'Port of first resort’ – Houston transport company moves HQ to La Porte

From The Houston Business Journal:

For years it has been little more than a fenced-in, well-lit no-man’s land, but soon it will be the home of a far-reaching company with a forward-thinking leader.

In November, Gulf Intermodal Services, a container-transport company, purchased a 10-acre tract of land in La Porte for $1.9 million, with plans to spend an additional $1 million in converting the site into the company’s new headquarters.

It also will provide ample space for a container yard to house the bread and butter of GIS’s business.

Read more: ‘Port of first resort’

GIS relocating closer to port

From The Houston Chronicle:

Gulf Intermodal Services has purchased a 10-acre container yard in La Porte, where it will build a new headquarters close to the Port of Houston.

“This site was chosen because it offers quick accessibility to both Barbours Cut and Bayport Terminals,” said Will Connell, president of Gulf Intermodal Services. “With the upcoming widening of the Panama Canal and the overall U.S. economy beginning to recover, GIS feels the best location to service its customer base is right in the heart of these two major port operations.”

Part of the IMC companies, Gulf Intermodal Services also has operations in New Orleans and Mobile, Ala., with 140 trucks servicing the intermodal drayage industry. The company moves containers for import or export by truck from the port and railroads for its customers.

The property, at 101 Strang Road, was sold by Penton Investments. Carolyn Fincher with Smith Raines Co. represented Gulf Intermodal Services. Jay Jenckes of The National Realty Group represented the seller.
When the new building is completed, the company will relocate from 3435 N. McCarty Road, which is about 26 miles from the port.

Intermodal Cartage Group builds on Memphis base

From The Commercial Appeal of Memphis, TN

Intermodal Cartage Group builds on Memphis base

Joel Henry’s specialty is railroad and trucking transport, but lately he has gotten pretty good at riding roller coasters as well.

Henry, president of Intermodal Cartage Group, a Memphis-based shipping and distribution business, said his low-profile company has been quietly riding the industry’s ebbs and flows with new hires and new facilities.

“We’ve been around so long that people probably take our whole industry for granted,” Henry said. “If something significant happened to our infrastructure and cargo didn’t get transported, it would only take about a week for everyone to notice.”

That’s because the bananas, shoes, hair gel, backpacks and millions of other everyday items Americans use are transported in and out of the country by truck, rail and ocean liner — a network that the industry refers to as “drayage.”

Drayage represents about 95 percent of Intermodal Cartage’s business.

The company was founded 26 years ago by Mark George, now chairman, who began with one truck driver. Now the company has about 750 employees and ships about 145,000 20-foot equivalent units annually.

While hiring of truck owner-operators tends to fluctuate with demand, Henry said the company is up in hiring by 16.6 percent since January, and up 22 percent over 2009.

Also this year, the company invested $12 million in the purchase of two new facilities: a 99-acre site outside of Dallas and another at the Port of Houston.

The balancing act between imports and exports drives the need for transport whether goods are coming into the country or out.

“The United States imports approximately three-to-one to what we export,” said Henry. “If the dollar is cheap, other countries are more interested in purchasing our products because they can get it at a better price. Especially if it’s grain or agricultural commodities that fluctuate a lot. When the dollar’s low, they explode.”

The dollar sank sharply in 2009, but the cost of transport by ocean liners skyrocketed, so Intermodal Cartage saw some of its profits decrease.

“We’ve been fortunate and we’re working a lot harder for less profit, but that’s part of the economy and the stress that the recession had on the ocean liners,” Henry said. “Ocean liners lost hundreds of millions in 2009. 2010 has been a lot better for them, but they’re a large piece of our business and they haven’t recovered enough for us to readjust our pricing.”

“In our industry, we see peaks and valleys,” said Donna Lemm, vice president for sales and marketing for Mallory Alexander, a third-party logistics provider. “You’re looking for a vendor that offers consistency regardless of the market condition. Intermodal Cartage is there through thick and thin.”

This year, Mallory Alexander named Intermodal Cartage its Vendor of the Year in recognition of quality service.

“They’re very keen on performance reviews, they’re very keen on understanding from us how they’re performing, and what they may be able to do better,” Lemm said.

Intermodal Cartage’s 145-acre location, on East Holmes, typically has about 3,000 containers on site. The company’s coverage area stretches north to Chicago and west to Los Angeles, with most of its shipments running through ports along the Gulf of Mexico.

Large customers include Hamilton Beach, Brother International and DuPont, which each may generate as many as 8,000 shipments a year to smaller companies with only one or two shipments each month.

Service is customized for each company and can include every mode of transport from the shipper’s door to the receiver’s, or just one mode of transport along the way.

