Renn Transportation Inc Gilroy CA runs some of the most productive lube trailers in the industry Some of the newest tank trailers in the fleet can carry upwards of 8800 gallons compared to an industry average of 6500 gallons

Renn Transportation lauded as top Chevron lubricants hauler for five straight years

Sept. 6, 2016
Find Chevron's Carrier of the Year, Renn Transportation, based in California.

FOR THE fifth straight year, Renn Transportation Inc was recognized as Chevron’s top lubricants hauler. For performance in 2015, the tank truck carrier was named Chevron Lubricants’ Carrier of the Year and was lauded for outstanding safety performance and best customer service.

Not surprisingly, the Gilroy, California-based carrier’s Chevron Lubricants business has been growing by about 25% a year. Renn Transportation also hauls lubricants for Conoco, BP Castrol, and private label suppliers. In addition, the carrier transports gasoline, diesel, biodiesel, kerosene, jet fuel, and ethanol.

“This has been a busy year for us, and we have seen growth of roughly 20% across the board,” says Rob Renn, vice-president of Renn Transportation. “Lube hauling has been a great fit for us, and we have a fantastic relationship with Chevron. We’ve also continued to expand our refined fuels operation.

“We knew this was going to be a busy year, we just didn’t know how busy. Our business has grown enough that we are planning to add a few more trucks before the end of this year. Everyone at this company has worked hard to make this growth happen.”

Operating range

Renn Transportation serves its bulk customers with a fleet that includes 45 trucks and tractors and 42 petroleum tanks—15 of which are dedicated to lubricants. With terminals located throughout Northern California and Northern Nevada Renn Transportation is well positioned to serve regional customer needs. At the same time, the tank truck carrier has the capability to deliver throughout the United States and most of Canada.

“Our fuels hauling is concentrated in California and northern Nevada,” Renn says. “Our lubricant transports run all over the United States and as far east as Ontario province in Canada. Our 15 lube transports hauled 998 loads just for Chevron in 2015. The average lube haul was 504 miles.”

The family-owned company has more than 60 years in petroleum distribution and hauling. Renn’s grandfather started a local petroleum distributorship in Saratoga, California, in 1955. He initially sold products Seaside Oil products, followed  by Shell Oil products. The company always had at least a couple of tankwagons, but the first petroleum transports weren’t added until 1975. 

In 1988, the company expanded south to Gilroy after buying out another local marketer, and the company began to grow at a faster rate. In short order, the company began serving customers in nearby Hollister, Watsonville, and Greenfield. Operations also expanded north into the Sierra Mountains.

Transport focus

By the late 1990s, the company was winding down the petroleum marketer operations to focus on for-hire carriage of refined petroleum under the Renn Transportation name. The last of the marketer operations were sold off in early 2005.

On the transportation side, the carrier expanded into Reno, Nevada. They carrier also made a brief foray into flatbed hauling. “It didn’t take long for us to realize we needed to focus most of our attention on the petroleum hauling,” Renn said. “We got rid of the flatbeds about five years after we started running them, but today we do have a significant specialized heavy-haul operation consisting of eight trucks and 16 trailers.”

At the time, Renn Transportation was running about 35 petroleum truck-and-trailer and transport units. It was serving all of the major oil companies on the West Coast, hauling primarily refined fuels and a small amount of lubricants.

That all changed in 2008, when Renn Transportation entered into the transportation bid process for Chevron Lubricants, one of the largest base oil producers in the world. “Until then, we had been doing fill-in work for Chevron,” Renn says.

Renn Transportation was successful with that bid, and the success has continued. The carrier has performed in a winning manner with regard to on-time pickup and delivery and safe performance.

“We have a group of drivers who enjoy the lubricants hauling, and we have low turnover as a result,” Renn says. “That has helped us ensure a high level of service. It also helps that we run some of the most productive fleet equipment available.”

Experienced drivers

Many of the lube transport drivers started on the fuel hauling side. New hires must have at least two years of truck driving experience, and most have more than that. Applicants need hazardous materials and tank endorsements and a Transportation Worker Identification Credential (TWIC), and a clean driving record.

