Pneumatic bulk tankers

Discussion in 'Motor Carrier Questions - The Inside Scoop' started by Burky, May 15, 2006.

  1. Burky

    Burky Road Train Member

    I've been a driver for Bulkmatic for three years now and have nothing to say but good things about them. They are headquartered in Griffith In, just south of Chicago. The company is privately owned, and runs about 600 trucks and about 1400 trailers.

    We haul food grade, non food grade, and plastic products in pneumatic tankers throughout the US. Our primary business is in food items like flour, sugar, dextrose, corn starch, and other food products for the food industry, plastic pellets and powders used in manufacturing, and in non food items like soda ash used in glass production and wastewater treatment. We are the largest raliroad car to truck transloader in the country, handling about 13,000 railroad cars a year.

    Drivers tend to be regional, working primarily one part of the country, though we go wherever needed when loads come up. I work the Chicago region, and primarily run In, Il, Mi, and Oh, though I go west as far as Omaha, east to the Atlantic, south to New Orleans, and north up into Canada. I drive about 120K miles a year. I am typically home 2-3 weeknights a week, longest period out last year was 4 consecutive nights, longest time out at all was 6 nights in a row. This could be different at different terminals based on what they haul and where they go.

    Equipment is primarily small sleeper Macks, with some Volvos and Freightliners. Trucks are set up with PTO driven pneumatic blowers used for unloading. Typically about 85% of my trailers are preloaded, with me taking them to the customer and unloading there. The remaining 15% is split between live loads at a customer, and loads that I load myself out of railroad cars. Trailers are primarily about 40 foot long, and they maneuver very nicely in a 53' world.

    Drivers are hired as trained drivers, we do not run any type of new driver training program. Under age 25 we require 2 years experience, over 25 we have lowered it to 1 year experience. After hiring a driver typically rides with a trainer for 10-14 days learning the operation of the trailer loading/unloading, and then attend a 6 day company run school held in the Chicago area.

    About 10% of the company is owner operators, but most owner operators are former company drivers who purchased their own truck. There are no lease purchase programs, and we tend to hire very few O/O's from the outside due to the experience in handling different products needed. This kind of business tends to grow it's own vice hiring on the open market. Owner operator pay is very good, and I plan to buy my own truck in the next two years.

    Drivers wear company supplied uniforms, company paid for safety shoes, and are required to maintain a reasonable appearance and comply with any customer required safety equipment. Some customers at industrial sites may require safety glasses or safety helmets due to their own safety rules. This has never been a problem area. I wear khaki slacks and a company logo shirt, so the uniform requirement isn't extreme.

    It's a different type of hauling that vans, with the driver having to get out and connect hoses and monitor pressures while unloading. But there is almost no dock waiting time, typically I pull into a custopmer and am unloading within 5-10 minutes. (I had one customer hold me up for almost 35 minutes a month ago and I was furious. Longest I have waited all year!) Many customers are open appointments, accepting deliveries 24 hours a day, many have large open delivery windows, and a few have specific delivery times, primarily bakeries that use 150-200,000 pounds of flour a day and have limited silo capacity. Unloading timse are dependent on the customers system pressures and length of piping, but 1 1/4 hours is a typical time. I have unloaded 50,000 pounds of flour in as little as 30 minutes, and in as long as 3 hours. We do handle product in all kinds of weather, so raingear is advised. It's not sit in the coffee room work while a forklift unloads you. Drivers have to climb on top of the trailer occasionally to take samples or seal trailers, so some minimal levels of physical ability are required.

    Pay is primarily by percentage of the haul, with drivers earning 24%, and using this I earned over 61K last year. Figured on a cpm basis, I have been consistent at 52-53 cpm for each mile on the trucks odometer at the end of the year since I have been there. Some loads are short hauls and pay a straight fee, for example I load out of a railcar in Chicago, haul 11 miles, and unload. This pays 100 for the driver, since the % price would be too low. Other work pays hourly, including detention time. Loading out of railcars pays a specific price on top of the percentage for the haul, typically 25-30 dollars for loading, which takes about an hour and a half or so.

    (If I get real energetic, I'll post a list of our terminal locations)
  2. pro1driver

    pro1driver Heavy Load Member

    Mar 30, 2006
    North East, USA
    i definately have seen that company on the road. and i like what you say here:

    i said in another thread by someone *sounded like a newbie* that this is what companies should require, experienced drivers, not students. if all the companies required at the very minimum 1 year's experience, and stick to that, we might make headway into cleaning up the bad stigma we face each and every day. newbies can still find jobs, but with required co-driving with a trainer for more than the obligatory 2-3 weeks. i say, 2-6 months at least.
    jvar4001 Thanks this.
  3. Burky

    Burky Road Train Member

    The allowance of 1 year for over 25 is a new policy within the past year, and is still being evaluated to see how it works out. Like anyone else in trucking, we don't have as many drivers as we would like to have, but they have resisted the temptation to just fill the seats. Our trailers are top heavy, with the typical center of gravity of a trailer about the level of your head in the cab. It takes some effort to drive them safely, and there are other considerations that makes this work unsuitable for new drivers.

    There are only about 8 inches of clearance between the plumbing under the trailer and the ground, and that means you have to be careful as well. And we need people who are fairly detail oriented. Putting product into the wrong location means an average of 100,000 in cost to correct the mistake, and that's if no product gets out into the food chain.

