THESE are busy times at Texas TransEastern, a Pasadena, Texas-based fuel hauler. Now in its 31st year, this vibrant tank truck carrier is polishing its image as a premium fleet and finding new opportunities for growth.
Customer demand prompted the tank truck carrier to open its first terminal in Louisiana, and the company continues to expand its operating range. Dispersed among 10 terminals, the carrier’s 275 drivers, 150 tractors, and 175 tank trailers handle a wide range of refined fuels and lubricants.
“We’re growing in many ways,” says JJ Isbell, president of Texas TransEastern. “Business is very good right now, and we’re achieving double-digit revenue growth in all of the markets we serve. We have opened our first non-Texas terminal in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Strategic customers are asking us to move into other markets.
“We decided that after 30 years in business, it was time for some rebranding. The project included development of a new logo to reflect our growth now and in the future. Developing a more contemporary image plays an important role in the company culture.”
Isbell is very familiar with the company culture, because he built Texas TransEastern from the ground up. He started the fuel hauler during his sophomore year in college and built the company based on core values that include a strong Christian faith.
“I already had a reasonably good understanding of fuel hauling operations having learned the basics in Apache Oil Co, my father’s petroleum marketer company,” Isbell says. “I already knew how to manage and dispatch a petroleum fleet. I started TTE in 1984 with three transports. We got a big boost in 1985 with the acquisition of a 20-truck petroleum fleet in Tyler, Texas. A few more acquisitions followed, including a small petroleum fleet that was purchased last year. We’ve also achieved steady internal growth.
“From day one, TTE has been a customer focused company. Even though business changes, this is the one element that has remained constant. Our focus will always be the customer. We are dedicated to exceeding the service expectations of our customers.”
Texas TransEastern continues to place the customer first by bringing industry knowledge, trust, experience, effective communication, and a competitive structure to the customer. The company’s partnership with each customer is a critical value.
“We understand the issues our customers face and want the opportunity to provide them with the competitive edge they deserve,” Isbell says. “We also understand the ever-changing marketplace and continue to evolve as a company in order to help our customers meet their needs no matter how challenging.”
The customer focus includes a state-of-the-art web portal with features and functionality leaving no doubt that Texas TransEastern is a premier fuel transportation service provider. The carrier’s eSTAT Services system enables customers to track shipments and access invoices and refinery rack manifest information, including proof of delivery. Delivery documentation is scanned and delivered daily via email.
“By teaming up with us, customers can take the guess work out of their inventory management,” Isbell says. “We monitor and refill their storage tanks, freeing them to focus their attention on other issues.”
The customer service and management system put in place by the Texas TransEastern team is paying dividends. For instance, the Pasadena headquarter terminal recently set a new load count record for 2,100 loads in one week.
It takes real dedication and focus on customer service to plan, schedule, and deliver 300 loads per day with the number of transports assigned to the Pasadena terminal, according to Jeff Bolner, TTE operations manager.
He says the keys to achieving an aggressive goal include the following:
• Daily contact with and support for new drivers in training and post training.
• Always looking for additional qualified drivers and accepting more loads.
• Dispatchers who are always looking one or two days ahead and planning resources accordingly.
• Dispatchers targeting the front of all load delivery windows to have capacity for last minute loads or additional special loads.
• Verifying that all trailers are current at all loading racks.
• Responding and reacting to rack delays to keep the drivers and loads flowing.
Petroleum marketers make up a majority of the customer base. In recent years, many petroleum marketers have decided to eliminate in-house transportation operations and focus on the marketing side of the business, including convenience store operations. It is a continuing trend.
“Marketers gave us our start and remain a key focus,” Isbell says. “We still have some of our original customers. At the same time, we have found opportunities for diversification.”
Refined fuels account for 80% of Texas TransEastern’s business, but the carrier also handles significant volumes of ethanol and biodiesel. The carrier has expanded into lubricants, racing fuel, naphtha, condensate, and transmix.
“Most of the fuel hauling is short distance, but lubricants and racing fuel shipments take us all over the United States,” Isbell says. “We haul condensate in the South Texas shale plays.”
