For Blue Flash Express Vice President of Operations Jason Aguillard it was about stopping a cycle—new trucks with the right specs would lower maintenance and fuel expenses, improve retention and cut the cost of recruiting and training drivers.
“Now we have more money to increase pay for drivers, which further enhances the company as a place drivers want to get hired and stay,” Aguillard says. “Cutting a high turnover rate stems the loss of anticipated revenue that could have been generated by trucks we had to park, something that represented the biggest drain on our bottom line profitability.”
From two company-owned locations, including a main terminal in Baton Rouge, La., and a 19-acre full-service bulk export container loading facility on the south side of Houston in LaPorte, Texas, Blue Flash Express operates a company fleet of 50 trucks. The company also utilizes the services of about ten owner-operators from various locations throughout the Carolinas, Georgia and Tennessee.
Founded in 1979 by professionals with extensive experience in warehousing for the chemical and plastics industries, Blue Flash Express hauls some liquid bulk products such as non-hazardous liquid oils and polymers. The company is primarily known for handling dry bulk commodities, including resin pellets used to make plastic bottles and salt, flour, sugar, rice, corn, alumina, soda ash, urea and calcium chloride.
Blue Flash Express fields lightweight J&L and Heil bulk trailers to maximize payload capacity. The units are also fitted with catwalks for safety, heat exchangers to protect temperature-sensitive loads, and on-board scales. In addition, direct-transfer systems allow unpowered trailers to “self-load” when accompanied by a vacuum trailer. The units also have railcar fittings to reduce spills during loading and are equipped with a wide range of fittings to accommodate a variety of loading and unloading requirements.
The keys to cutting costs
“We feel that having a better truck, both in terms of how they look and how they run, is a key to lowering costs and helping with driver turnover,” Aguillard says. “In the past, being limited to using trucks that just didn’t quite fit our operation contributed heavily to high driver turnover. We also looked at buying used trucks, but couldn’t find any with the specifications we needed for greater driver comfort and productivity, and our experience with leasing at one time was unsatisfactory.
“In that case,” Aguillard continues, “we could only choose cookie-cutter trucks with pre-selected specifications for bulk transporters. The trucks didn’t have the off-loading capacity we needed or the driver amenities we wanted, and we couldn’t choose alternative specifications that would have worked better in our operation. We had to take whatever was available.”