“Memphis is a huge gateway,” Henry said. “The main reason Memphis is such an international intermodal hub is because of the Class A railroads that we have here. Chicago is the only other major metropolis that has the same Class A railroads moving through.”

Spirit of giving

From The Commercial Appeal –

The holiday season became much brighter for several mothers when they received gifts for their children from Intermodal Cartage at its annual gift wrapping party. Intermodal Cartage partnered with Agape Child & Family Services to provide Agape’s Families In Transition Program participants with toys and clothing, just in time for Christmas. The program serves homeless, pregnant women and their children. Agape is the only agency in Memphis exclusively serving this population long term.

“Our employees come together each year to purchase gifts for the families,” said Katie Hooser of Intermodal Cartage. “As an organization, it means so much to us to meet the women whose lives are affected by our employees’ generosity. Giving the gift of Christmas is very special, and we’re so glad to play a role in that.”

Systems monitor deliveries, driver habits

From The Memphis Business Journal:

When one thinks of truck drivers, the term “computer geek” doesn’t often spring to mind.

However, today’s truckers, and trucking companies, are becoming increasing tech-savvy as a way of doing business better.

Mike Hopper, CFO of Memphis-based Ozark Motor Lines Inc ., is seeing more of an emphasis on technology in the trucking industry, from operations to the trucks.

“People see truck drivers as not a very modern people, but you’d be surprised,” he says.

Ozark Motor Lines estimates 30 percent of their drivers have personal laptops in their cabs, which they use on breaks to watch movies or send e-mail.

The trucks have come a long way in recent years as well.

Today’s more modern trucks have in-cab communication systems with keyboard and computer on board. Ozark Motor Lines’ systems tell where a truck is through an hourly ping, which is recorded. Also, if the driver calls in, the location is recorded.

These systems have been around since the late 1990s, but prices have dropped to where they’re becoming more standard.

Hopper remembers these systems used to be $4,000 a unit, but are now roughly $1,000 a unit. No matter the cost, Ozark Motor Lines has found the systems to be critical to operations.

“We need to be in touch with truckers,” Hopper says. “It’s an improvement of the communication system between the tractor driver and the dispatcher.”

Jeff Konrad is a vice president with Traffic Consultants Inc. , a company which works with customers to control and reduce transportation costs.

He’s seen the benefit of providing truckers with improved communication and tracking.

“Over the years, it’s improved the service level and accountability of the trucking industry because there’s more visibility now,” Konrad says. “Years ago, you’d ship something on Monday, hope it got there on Friday and never knew where it was in transit. Now, with the improved technology, you can know where it is on a daily basis and pinpoint the delivery to within the hour.”

With the improved technology, carriers can track shipments much better, which ultimately can help customers decide which company to use.

“Customers want not only reports of when the product ships, but when it’s delivered,” Konrad says. “That’s a way of keeping a scorecard on the various carriers.”

Ozark has also taken advantage of more recent truck technology, investing in forward-looking radar which monitors the distance between tractor and the vehicle in front of it.

“If that distance is not being maintained, it will sound a beep that the driver is closing on something,” Hopper says. “If the driver doesn’t react and the object is getting closer, then it takes the accelerator from them. The driver’s not able to give it more fuel.”

If that distance closes even further at a fast rate of speed, the system will eventually start applying the brakes, going increasingly harder until it stops the vehicle.

“It’s an expensive proposition to put that on trucks, but if you run over something or somebody, heaven forbid, that’s very expensive,” Hopper says.

Ozark will have this system, which runs $2,000 a unit, on its current order of 200 trucks. The company currently has more than 700 trucks in its fleet.

These trucks also have an anti-roll-over feature.

“If you’re going around a curve too fast, it will indicate you need to take corrective action,” Hopper says.

Memphis-based Intermodal Cartage Co. Inc., which specializes in transporting import and export ocean containers, has also made investments in on-board technology.

The company contracted with Minnetonka, Minn.-based PeopleNet, a provider of mobile communications systems, for on-board computing equipment that is installed into each tractor.

Although not required by the government, the company saw this on-board equipment as the wave of the future and knew it would eventually become industry-wide, according to Randy Wright, executive vice president of Intermodal Cartage.

The overall cost to implement PeopleNet was close to $1,800 per truck.

The system works similar to a phone subscription where there is a monthly fee for each unit. That cost is $45 per month.

Intermodal Cartage needed a way to increase the efficiency of its operations, and the partnership with PeopleNet offered them that solution. The equipment has freed the company’s driver managers from spending most of their shift on the phone, keeping track of drivers. The system allows them to send dispatches directly to the drivers from the dispatch system.

“Likewise, the drivers are able to send a message upon their arrival at a consignee or when they are ready to depart a shipper’s location,” Wright says. “These e-mails update the dispatch system, which provides real-time accuracy to their dispatch records. Customers have grown to enjoy this real-time data and now can plan on arrivals of their freight without a multitude of phone calls, the norm in the not-so-distant past.”

