Multi-Tank Trailers Relieve Fueling Headaches For Douds Stone And Norris Asphalt Paving.
By Mark S. Kuhar
Norris Asphalt Paving Co. has been building roads in southern Iowa for 70 years, winning national awards and thousands of loyal customers. Douds Stone, in business for 90 years, also shares a great reputation for quality and service, providing everything from aglime dust for farmers to 650-lb. rip-rap stones used along riverbanks – and everything in between.
Norris and Douds merged in 2012, but operate two distinct business units. However, they shared a common problem: how to deliver fuel efficiently to jobsites in the face of increasingly stringent government regulations and the limitations inherent with large fuel delivery trucks.
The companies relied on two older 2,500-gal. fuel trucks to bring diesel to equipment in the field. Maintaining the trucks was always a challenge. But finding truck drivers with CDL or HAZMAT endorsement was an even bigger headache.
“Every time we jumped locations, I would have to find a person to bring out fuel from our old truck,” said Greg Baker, road foreman for Norris. “If the guy with the HAZMAT wasn’t around, you were handicapped. But you still had to get fuel to the site, which meant we had to put a 100-gal. tank in the back of my pickup truck. When you’re burning 300-400 gallons of fuel a day, that’s three trips to the fuel truck or gas station.”
Chuck Manson, general manager for Douds Stone, adds, “It not only required a CDL or HAZMAT certification, but it was hard to get the old truck into certain locations. For example, when we have a dredge in a pond that needs 500-600 gal. of fuel. It’s hard to get that big fuel truck right up the edge of the bank.”
Three Trailers Provide More Flexibility
In 2015, the two companies replaced their old trucks with three 920-gal. Thunder Creek Multi Tank trailers. Each trailer contains eight 115-gal. DOT compliant non-bulk tanks that are joined by manifold to a common pump, creating complete isolation during transport and controlled dispensing of fuel at the job site.
Baker commented, “We pave everything from driveways to interstates, but we specialize in highway paving and shoulder widening – covering seven, eight miles a day. So, we park the trailer where the equipment is at the end of the day. Have them fuel up for the next morning and keep moving. Anyone with a driver’s license can hook on the trailer and move it. That gives me a lot more flexibility. If something breaks down, I can help the mechanic rather than haul fuel. Someone else can grab a pickup and take the trailer out. Now that I don’t have to make fuel runs, I can save an hour at the end of every day.”
The MTT trailers also allow easier access to equipment, “With the trailer it’s more efficient getting around,” said Bob Mobley, paving supervisor for Norris. “It’s easier to get closer to the equipment. You can back it into tight spaces, and park it between equipment, so you can run a hose from either side. We can also carry a couple cases of grease in the front. It’s much more efficient than the old truck. Even though the truck could pump more fuel at a time, with the easier access, the trailer speeds up fueling by an average of 10 minutes at a fuel station.”
Baker said, “The truck had a big pump, so it needed a big hose. We had to wrestle with it, especially when the fueling places are on top of the equipment. We park in field entrances and park along the side of the grader ditch, so having the convenience to just pull up and string a hose out is the way to go. The 35-ft. trailer hose is just about perfect. Not too big. It’s nice and nimble to make fueling easier. A lot easier.”
Lower Maintenance and Fuel Costs
Besides providing better delivery options, the MTT trailers also cut maintenance and repair expenses. Manson said, “We would buy retired fuel trucks, so you know they already had issues. We are required to make sure everything on a vehicle works – the engine, lights, brakes and wiper. Everything. With the new trailers, we don’t have to worry about all that.”
Baker added, “The old fuel truck had to be running to be able to do anything. That not only wasted truck fuel, but also put more wear on the engine. We used to call in bulk trucks to fill our fuel trucks. Now we have our own bulk fuel tanks, so we don’t have that expense. We get a discount on our fuel when we buy it in bulk and that saves a lot more money. We have all the fuel we need, three to four days worth for each trailer load. We always have fuel when we want it, without trying to find a distributor every time we go to a town.”
Intelligent Design on the Road and Job
“They were smart about the design of this trailer,” said Manson. “The double axles handle the weight distribution really well. In fact, you don’t even know it’s behind you most of the time. You can’t even tell when it’s empty or full, because they did such a nice job of proportioning the weight,” added Baker. “There’s a little bit of tongue weight when it’s full, but that goes away when you drain the first two tanks. Moving around is not a problem.
“It’s handy having the tools and other stuff inside the trailer,” Manson said. “The hose reel is easy to get to and you’ve got room to pull it out. You can work from either side, which is nice if it’s between two pieces of equipment. The solar-charged batteries are up front and easy to reach. You’ve got room for a stepladder down below and a place for service equipment and a fire extinguisher. There’s a place to put your files. It’s all neat and organized.”
All three trailers were outfitted with optional integrated electric jacks. “Just flip a button up and down. It’s safer and easier. Just smart,” said Manson.
Both Baker and Manson usually work from dawn to dusk, and often later. Baker said, “You pave up to an hour before sunset, so if you fuel up at the end of the day, you’re working in the dark. That’s why it’s nice to have the LED lights on the trailer. They light up the whole area so you’re not fumbling around with fuel hoses in the dark.“
Manson commented, “The lights are not only very bright but they also have a rubberized housing. No bulbs to break.”
Although Baker’s and Manson’s crews don’t use equipment that requires DEF, they know it’s coming. They’re glad their multi-tank trailers can be fitted with 100-gal. DEF tanks. “It’s nice to know our trailers won’t become obsolete,” Baker said. “They’re designed to transport DEF as well as diesel. We’re not there yet, but we’ll be able to do that in the future.”
Showing Their Pride
Norris Asphalt and Paving has won two national championships for paving excellence and has been a finalist six times. They operate four asphalt plants and run three crews.
Douds Stone also has a proud history, operating 12 open quarries and two sand operations. Both business units are justifiably proud of their reputation, which is reflected in their equipment.
Baker said, “I put 5,000 miles a year on each trailer. It’s a moving billboard – free advertising for us. Thunder Creek worked with us on the color and we were able to get our logo on it.”
Manson added, “Instead of an old truck, we’ve got our company name and logo on the trailer. It looks sharp as you’re driving down the road. It’s a positive presentation – how we’d like to present ourselves – clean, straight, neat. It matches the expectations people have. We like to do that throughout the whole company.”
Another source of pride is the ability to keep moving ahead of the competition. “As we drive down the highway with our loaded fuel trailers we see all the other companies just sitting still, waiting for deliveries. It’s a very positive thing for us,” Manson said.
Information for this story courtesy of Luke Van Wyk, general manager, Thunder Creek Equipment.