them insulated. Hardware includes Betts outlets and Girard and Fort Vale vents.

Five maintenance shops spread between New Orleans, Louisiana, and Houston, Texas, keep the fleet in top running order. “Our maintenance operation focuses primarily on preventive and routine service for our tractors,” says Chester Pommier, area maintenance manager for Dupré Logistics. “We haven't overhauled an engine in more than 10 years.”

On the trailer side, the shops handle virtually all of the tank testing and inspections for the fleet. Code vessel repairs are made at the Duson, Louisiana, shop that has an “R” stamp and two qualified welders. Dupré Logistics has handled tank repairs in-house since the 1990s.

Clearly, Dupré Logistics' management team believes it has the pieces in place to achieve long-term success with its unique transportation and logistics model. Management has absolutely no doubt that the company will double in size over the next three years. ♦

About the Author

Charles Wilson

Charles E. Wilson has spent 20 years covering the tank truck, tank container, and storage terminal industries throughout North, South, and Central America. He has been editor of Bulk Transporter since 1989. Prior to that, Wilson was managing editor of Bulk Transporter and Refrigerated Transporter and associate editor of Trailer/Body Builders. Before joining the three publications in Houston TX, he wrote for various food industry trade publications in other parts of the country. Wilson has a bachelor's degree in journalism from the University of Kansas and served three years in the U.S. Army.