TransChem USA steadily expanding across southern United States

Feb. 27, 2020
Chemical carrier currently operates 45 tractors, 70 tank trailers out of terminals in Baytown, Texas; Baton Rouge, Louisiana; and Richburg, South Carolina

TransChem USA LLC continues to grow steadily as a chemical hauler with operations concentrated across the southern United States. The management team sees a good year ahead for the five-year-old tank truck carrier.

Established in 2015, the chemical carrier currently operates 45 tractors and 70 tank trailers out of terminals in Baytown, Texas; Baton Rouge, Louisiana; and Richburg, South Carolina (near Charlotte, North Carolina). The Baytown terminal on the east side of Houston is home base for the operation.

“While TransChem USA is a young operation, our goal is to be the best chemical hauler in the business,” says Andrew Petrofsky, TransChem USA vice-president & general manager. “This means we want to be the best carrier for our customers, the best company for our drivers, and the best representative for the motor carrier industry.

“Quality employees, safe drivers, and industry experience allow us to deliver chemical cargoes in a safe and environmentally conscience way. TransChem USA is equipped and prepared to meet customers’ demanding and changing technology requirements using state-of-the-art dispatch systems and on-board computers. We have all company drivers and we run late-model tractors.

“We pay close attention to customer safety requirements, and we meet or exceed their expectations. We provide efficient service with some of the safest drivers in the industry.”

Major plus

Having shared ownership with dry bulk hauler J&M Tank Lines has been a major plus for TransChem USA. “We’re able to leverage J&M Tank Lines’ 70-year heritage in the tank truck industry,” Petrofsky says. “We also share some fleet services, including central dispatch and safety.”

The operation that became TransChem started out in 2015 hauling latex and other non-hazardous liquid cargoes from the Richburg terminal. However, it wasn’t long before the ownership decided to spin off the tank truck activity as a separate company.

“Moving into hazmat was a given because that is where the better rates are for liquid cargoes,” Petrofsky says. “However, the owners did not want to haul hazardous materials under the J&M Tank Lines name. Forming TransChem was the right move, and the operation is thriving. We’ve expanded our chemical customer base significantly.”

The transition to chemicals prompted the decision to establish the Baytown terminal in 2016, which initially was a drop yard off Interstate 10. In 2018, TransChem moved into the current leased Baytown facility, which includes offices and a maintenance shop. Most of the TransChem management staff is now based in the Baytown office.

Last year, TransChem established the terminal in Baton Rouge. “Our goal going forward is to fill in with other facilities as needed between South Carolina and the Houston, Texas area,” Petrofsky says. “We’re calling it our power alley.”

Wide range

As a general chemical hauler, TransChem provides transport service ranging from local hauls to longhaul. On the longer trips, drivers spend five to eight days at a time on the road. “We try to get them home for their hours-of-service reset,” Petrofsky says.

From the Baytown and Baton Rouge terminals in particular, the fleet serves customers across the East Coast, West Coast, and Midwest. About a load a week of drilling chemicals goes to oilfield customers.

As the fleet expands slowly to meet customer demand, management is finding the needed drivers. “The driver supply is reasonably good right now,” says Doug Brill, TransChem driver development manager. “We’re also seeing better driver retention, in part because overall fleet capacity is shrinking in the industry. We offer drivers a good work environment with a small-company feel, as well as a benefit package that is in line with our larger sister company.”

He adds that TransChem specifically wants experienced drivers. “We want at least two years of truck driving experience, and at least six months should be hauling liquids. Our drivers must be at least 25 years old, and most of our new hires have been 40 and up. We look for a stable work history. We try to avoid drivers who job hop.”

Driver orientation

Initial orientation and classroom training for new hires is done at the Baytown terminal. Drivers assigned to the Baytown and Baton Rouge terminals receive hands-on equipment training in Baytown, while those assigned to the South Carolina facility receive their equipment training at that location.

The new-hire orientation runs Monday through Wednesday, and includes a road test on Monday. Hands-on equipment training is scheduled for Thursday, with addition training on Friday as needed.

Prior to the new-hire orientation, drivers begin a seven-hour Infinity Training online course that covers a range of topics, including hazardous-materials handling and regulations, driving habits, and human-trafficking awareness. Each video segment lasts three to nine minutes, followed by a short quiz. Drivers must answer all the questions correctly before moving to the next video.

The Infinity Training program also is used when remedial instruction is needed. The Infinity Training system also is used as a replacement for quarterly safety meetings. Safety meeting attendance is mandatory at TransChem.

Fleet equipment

Equipment training covers both tractors and trailers. Over the last two years, the carrier has purchased Kenworth T680s with flat-roof sleepers. The powertrain includes the Cummins X15 engine rated at 450 horsepower, Eaton 10-speed AutoShift transmission, and tandem drive axles.

Safety technology includes the Bendix Wingman Fusion package with collision avoidance and outward-facing video cameras. The tractors are set for 65 miles per hour.

PeopleNet on-board computers record hours of service and connect drivers to the central dispatch at the J&M Tank Lines headquarters in Birmingham, Alabama.

Tractor-mounted product handling equipment includes Paragon’s HydraChem pump and compressor unit. Paragon and Pelican supply the product hoses carried in a Merritt hose rack mounted behind the cab.

“In our operation, we use the compressor more than the product pump,” says Rodney Schexnayder, TransChem’s Texas director of maintenance. “Additionally, customers handle 80% of the loading and 60% of the offloading.”

TransChem’s DOT407 chemical trailers are from Bulk, Heil Trailer, and Polar Tank Trailer. The double-conical 7,000-gallon trailers are insulated and jacketed. Tank hardware includes Betts valves and Girard pressure- and vacuum-relief vents. Upwards of 40% of the fleet has ground-level vapor recovery.

Newer tank trailers in the fleet were specified with Hendrickson Intraax air suspension systems. Running gear includes aluminum wheels and Bridgestone tires.

Maintenance program

Most of TransChem’s routine fleet maintenance is handled at the shop in Baytown. Tractors get an “A” service every 15,000 miles and this consists of an inspection and lube. A “B” inspection at 30,000 miles includes an oil and filter change and a full DOT annual inspection.

The tank trailer maintenance schedule includes valve and vent pressure tests every 90 days and an annual test of the lights and wiring.

A daily report is sent to the central dispatch listing preventive maintenance tests and inspections that are coming due. “We plan our tests and inspections well ahead of the deadlines,” Schexnayder says.

The TransChem team has worked hard to build a quality operation that can grow steadily to meet changing customer needs. “We are committed to delivering excellence and quality with every load we haul,” Petrofsky says. “We want to be the best chemical hauler.”

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.