TANK cleaning became a bigger part of the Heniff Transportation Systems LLC operation over the past year. However, that is just a part of the transformation that is turning the company into a much more substantial and diversified player in the tank truck sector.
In the past couple of years, Heniff Transportation bought up three other tank truck fleets and launched a tank container depot and drayage operation. All of these factors helped the Oak Brook, Illinois-based carrier grow by 20% in 2014, and management believes the company is on target for 25% growth this year.
“We want to be the best performing tank truck carrier in the Top 10,” says Robert J Heniff, founder of Heniff Transportation Systems. “We want to be the carrier of choice for customers and our drivers. “We want to grow, and we want to diversify as a liquid bulk chemical hauler.
“We provide our customers with end-to-end transportation solutions, including 24-hour terminal-based dispatch, ISO tank container transportation and storage, specialized compartmented trailers, and in-house maintenance facilities. Today, we’re running roughly 400 tractors and 800 trailers. We tie the entire operation together with some of the most sophisticated information technology in the industry.
“We have significantly expanded our tank cleaning capabilities. We increased our commercial tank cleaning activity when we acquired Complete Tank Wash in Joliet, Illinois, in 2014. In all, we now have three commercial wash racks in our system, and we plan to add two to three more in strategic locations over the next couple of years.”
Growth has come steadily for the company, which was established in 1998. Heniff was just 25 years old when he launched the operation with six chemical transports.
“We hauled our first load on August 17 of that year,” Heniff says. “The month and day are memorable, because that was the birth date of my grandfather and my first daughter.”
While young, Heniff was no novice to the business. He grew up in tank trucking. His grandfather was an oil jobber with a fuel-hauling fleet, and his father set up his own petroleum transport fleet in the early 1980s. That fleet totaled roughly 50 transports at its peak.
“I worked for my father three to four years and did everything from vehicle maintenance to tank cleaning, to dispatch, to safety management to sales,” Heniff says. “I had always wanted to run my own tank truck fleet. When I decided to start my own company, I was able to leverage a well-respected family name and the connections I had established in the tank truck industry.
“I decided to focus on chemical hauling because I saw good growth potential. In addition, I saw a different dynamic on the chemical transport side that included closer customer relations and a bigger focus on safety.”
Three years after starting Heniff Transportation, Heniff bought Frank J Sibr & Sons Inc in Alsip, Illinois. Almost overnight, Heniff Transportation Systems tripled in size. The Sibr terminal in Alsip gave Heniff Transportation its first wash rack.
“Buying Sibr was a big step for us,” Heniff says. “Perhaps most importantly, it helped us gain access to the major chemical companies. The Sibr deal gave us a foot in the door and a great opportunity to grow.
“It brought more equipment and a mix of owner-operators and company drivers. Also on the plus side, Sibr had a diverse customer base, but we had to hold at least 65% of the customers to make the deal work. We actually kept all of them, and we grew the business an additional 15% over the next year.”
Acquisitions have continued to expand and diversify the Heniff Transportation operation. In addition to the Complete Tank Wash purchase, the carrier acquired two tank truck fleets within the past 12 months—Sinclair cartage Inc in Hinsdale, Illinois, and Dean Brennan Transport in Manitowoc, Wisconsin.
“Each of those fleets was running about 25 chemical transports, and the acquisitions included equipment and facilities,” Heniff says. “Most of the staff stayed with us. We saw just a 10% loss of personnel.
“We’re looking for more good acquisitions to complement our internal growth. The fleets we seek have great reputations with their customers and low driver turnover. These could be fleets running up to 300 trucks.”
Today, Heniff Transportation counts 70% of the Top 50 companies as part of its customer base and serves them from 11 strategically located terminals in Illinois, Kentucky, Louisiana, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Tennessee, and Texas. The terminal network has helped Heniff Transportation achieve success in winning traffic lanes originating in the Midwest and southern US regions.
“Our entrenched long-term relationships with corporate procurement and transportation managers at the largest chemical companies have been a critical factor in our success,” Heniff says. “We provide them with outstanding customer service and driver quality, along with top-tier safety performance metrics. We have a physical presence in key chemical manufacturing and end-use markets.”
Customer service includes a sophisticated central dispatch center at the Joliet terminal. The carrier’s in-house information technology (IT) department assembled a technology platform that combines satellite communications and GPS tracking for near real-time monitoring of all rolling stock and operations. The system is integrated with Heniff Transportation’s TMW-based dispatch and back office systems.
Dispatch system improvements have brought significant reductions in shipment delays. The delivery-to-invoice cycle has been improved by 59%. The system has enabled proactive customer service capabilities including full electronic data interchange capabilities and integrated freight tracking.
“We believe that our in-house IT capability sets us apart from our competitors,” says Joe Neal, Heniff Transportation’s IT director. “We have achieved substantial productivity gains and cost savings through the implementation of our integrated systems. We believe this strategy is the key to enabling this company to grow to the next level.”
The system-wide approach to information management also applies to in-house tank cleaning and vehicle maintenance operations. TMT maintenance software is the base system and has been adapted for both tank cleaning and maintenance operations. Most of the 11 terminals have maintenance shops and five of them have tank cleaning capabilities. Three of the five offer commercial tank washes.
“We have rolled out the TMT-based system at the three wash racks offering commercial cleaning,” Heniff says. “We want tank cleaning to be a fully automated process, including labor management and invoicing. We analyze wash types and customer trends. We monitor trailer status and availability.
“Invoicing is much improved for both tank cleaning and vehicle maintenance. Within Heniff Transportation, cleaning costs are assigned back to the terminal where the tank trailer is domiciled. Cleaning costs also follow the tractor and are tied to revenue per load.”