Renn Transportation will hire some fuel fleet drivers as young as 23. However, the average age of the lube fleet drivers is mid-50s.

All drivers are paid by the hour at Renn Transportation. “We believe a driver should be paid for the time he works regardless of delays,” Renn says. “We keep our fleet as busy as possible, and that includes finding lube fleet backhauls whenever we can. It helps that Chevron has lube plants across the United States. We also pick up product from other customer plants.”

Fleet operations are managed by the central dispatch in Gilroy. “We have our own computerized dispatch system that was developed in-house about 15 years ago,” Renn says. “We’re small enough that we don’t need a big fancy system.”

Dispatch instructions are transmitted to on-board tablets in the trucks. The carrier has been running electronic driver logs for about eight years and recently began transitioning to the Telogis product. The Telogis system works through an Apple iPad tablet in the truck cab.

“This is a great technology improvement for us,” Renn says. “The Telogis system is the next step in technology, and brings some significant improvements for us.”

Truck fleet

In addition to the latest technologies and enhancements, the carrier runs late model trucks and tractors with weight-saving specifications that help ensure the most payload possible for customers.

Renn Transportation uses tractor-trailer rigs to haul lubricants. For refined fuels, the carrier still runs truck-and-trailer combinations but is adding more tractor/semi-trailer units.

For tractors, the carrier runs Peterbilt 389 longnose conventionals and Kenworth T660s with a sloping hood. All of the local trucks-and-trailer units are Pete 389s. The carrier runs a mix of sleeper and daycab units.

The newest tractors were specified with PACCAR MX13 engines rated at 455 horsepower. Vehicles in local service are spec’d with Eaton Fuller 10-speed manual transmissions, while those in longhaul service have 13-speed gearboxes.

Most of the trucks in the fleet have product-handling equipment that includes Blackmer pumps and Safety Pumping Systems four-way valve for more precise control of pump operations. Renn Transportation mechanics fit up the control system and piping in the company shops.

Tractors are specified with SAF Holland fifthwheels. Running gear includes tandem drive axles, Bendix roll stability, and aluminum disc wheels with low-profile Bridgestone and Continental tires.

Lube trailers

Wherever possible, Renn Transportation has squeezed pounds from the tractors used for lube hauler. The carrier has been even more aggressive with the lube trailers. Lower tare weight means more payload. It is as simple as that.

Two of the newest lube trailers in the fleet were built by Polar Tank Trailer and have an 8,800-gallon capacity. The four-compartment, insulated and jacketed, aluminum trailers were built to DOT406 code. They were set up with vapor recovery, in-transit heat, and bottom-loading systems.

Polar built two more of the tank trailers, but with a 7,900-gallon capacity. “We reduced the capacity because we wanted a lower overall height for better stability,” Renn says.

The carrier also runs standard DOT406 uninsulated four-compartment petroleum-type trailers with the ability to legally haul 7,000 gallons of bulk lubricants. “These trailers give us the ability to deliver more lubricants than our competitors,” Renn says. “The industry average load is 6,500 gallons.”

For refined fuel deliveries in California, the carrier runs 9,800-gallon, four-compartment petroleum trailers supplied by Polar and Wabash-Beall. In Nevada, the carrier runs larger tank trailers that can carry up to 13,200 gallons of gasoline and 11,500 gallons of diesel.

Tank hardware includes Betts valves and vents and Civacon and Dixon-Bayco APIs and overfill protection. Hendrickson Intraax air suspension and axle systems have been specified on all tank trailers in the fleet, including pull trailers, since 1997. All new semi-trailers purchased over the past four years have been specified with tandem axles that include a lifting axle for lower rolling resistance when trailers are empty.

To keep the fleet in top running order, maintenance shops in Gilroy and Sacramento handle all of the preventive maintenance, brake work, tire repairs, and cargo tank testing and inspections.

To the best of their ability, the Renn Transportation team tries to deliver outstanding service to their customers every day, with every load. Clearly, that has been a winning strategy. ♦

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.