Time is money

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Fuel haulers need to be nimble in order to make those crucial just-in-time deliveries

Daufeldt Transport utilizes a fleet of 28 tractors and 31 tanker trailers in order to make sure that its deliveries are made on time.

Playing the petroleum market isn’t just for international investors. In an era of rapidly fluctuating petroleum prices, customers such as retail gasoline stations and bulkplants monitor the market as well to get the best prices. Once they land the price they want, they want the product delivered as soon as possible.

As a result, fuel haulers such as Daufeldt Transport need to be nimble to meet customer demands. For the Muscatine, Iowa-based transporter, just-in-time deliveries are a way of life.

‘In an up market like we’re in now, you wouldn’t believe how busy and chaotic it can get,” said Jeff Daufeldt, president and son of the late founder of the hauler of petroleum products and chemicals. ‘Everyone plays the market. We start getting calls at 7:30 and 8 o’clock in the morning from people wanting deliveries in three or four hours. They’ll call us before noon and want deliveries by 6.”

Business gets especially lively in the spring during planting season and in the fall during harvesting. The demand for diesel fuel soars during those periods.

These days, Daufeldt said same-day orders and deliveries make up most of his petroleum-hauling business. He will have a few deliveries for his drivers to get started on early in the morning and after that, it’s time to answer the phone to see who wants what products delivered to which locations.

His company picks up at petroleum terminals in a variety of locations along the Mississippi River in Iowa, Illinois and Wisconsin. Daufeldt’s fleet of Kenworth T800 trucks and 9,500-gallon tankers picks up and delivers within about 150 miles of Muscatine.

Terminal traffic is one of the main worries for Jeff Daufeldt and his fleet of tankers.

Daufeldt said the biggest headache of quick turnarounds is utilizing his 28 tractors and 31 tanker trailers effectively. In a market of rising prices, terminal traffic picks up. It’s not uncommon for trucks to wait two hours or more for a load at a terminal, according to Daufeldt. Sometimes, his truck will get to the head of the line and find out the terminal has run out of fuel.

If Daufeldt finds out his truck will be tied up in a terminal waiting line, he might try to dispatch another truck to another terminal to pick up product to make a delivery. In these situations, he stays in contact with his customers to let them know what ‘s happening. Daufeldt will charge freight rates that reflect the time and expense his company goes to in order to make their deliveries.

While many of the trucks are dispatched from the company ‘s Muscatine location, several drivers take their trucks home at night. They are ready to go to a terminal or a bulkplant that might be closer to their location, helping Daufeldt solve the logistics puzzle.

To combat the high price of fuel, Daufeldt instructs his drivers to conserve where possible. Drivers are told to keep idling to a minimum. ‘If they’re not in the truck, shut it off,” Daufeldt said. The Kenworth average is 6.5 miles per gallon.

One of the key factors in making just-in-time deliveries work is a reliable fleet. Daufeldt said that dependable trucks that are ready to go when orders come in make for a successful operation. His third-generation family-owned company has been buying Kenworth trucks since 1970.

‘We’ve been buying them over the years for their durability and resale,” Daufeldt said. ‘We run them for 10 years and about 800,000 to 900,000 miles. When it’s time to sell them, we typically get 50 percent more than other brands. You pay a bit more at purchase, but you get it back and more when you sell.

‘Another thing is our drivers love our Kenworths,” he said. ‘They take more pride in the trucks and keep them up better.”

Daufeldt handles its own routine maintenance. The trucks are on a schedule for oil changes every 15,000 miles and grease jobs every 2,500 miles.

‘It’s been a long time since we had any serious trouble on the road,” Daufeldt said. ‘We try our best to keep everything rolling smoothly.”

The Kenworth T800 units are fitted with a small-block Caterpillar or Cummins engine rated at about 400 horsepower. Nearly half of the company ‘s trucks are day-cab models. The others are spec’d with sleepers ranging from 38 inches to 60 inches. Components such as aluminum wheels and hubs and a single 100-gallon fuel tank are spec’d to reduce weight.

Daufeldt’s father, Harvey, began the company in 1948 with one truck and one tanker. When his father passed away in 1992, the company had grown to 11 trucks and 17 trailers. Since then the company has expanded to 28 trucks and 31 trailers.

In addition to hauling petroleum products, Daufeldt Transport delivers chemicals such as alcohol. The company hauls alcohol in 7,500-gallon tankers to distilleries and manufacturing plants from Michigan to Nebraska and Minnesota to Kentucky.

Petroleum hauling accounts for two-thirds of the business and chemical transporting for the rest. Daufeldt said the company has been growing each year and estimates revenue will hit about $3.5 million this year.

The company will earn every dime as it aims to keep up with a market driven by rapidly changing petroleum prices.

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