A part of the PeopleNet offering has been the drivers’ hours of service logs. Since all commercial motor vehicle drivers are governed by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, this system allows the driver managers to better manage drivers’ hours. The system automatically notifies the drivers of the approaching end to their available hours for driving. Prior to using this system, logs were managed manually without the use of any computers and audits were always performed seven to 14 days after a driver completed their log. With this system, violations have decreased dramatically.

“The older system forced a driver to round his time to the closest 15 minutes, but with our PeopleNet system, it calculates down to the minute and second,” Wright says. “Therefore, most of our drivers have actually gained minutes on the driving line.”

Ozark Motor Lines Inc. Transportation company HQ: Memphis President: Steve Higginbotham Employees: 880 Address: 3934 Homewood Phone: (901) 251-9711 Website: www.ozark.com

Honesty is the best policy for trucking executive

From the Commercial Appeal

The details

First job: My first job was at Graceland. I was awarded the 1986 “Entertainer of the Year” award by my peers. I was already a huge fan of Elvis, so that award was the icing on the cake for me.

Most recent job: Prior to opening River City Maintenance & Repair, I was a regional depot manager for Intermodal Cartage Company. This truly groomed me for my career for my next move.

Career highlights: I have been so fortunate in my career. I have worked with and for so many brilliant people to whom I owe my current success. The single most important highlight would be that I joined the Intermodal Cartage Company family almost 15 years ago.

Most satisfying career moment: The most satisfying career moment for me was opening River City Maintenance & Repair. My career was built for that particular day.

Career advice: The single most important piece of career advice I could give to anyone is to be honest, have integrity and do not leave anything on the table daily.

Person I most admire: I admire Mark George, chairman of IMC Companies, the most, no question. He believed in me and showed me the ways of a successful business.

Hobbies: I do not have very much time for hobbies, but I love to duck hunt and anything that has to do with the water.

Last book read: “Decisions,” by George W. Bush. I felt very enlightened by reading this book.

Favorite film: “Gladiator” is my favorite film.

Where is your favorite vacation spot: The Tennessee River at Clifton, Tenn.

What is something about yourself that most people don’t know about you? Most people don’t know about that I love Slim Jims and can play the trumpet.

Change I would like to see: I read something recently that really hit home with me about accountability. People all too often do not hold themselves accountable for their actions. My dad once told me that, until I realize that I make mistakes, I would never be successful in my personal life and my career.

TN firm buys Wilmer intermodal for $10.4M

From The Dallas Business Journal:

Tennessee trucking and logistics firm Intermodal Cartage Co. has purchased a 100-acre container yard in Wilmer, south of Dallas, along Union Pacific Railroad.

The Memphis-based company, which provides intermodal transportation services and specializes in import/export cargo shipments, paid $10.4 million to acquire the facility from Prime Intermodal Services LLC.

Intermodal Cartage also has a 30-acre container yard north of Fort Worth in Haslet, near the BNSF terminal.

The Wilmer facility has the capacity for 3,400 containers, said Harrison Hoof, regional vice president, Dallas region, for Intermodal Cartage. The company will move into the facility by year-end, he said.

“It’s a very strategically located piece of property,” Hoof said. “It’s going to give us a competitive advantage in the market because of its proximity to the railroad, and it’s going to allow us to expand our local operations.”
Intermodal Cartage plans to redesign and enhance the existing container parking areas, Hoof said. Only 68 of 100 acres at the property is paved, giving Intermodal Cartage space to grow, he said.

Dan W. Cook, senior director of Global Supply Chain Solutions with Cushman & Wakefield of Texas, brokered the sale.

Tennessee trucking firm buys freight facility in Wilmer

From The Dallas Morning News:

A Tennessee trucking and logistics firm has bought a 100-acre freight facility south of Dallas in Wilmer. Intermodal Cartage Co. paid more than $10 million for the property, which is near Union Pacific Railroad Co.’s big cargo terminal on Interstate 45.

“This is the single largest purchase the company has ever made, and it gives them a presence just 1.2 miles away from Union Pacific Railroad,” spokeswoman Molly Okeon said.

Intermodal Cartage already has a smaller freight container yard north of Fort Worth in Haslet, near the Burlington Northern Santa Fe terminal.

The new location is east of I-45 on Pleasant Run Road.

The Memphis-based company operates these types of facilities in almost a dozen states and has been in business since 1982.

“This makes Intermodal Cartage the only intermodal company that has two large container yards located next to two major railroads” in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, Okeon said.

Dan W. Cook, a senior director with Cushman & Wakefield of Texas, brokered the sale.