    Doing this job is diferent from doing a van. If you put the van in the wrong spot, the forklift just puts the load back on. If you contaminate in our business, it's a big deal to straighten it out. We have had tired people misread a trailer number and hook to the wrong one, hook up to the wrong railroad car, and had the customer come out and hook us up to the wrong system. Every way something can go wrong, we have had happen. We try very hard not to have things happen, but we make close to 1500-2000 deliveries a day, and even a small percentage of mistakes hurts.
  4. mm121

    mm121 Bobtail Member

    Apr 12, 2006
    Any in TX? Thnx. MM
  5. Redneck

    Redneck BANNED

    Dec 5, 2005
    When I hauled liquid chocolate for LCL Bulk Transport I would run into these guy's alot.
    The driver's I talked to were alway's happy about the company. I used to run into M&M Mar's alot in Chicago and would see them there quite often.

    Just about every where we delivered Bulkamatic was there, be it a liquid tanker or a pneumatic tanker.
  6. Tip

    Tip Tipster

    Mar 18, 2006
    Bulkmatic sounds like a good outfit.

    I wonder if I could get hired on?

    I have three years experience, but haven't driven in over 3 1/2 years.
    I'd have to get my CDL back, too, as I dumped it when I quit driving.
    It should be easy to get at least the learner's back.
  7. Burky

    Burky Road Train Member

    Terminal Locations:

    Argo Il
    Atlanta Ga
    Belpre Oh
    Bronx Ny
    Buffalo Ny
    Charlotte Nc
    Chattanooga Tn
    Chicago Hts Il
    Cincinnati Oh
    Columbus Oh
    Decatur Al
    Decatur Il
    Denver Co
    Doraville Ga
    Dowagiac Mi (My Home!)
    Euclid Oh
    Fort Worth Tx
    Griffith In
    Hammond In
    Hodgkins Il
    Hopkinsville Ky
    Houston Tx
    Jacksonville Fl
    Lee Ma
    Martins Creeek Va
    Mobile Al
    Mt Pocono Pa
    North Jersey Nj
    Omaha Ne
    Philadelphia Pa
    Riverdale Nj
    Saginaw Mi
    Sherman Tx
    Spartanburg Sc
    Tampa Fl
    Teutopolis Il
    Williamsport Pa
    Willis Mi
    Winston Salem Nc
    York Pa

    Take note, I have not been to all terminals and can't speak for how each are specifically run. I did go to one terminal a few years ago, and came back afterwards and told my boss that if I had to work there I would quit. Since then, that terminal has new managers, and has made a 180 degree turnaround and I spent a pleasant week there working early this year. We are no different from the rest of the world, sometimes we hire or promote someone who doesn't have the people skills to be a manager, but we usually find and correct our mistakes.

    Many of the larger cities may have 2-3 terminals in the area, usually at points of rail access, and one may handles just plastics, and others may handle other products. We also have some drivers that are out on their own, working at a remote site that may be well away from one of our terminals. I have a friend down in TN that works that way, is based at a flour mill, does a 400 miles run daily to a flour using plant in NC. It's a dedicated haul, done daily, and he's about 120 miles from the nearest terminal. Many terminals are located at or near processing plants. Daycabs tend to be based in cities, with most terminals out of major towns using sleeper tractors.

    Terminals may open and close, as customers change their in house haulers, as mine did the first of the year. We have closed terminals in the past because the customer wouldn't meet the rates we need, and we won't cut rates just to get business. Rate cutting is how our competitors get business away from us, and a comparison of the service is usually how we end up getting the work back.

    If you want info or contact points for any of them, pm me. I won't put terminal manager's names and phone numbers on the site in the open.
    jvar4001 Thanks this.
  8. Burky

    Burky Road Train Member

    By the way, though we don't hire non drivers and train them, we do have a small access program that runs quietly within the company. We hire people with no truck experience as loaders to work at various railyards. They learn to preload trailers at rail facilities, and as part of their job they learn to drive trucks. They do a lot of maneuvering, backing, hooking and unhooking trailers as they do their job. And many of the loaders have gone on to get their licenses, and become drivers. Since they have driven and done lots of maneuvering, and handle all the backing maneuvers with ease, we supply a tractor and they can go out and get their CDL. Then we put them into what we call a "25 mile program" which means that they are restricted to deliveries in the local area. After a stint of that, they move into road driving, and are fully accomplished drivers without ever having gone through any kind of CDL mill.

    It isn't a 3-4 week process, but we have gotten some good drivers through doing this. f course, then we have to look for another guy to fill the loading job, and the process begins again. It isn't an official training program, but it does supply us some drivers, and they are very well trained in the operation of the trailers.
  9. MACK E-6

    MACK E-6 Moderator Staff Member

    Sep 19, 2005
    Baltimore, MD
    Which one was the bad one?

    I've found that no matter who you work for, it's only as good as the terminal you work out of. The management there may suck and they can't keep people, but why should the company care about that? People skills, as far as dealing with employees goes, is not an important concern.

    From what you say, it sounds like Bulkmatic doesn't have this problem.
  10. Burky

    Burky Road Train Member

    Willis Mi, in the Detroit area was the one that I had issues with. I thought they should have had a Jolly Roger flying from the flagpole the first time I went there. Now, 3 years later, it's one of the most correctly run terminals I know of, and there's a sense of embarrasment that they ever let the former manager and her hubby get as out of control as they were. We do correct our mistakes when we find them.
  • Draft saved Draft deleted