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Dupré Energy Distribution Services Group builds steady success as fuel distribution, management specialist

THE BUSINESS of fuel marketing and retailing is intensely competitive. It takes the right transportation partner to maximize yields, mitigate risk, and help manage the volatility in the marketplace.

Dupré Logistics LLC’s Energy Distribution Services Group excels at meeting those challenges. The group currently manages the inventories of thousands of retail and fleet fueling locations, as well as running dedicated fleets.

“Our customers want a seamless distribution process that ensures no interruptions in fuel deliveries and no stations running out of fuel,” says Tony Becnel, director of operations for the Energy Distribution Services Group. “We do a very good job of eliminating risk. Energy Distribution Services delivered 99.7% error-free service over a five-year period, serving hypermarts, convenience stores, commercial accounts, and jobbers.

“Every customer wants to feel like they are our number one client, and we work hard to live up to that expectation. Energy Distribution Services develops a plan for each client account independently and according to specific needs and goals. With our turnkey services, a client will get all of the benefits of a private fleet—and more—with none of the hassle.”

Tom Voelkel, Dupré Logistics President and Chief Operating Officer, adds that the petroleum distribution business is more competitive than ever and more volatile than ever. “We have remained a strong player because we have the ability to offer consistent capacity, and we are able to build additional capacity. It makes a big difference.”

Busy fleet

Energy Distribution Services runs its entire fleet every day and provides 24/7/365 coverage. The carrier can handle all of the delivery scheduling, including remote inventory management.

“In addition to customizing delivery options, we give our clients the ability to know the location of their product shipments at all times,” Becnel says. “Omnitracs on-board computers communicate with our dispatch center through our TMW fleet management software. All of the delivery data is shared with our clients for complete transparency in our operations. In addition, our Key Performance Indicator reports are reviewed with clients regularly. These reports often contain suggestions that can lead to improving or streamlining client operations.”

The driver cadre may be the most valuable resource in the Energy Distribution Services portfolio. The group currently employs 477 drivers who keep the group’s 175 petroleum transports running virtually non-stop.

“We believe we employ the best drivers in the industry,” Becnel says. “We expect a lot from our drivers in the high-utility model that we run. This is a big job with a lot of opportunity, but our drivers have to execute.”

Driver overstaffing

With roughly 2.75 drivers per truck, the fleet is overstaffed in some areas, but that is by design to ensure that client needs can be met without delay. “This gives us the ability to react to sudden spikes in demand,” Becnel says.

Drivers can haul as many as four loads per shift. Drivers work 11½-hour shifts that start at either 4 am or 4 pm. Drivers are paid a premium to work the nighttime shift.

The key Dupré personnel strategy is to create the “Ideal Place to Work.” Hourly pay is a cornerstone in that strategy for hiring professional drivers. “We continue to pay hourly because of its impact on recruiting and retention of our drivers,” Becnel says. “Our pay scale falls in the 85th percentile for drivers in every market where we operate. We also provide a very good benefits package.”

Dupré recruits experienced drivers for the Energy Distribution Services Group but not necessarily petroleum drivers. “We’re looking for more than just a tank truck driver,” Becnel says. “We want a take-charge person who can also relate to our customer and our customer’s customers. We want someone who is polite and compassionate.”

Screening process

One-on-one interviews are part of the driver selection process. “We want to make sure that each driver we hire is a good fit for our operation,” he says.

Well before the one-on-one interviews, driver selection starts with on-line screening. “This approach saves a lot of time and gets drivers into our trucks relatively quickly,” says Al LaCombe, Dupré Logistics Director of Safety. “If the application gives us all of the information we need, we can close out the hiring process in three to four days. Someone who starts the on-line screening on Tuesday could begin classroom training in Lafayette on the following Monday morning.”

That classroom training is intense and thorough. Newly hired drivers learn the basics of petroleum hauling and what is expected in the Energy Distribution Services Group. During enhanced training, they learn to develop situational awareness at customer locations to protect the work area where deliveries are made.

“We have at least one delivery area incident every month,” Becnel says. “We show drivers how to properly set up the delivery area for safety, a process that takes about 15 minutes. Mitigating risk is a big factor for us.”

Drivers go through a functional capacity evaluation to establish a baseline for their condition. Drivers are shown proper lifting techniques to moderate muscle strain.

 Once that initial training is completed, a driver returns to the location where he will be based. He begins on-the-job training with a driver trainer for an average of three weeks. This phase of the initial training doesn’t end until all of the parties involved in the process sign off in a final review of the driver.

Safety culture

Throughout every step in the training process, the Dupré Logistics safety culture is taught and discussed in detail. LaCombe explains that the Dupré Logistics leadership team is not content with simply looking at past statistics and recordable incident reports to manage safety programs.

“We are looking at conditions that exist today in order to predict how they may develop into future hazards,” he says. “At Dupré, our leadership and safety teams evaluate our performance and pursue continuous safety innovation. We believe all accidents are preventable—and we put this idea into practice with our AIM for Safety loss prevention system that includes training and accountability for our personnel. Our commitment also extends to technology that quantifies safety risks to avoid future incidents. With highly advanced predictive analytics, we monitor more than 400 factors, such as driver alertness levels, on a daily basis so that we may use countermeasures to address issues before accidents occur.”