A majority of operations are conducted out of Texas terminals in Austin, Beaumont, Corpus Christi, Dallas-Ft Worth area, Lufkin, Houston, Hearne, Pasadena, San Antonio, Tyler, and Waco. From the Texas terminals, Texas TransEastern serves refined fuel customers in Arkansas, Oklahoma, and Louisiana.
“Our new terminal in Baton Rouge is giving us the ability to build an even stronger presence in Louisiana,” Isbell says. “We’ll continue to expand our fuel hauling operations into areas that are adjacent to the markets we already serve.”
To keep the fuel transports running 24/7, Texas TransEastern slip-seats the fleet with 2.5 drivers assigned to each tractor. Tractors in long-haul service have just one driver.
To help ensure safe and reliable customer service, Texas TransEastern sets high standards for driver selection. “We believe safety starts at the point of hire,” Isbell says. “We hire driving professionals who exceed the minimum national requirements, and we train them to serve our customers in the safest and most conscientious manner possible.”
The minimum qualifications to drive for Texas TransEastern are as follows:
• At least 25 years of age
• Class A Commercial Driver’s License with at least tank and hazmat endorsements
• Two years current and verifiable tractor/trailer driving experience, preferably hauling bulk fuels
• Acceptable driving record during the past three years
• Pass Department of Transportation and company drug/alcohol screen and physical examination
• Pass criminal background check
• Satisfactorily complete company prescribed road test
• Agreement to conform to company prescribed personal appearance standards upon hire
New hire training is conducted at the headquarters terminal in Pasadena and lasts about a week. Safety is stressed throughout the initial training, which is conducted by Steve Davis, TTE safety director, and his staff.
The safety message is reinforced constantly through weekly safety meetings at every terminal. Quarterly safety meetings are conducted by the safety director.
Safety is promoted and encouraged in a number of ways. Texas TransEastern participates in the American Trucking Associations’ driver recognition program. In addition, the carrier offers several safety incentive programs, including a safety bonus plan, Professional of the Quarter award, and Driver of the Year award.
Major awards are presented at the annual safety banquets held in December at each terminal. During the December 2015 banquets, 59 TTE driving professionals received ATA Career Safe Driving awards, totaling a cumulative 997 years of safe driving.
ATA mileage awards also were presented to those who have reached accident-free mileage milestones while employed at TTE. Twenty-eight TTE drivers received their 250,000 Mile Safe Driving Award, three received their 500,000 Mile Safe Driving Award, and two received their 750,000 Mile Safe Driving Award. Willie Jernigan, who works in TTE’s Lufkin terminal, was presented with the prestigious One Million Mile Award for safely driving accident-free for more than one million miles.
TTE also presented three driving professionals with the TTE Driver of the Year award. Nathan Mack was named Driver of the Year for the Houston/Pasadena operation. Pecos Richardson was named Driver of the Year for the San Antonio terminal, and representing the reminder of the terminals was Jeff Grose of Corpus Christi.
Safety also is promoted through vehicle specifications. The carrier runs cutting edge safety technology that includes Omnitracs on-board computers for electronic driver logs and the Bendix Wingman system that incorporates stability control and forward- and side-looking radar.
“We have been on electronic driver logs about two years now, and they are working well for us,” Isbell says. “We’ve also automated the pre-trip and post-trip inspection processes. We want to make sure we are in full compliance with the regulations.”
Texas TransEastern has standardized on Freightliner Cascadia daycab and sleeper tractors. Specifications include Detroit DD13 engines and automated transmissions.
DOT406 petroleum trailers are supplied by Heil Trailer International and Polar Corp. The 9,200-gallon, four-compartment trailers are specified with Civacon product handling hardware. Running gear on the newest trailers includes roll stability control, Hendrickson Intraax air suspension systems with forward left axle, and PSI and Tiremaax tire inflation systems.
“In every aspect of our fleet operation, our objective is to exceed customer expectations every day,” Isbell says. “That’s one thing that will never change with this company.” ♦