The Joliet terminal is the largest of the commercial wash racks. The seven-bay facility offers chemical and foodgrade tank cleaning and can handle up to 140 tank trailers per day.
In-house designed recirculating vat systems are used for both chemical and foodgrade cleaning. Steam and hot water are supplied by two Cleaver Brooks 100-horsepower industrial boilers. Sellers 360 spinners are used for tank trailers, and Gamajet spinners are reserved for dry bulk trailers.
Product pumps on tractors are cleaned with recirculating pumps. Liquid product hoses are cleaned and pressure tested. Trailers are dried with high-volume forced-air blowers.
Since acquiring the Joliet facility one year ago, Heniff Transportation has made a number of upgrades to the cleaning operation. This includes adding two dedicated foodgrade wash bays with the capacity to clean 35 to 40 foodgrade tanks a day. Chemical cleaning bays will be refurbished this year, and a major project is underway to upgrade the wastewater treatment system.
“We’re adding aeration to the wastewater treatment system along with two 75,000-gallon treatment tanks,” Heniff says. “We’re treating as much as 20,000 gallons of wastewater per shift at the Joliet location. We don’t have a lot of heel issues in Joliet because we handle a lot of solvents, surfactants, glycols, and alcohols.”
Commercial tank cleaning also is done at the Alsip terminal. The wash rack includes two drive-through bays and four exterior wash bays. Two 125-hp Cleaver Brooks boilers supply steam and hot water. Total daily capacity for the wash rack is 80 trailers.
Since 2012, the Alsip terminal has focused on ISO tank containers. In addition to tank cleaning, the facility functions as a full-service tank container depot. The facility has room to store up to 800 loaded and empty tank containers. Equipment includes two loaded lifts and 95 Hi-Lo lightweight chassis from Pratt Industries.
“Our chemical customers in the Chicago area asked for the tank container depot service, and it has been very successful,” Heniff says. “Tank containers accounted for the highest growth rate in our company in 2013 and 2014, and that trend should continue this year. It has been so busy that we moved all of the regional tank trailers based at the Alsip terminal to Joliet to free up more space for the tank container depot operation.”
The third wash rack in the Heniff Transportation system that offers commercial cleaning is in Berea/Richmond, Kentucky. The facility currently has two drive-through wash bays, with room available for an additional cleaning bay in the future.
Two additional wash racks are in the Heniff Transportation terminal system but just for in-house cleaning. A wash rack at the terminal in Lemont, Illinois, has one drive-through wash bay and one outside bay. The Manitowoc terminal has a wash rack with two drive-through bays.
“Our goal is to grow our commercial tank cleaning operation,” Heniff says. “Most of our wash racks are in the Midwest right now, and we would like to build an additional two to three facilities in other areas where we operate, such as the Gulf Coast, Northeast, or Southeast.”
Wherever the wash racks are built they are almost certain to stay busy. Heniff says he expects the fleet to continue running strong handling shorthaul, longhaul, and regional shipments of chemicals.
To meet customer needs, the carrier runs a well-maintained and modern fleet of tractors and tank trailers. The company is adding 70 new Peterbilt Model 579 tractors in 2015, and 40 Brenner chemical trailers were purchased in 2014, with more coming in 2015. Not including the product pump, tractor tare weight is in the 17,000-lb range. DOT407 tank trailers weigh in at around 11,900 pounds.
Heniff Transportation keeps tractors four to five years, and 500,000-mile warranties are standard. The carrier runs daycab and sleeper units.
General tractors specifications include a 485-hp Paccar MX 13 engine and Eaton Fuller 10-speed manual transmission. Heniff adds that the carrier is moving to automated transmissions for future tractor purchases.
Progressive shifting is emphasized in driver training, and truck engines are governed at 65 miles per hour. These factors have helped boost fuel economy to seven miles per gallon from 5.8 miles per gallon.
Drivers have some of the latest on-board technology at their fingertips in the Heniff Transportation tractor fleet. The PeopleNet on-board computer system includes Windows-based Mobile Demand tablets. The tablets have signature-capture capability and handle electronic driver logs and electronic vehicle pre-trip inspections.
“This system has phenomenal capabilities,” Neal says. “We were an early adopter of elogs because we saw it as a way to improve recordkeeping and compliance reporting.”
For product handling, tractors are specified with PTO-powered Roper pumps. In addition, tractors are specified with an air-brake system that includes a 34.6-cfm compressor that can also be used to product handling. A series of air filters on the tractor and trailer help ensure that the compressor air is free of contaminants.
Tractor running gear includes Bendix air disc brakes, aluminum disc wheels, and Michelin X One widebase single tires.
Stainless steel DOT407 tank trailers typically have a 7,000-gallon capacity. Tank hardware includes Betts discharge outlets and manhole covers, Girard pressure-relieve vents, and ground-level vapor recovery.
One hundred percent of the trailer fleet has now been fitted with SkyBitz systems for GPS monitoring and geofencing. The carrier currently is in the process of upgrading the entire fleet to the newest Falcon GTX technology that SkyBitz offers.
“We’re currently 50% of the way through the installation across our entire fleet and expect to be done by the end of Q1,” Neal says. “With the ability to get pings every five seconds and live alerts of arrivals/departures on our trailers, this is a huge advantage for us across our fleet. Tank wash and maintenance facilities are now able to view in real time the trailers coming in and when they arrive, real-time yard checks, and notifications. Everything is integrated with our TMW and TMT systems. This all leads to improved customer service and asset utilization.”
Trailers also are specified with Grote LED lights, Haldex air-disc brakes, PSI tire inflation, Lite-Flex composite springs, Michelin X one tires. “Within two years, we will be monitoring tire inflation with through the PeopleNet system on the tractors,” Neal says. ♦