Dupré Logistics has partnered with Omnitracs Analytics (formerly Fleet Risk Advisors) on advanced predictive analytics. In 2005, Dupré Logistics began a pilot project using data aggregation and pattern recognition technology to identify risk signatures of drivers, vehicles and schedules. The pilot focused on which drivers were most likely to be involved in an accident or service failure. The production phase began in the first quarter of 2006, enabling Dupré to devise new risk management and performance monitoring strategies with the aim of simultaneously reducing operational costs and mitigating risks.

“This is a major factor in moving us closer to our vision of being the safest transportation and logistics company in North America,” Voelkel says. “Predictive modeling helps us see the future today and gives us the opportunity to create the future that we want tomorrow.”

Factors used in the system include data gathered through Omnitracs, GreenRoad, Circadian Alertness Simulator, TMW dispatch, internal accident and incident reports, external operational data, and new predictive models incorporating expanded datasets.At the end of each month the predictive models rank current drivers against a statistical and demographic profile of Dupré Logistics’ theoretical best and safest driver. Each tier represents one third of the current driver population. Tier 1 drivers represent the “best and safest” while Tier 3 represents those needing the most attention. At the end of each month, actual accident results are compared to the model’s predictions. Tier 1 drivers have been responsible for only 6% of all preventable accidents in the aggregate, while Tier 3 drivers have been responsible for 65% of the overall accidents. This predictive segmentation allows Dupré Logistics to focus its training and risk mitigation efforts on a small subset of drivers, rather than the entire driver team.

Continuous monitoring

Through the detailed analytical effort, management sees every event that occurs. Data from GreenRoad, an on-vehicle driver performance management system, is evaluated day to day, and managers are notified immediately for critical events.

Terminals get weekly safety performance reports that identify drivers by name. Accident and incident events are reviewed bi-weekly.

Quarterly safety meetings are mandatory and are tailored to each specific fleet location. Each meeting includes safety topic presentations with PowerPoint slides and video. Attendees are tested on each topic.

Drivers unable to attend the local safety meeting have 30 days to view the presentations and turn in the completed quizzes. “We’ve been posting the safety meetings online for at least nine years, and it has been a success,” LaCombe says.

The detailed safety effort pays off in many ways. Drivers earn safety incentives of up to $300 per quarter for safety and work performance. The program has brought numerous awards over the years. Recently, 681 Dupré drivers were awarded GreenRoad 2014 Fleet Elite status. This recognition went to drivers who maintained an average safety score of 5 or less for the full 2014 calendar year and logged over 500 GreenRoad driving hours.

In addition, Dupré was recognized with the American Trucking Association’s President’s Trophy in 2014. Also, the South Louisiana Chapter of the National Safety Council recognized Dupré Logistics with a National Achievement Award for the carrier’s total recordable incidence rate based on the North American Industry Classification system. The carrier also received the Award of Honor in the 2014 Fleet Safety Contest Truck Category (1,000,000+ miles driven) and a Certificate of Participation for the 2014 Occupational Safety contest (2,000,000-4,000,000 hours worked).

Busy vehicles

The carrier also expects a lot from its fleet of tractors and trailers. The carrier currently runs a mix of Peterbilt, Freightliner, and Kenworth tractors.

Peterbilt and Kenworth tractors are specified with the PACCAR MX-13 engine, and Freightliners have Detroit DD13 engines. All of the trucks have Eaton Fuller 10-speed manual transmissions.

Roll stability is standard throughout the fleet. Aluminum disc wheels and Holland aluminum fifthwheels help minimize tractor tare weight.

Dupré Logistics is testing disc brakes for steer and drive positions on Kenworth tractors based at the New Orleans, Louisiana, terminal. “We’ve looked at disc brakes for years, and we see that other fleets are getting good life out of their disc brakes,” says David Hebert, Area Maintenance Manager. “Longer pad life is the key advantage today, along with shorter stopping distances. With our current specification, there is just a two-pound difference between drum and disc brakes.”

Once a big proponent of widebase tires, Dupré Logistics has returned to duals. “We had to make the change when we expanded into areas where there was no support for widebase tires,” Hebert says. “In addition, we are able to get two recaps out of a Bridgestone dual tire, compared with just one retread for a widebase tire. We found ways to limit tractor tare weight in other areas, which offset the weight savings from widebase tires.”

Heil Trailer International is the primary supplier of petroleum trailers for the Energy Distribution Services Group. The typical specification is for a 9,200-gallon, five-compartment DOT406 trailer with Civacon hardware and a Hendrickson Intraax air suspension system.

Maintenance program

Fleet maintenance actually starts with the drivers, who are trained to perform very thorough vehicle inspections at the start and end of every shift. Tires are a particular focus.

“We want drivers on every shift to look at the tires,” Hebert says. “Newly hired drivers are issued a tire gauge when they start training, and we expect them to use it every day. The driver is the key to good tire inflation and vehicle maintenance.”

Tractors and trailers are serviced at Dupré Logistics maintenance shops every 30,000 miles or 90 days. The nine shops in the system are in Louisiana, Texas, and Wyoming. Three of the shops (Duson and Baton Rouge, Louisiana; and Channelview, Texas) are code shops that can handle a full range of cargo tank repairs. The carrier also uses some third-party maintenance providers.

The system built to support the Dupré Logistics Energy Distribution Services serves one key objective: Keep the petroleum transports running around the clock to provide clients the most reliable possible service.

“We never lose sight of the fact that our real job is providing risk mitigation across the entire process for our clients,” Becnel says.    ♦

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