Henry leads Intermodal Cartage in moving most containers

The Memphis Business Journal recently did a profile on Joel Henry, President, Intermodal Cartage Co. Inc.

First job: First paying job was when I was 14, roofing houses during summer break. But, I learned the meaning of work from my mom and dad at an early age in our garden, which was relied upon to feed our large family.

Education: Bachelor’s degree in transportation and marketing from Mississippi State University

Residence: Germantown

Business philosophy: Treat customers, employees and vendors as you would want them to treat you.

Best way to keep competitive edge: Invest in employees and technology, and never get complacent

Guiding principle: Christian faith, honesty, high morals and integrity

Yardstick of success: Sustainable, profitable growth

Goal yet to be achieved: Convince my teenage girls that I actually might have an ounce or two of brains
Judgment calls

Best business decision: Moving my corporate staff and I from an off-site, plush office to our 148-acre operations and depot facility located at Holmes Road

Worst business decision: Reducing fleet tractor count in 1st quarter 2010

Toughest business decision: Eliminating employee incentive bonus plan during 2009 recession

Biggest missed opportunity: Not recognizing the needs of a large export customer to add enough drivers to facilitate their volumes

Mentor: My daughters, as they remind me through their actions to be humble, smile and keep life simple

Word that best describes you: Consistent

True confessions

Like best about job: Working with an awesome team

Like least about job: Peaks and valleys of the world economy and the impact it has on our company

Pet peeve: Dishonest people

Most important lesson learned: Never retaliate; calmly digest all data prior to making a decision

Person most interested in meeting: Kid Rock

Most respected competitor: Comtrak Logistics

Three greatest passions: Family and friends, succeeding, watching my girls play soccer

First choice for a new career: Greeter at Wal-Mart

Predilections

Favorite quote: “Ability is what you’re capable of doing. Motivation determines what you do. Attitude determines how well you do it.” — Lou Holtz

Most influential book: The Bible

Favorite cause: Alzheimer’s Disease research

Favorite status symbol: Cut-off blue jean shorts

Favorite movie: “The Bourne Identity”

Favorite restaurant: La Perla Tapatia, a Mexican restaurant in Collierville

Favorite vacation spot: Little Dix Bay, B.C.

What’s on your iPod: Country music and Kid Rock

Favorite way to spend free time: Watching soccer and bird hunting

Automobile: Chevy Suburban

Local trucking firms see business boost from intermodal traffic gains this year

From The Memphis Business Journal:

As intermodal freight hits the track toward growth, railroads are gaining momentum in profits and the local trucking industry looks to haul major profits.

Locally, trucking firm Intermodal Cartage Co. Inc. is seeing a boost.

“This city is a big hub,” says Joel Henry, president of Intermodal Cartage. “Our intermodal business via Memphis is around 85 percent.”

Henry monitors intermodal transport trends. He watches how many containers arrive at port cities and how much cargo is being shipped on railroads. Because of the growth in intermodal transport Henry has seen an increase in revenue and has been able to increase his driver count by 18 percent year-over-year, to about 200 drivers.
From Memphis, Intermodal Cartage services about 12 states.

In August, the amount of intermodal traffic hit a three-year high, according to the Intermodal Association of North America. About 1.22 million intermodal trailers and containers were moved domestically and internationally in August 2010, compared to 991,099 in August 2009, according to IANA.

The quick and easy pick-up from rail — and plane — to truck has made Memphis the mecca of intermodal traffic. And with five 1-class railroads, the world’s largest cargo hub at Memphis International Airport and two major interstates, high-volume loads from the East and West coasts and overseas are coming through Memphis to be hauled by local trucking firms.

At the University of Memphis, Martin Lipinski, director of the Intermodal Freight Transportation Institute, conducts a wide range of multi-disciplinary research on issues related to intermodal freight transportation.
“There’s a relationship now that I think is very positive between the railroad and trucking companies,” Lipinski says. “Traffic in Memphis has certainly picked up within the last couple of months. It seems to be that business is returning.”

Butch Brown is the Memphis terminal manager of Conley, Ga.-based trucking firm Morgan Southern Inc., which hauls freight from railroads directly to local stores or stores within 500-600 miles from the city.

“Our loads have increased allowing us to start hiring again,” he says. “We increased our trucking fleet 20 percent in the past seven months.”

Brown continues to watch predictions for domestic and international intermodal transport. All of his transport is intermodal.

While analysts predict a good end to 2010 for intermodal transportation, Henry is feeling another effect of the 2009 financial dip as he tries to rebuild his driver fleet.

“A lot of drivers didn’t have work, so they got out of the industry. I’m trying to hire both owner operators and company fleet,” he says. “Driving capacity is a huge issue we are all facing right now.”