The ultimate guide to understanding bulk liquid tanker carriers
Bulk liquid tanker carriers are arguably one of the driving forces in the strength of the world’s industries. From the plastics in the computer your typing on to the paint on the walls, nearly everything started in a liquid bulk tanker and with the help of a skilled carrier made it through the manufacturing process into the consumers hand.
In starting with the basics, it is this guides intention to cover the basic processes surrounding bulk liquid tanker carrier operations as well as discuss some of the many challenges faced by those entities when confronted with even the simplest of shipping requests.
Bulk tanker carrier processes and procedures
For the newly initiated, bulk liquid tanker carrier operations may seem overwhelming, what with the numerous definitions of what constitutes a bulk vehicle, a carrier, a loader, a receiver, and a shipper.
For the sake of simplicity, however, there are really, and truly, only three main components in any carrier operation:
- Sales: This department, alongside the merchandising team, solicit business and ensure that demand is met by supply; alternatively, some carriers also need to have an acquisitions team in order to ensure compliance with new builds or capital equipment purchases
- Finance: This department will track, monitor, and control accounts payable and receivable as well as verify all documentation when it comes to billing cycles
- Dispatch: In keeping with the body analogy, this section is like the central nervous system in that it needs to communicate often and effectively with customers, drivers, shippers, receivers, and outbound departments both within and beyond your own firm.
So while it is important to have a strong sales and merchandising staff as they are usually the first point of contact for any bulk liquid supplier looking for a tanker carrier, dispatchers are truly the lifeblood of the operation.
Achieving synchrosity between and across dispatchers
Dispatch teams are notoriously tough entities in which to work given the mounting regulations required of inbound and outbound operations as well as stresses associated with the day-to-day stresses of ensuring on-time docking, cross-docking, and departures. Here are three tips on how to ease those tensions and broker strong partnerships:
- Take care to get to know your dispatchers on a personal level; this will ensure that the bulk dispatchers take special care when handling your bulk chemical shipments (i.e., completing pre- and post-docking quality checks, COAs, BOL inspections, seal checks, tamper inspections, odor checks, etc.)
- Communicate all information with the dispatcher; ensure they have contact information with the guard shack, receiving department, and outbound lead as well as all of the information for the loads they are picking up so that everything can run smoothly in, out, and across various docks
- Ask questions when you are unclear of a requirement or need help or advice with your shipment as there is no other party more equipped to answer than your liquid bulk tanker carrier dispatch professionals
Responsibilities of liquid bulk carriers and brokers
While the dispatch team shoulders a great deal of responsibility, the party most accountable to shipment success is the liquid bulk tanker carrier company.
This is why it is so incredibly important to build relationships with chemically certified teams (cf. here) as no two carriers are alike or hold themselves to the same exacting standards when it comes to cleanliness, health inspections, ISO certifications, equipment requirements, and sustainability initiatives.
These are some of the responsibilities that liquid bulk tanker carriers and brokers need to consider when selecting for a long-term partner company.
Choose the right equipment
Remaining up-to-date with equipment recalls, industry best practices, and new laws and regulations will ensure that all tanks dedicated to the movement of bulk liquid (read: chemical) never get stopped at the gate and are always delivered on time and on spec.
Without performing such due diligence, nothing will ever move.
The right equipment relies on a number of factors including the weight and volume of the product, any special temperature requirements, chemical components, whether the elements in motion are food- or drug-related (i.e., governed by the FDA), the layout of the shipping warehouse and receiving fulfillment centers, and whether a pump or compressor is required for offloading, just to name a few.
Ultimately, the bulk liquid tanker carrier is responsible for maintaining the integrity of the equipment and ensuring the equipment that arrives at the pickup site is the equipment that was ordered with no rust or cross-contamination issues.
Loading and unloading
A qualified or ISO certified bulk liquid tanker carrier and broker should be able to receive that specific order and be able to coordinate everything from pickup to delivery for the load on the documentation provided (i.e., BOL, sales receipt, etc.).
Many of these transactions can become confusing at the hand-off points with carriers and brokers present at, say, a dock door. Still, and in maintaining good pipeline control, the bulk liquid tanker carrier should assume responsibility over the following transactions:
- Product matches the BOL documentation
- Truck is in good working order with no tamper-proof seals broken, no adulteration to product, no off-odors, temperature controls are set and steady as well as reliable, and that there is no cross utilization between non-food or drug tanks with those needing to transport chemicals intended for human consumption
- The truck, unlike the tank as previously noted, is reliable and in good working condition with documentation to match (e.g., oil changes, preventive maintenance, etc.)
- All training is complied with and up-to-date, especially when taken across different locations, regions, and countries; also, ensure quick presentation of such logs in the event the tanker needs to cross national or international boundaries
Here are some best practices to ensure that drivers meet with a smooth pre-dock and post-dock experience:
- Ensure that all paperwork is given to the broker to have in hand at each location; take care to make them aware of any blind paper work requirements
- Ensure that the carrier has all shipping and receiving requirements prior to loading and arrival to delivery to prevent delays and extra charges; NOTE: this is where a guard shack can be dual utilized as a screening point so as not to tie up dock doors when paperwork suddenly goes missing
- Advise bulk liquid tanker carriers who to contact at each location in case of any problems at either location; again, leverage your dispatch team and ensure they know the routes and any compliance concerns
- Make sure the shipper is aware that they have a right to refuse the equipment if for any reason it is not up to standards and to never load a truck before it has been thoroughly check, preferably, using the same set of standard operating procedures each time
Tank washing and product disposal
One common concern with bulk liquid transportation is the risk of cross-contamination or adulteration of product between shipments.
Carriers and brokers, as previously mentioned, are wise to keep records on their fleets and which tankers move FDA chemicals and which move HAZMAT as the latter could result in extremely costly disposal charges should a wash have to occur at the last minute.
While it is the responsibility of the carrier to clean the tank, it is the shipper who will be held to account for any costs associated with purges, HAZWASTE disposals, and other adulteration issues. NOTE: When product is in the tank, the shipper is still liable for its integrity and ultimate delivery or disposal and costs associated with delays, refunds, insurance costs, and the like.
The simplest solution to any of these issues is, of course, strong partnerships and open lines of communication. Maintaining positive contact post-delivery will also ensure rapid resolution to any issues once the carrier pulls away from the door and avoid any surprise charges once the bill is delivered to the accounting department.
Bulk liquid tanker carrier challenges
Bulk liquid tanker carriers face some of the toughest and rapidly evolving regulations in the world. What’s more is these are creating bottlenecks due to an economic environment that demands increased capacity with fewer drivers, which results in higher charges and slim margins.
Some of the key drivers leading these challenges include new government regulations and the increase in demand of the chemical shipping industry.
Consider, by way of example, the December 18, 2017 electronic logging device (ELD) compliance mandate that requires all drivers to track their movements in North America in real-time as opposed to logbooks. This means that bulk liquid tanker carriers must ensure each owner-operator or partner remains within the spirit of the law and does not go long, or short, on miles.
There are sustainability opportunities here, of course, which could not only increase goodwill between the carrier and community, but also result in longer-lasting fleets on account of smarter routing and fuel-saving incentive mechanisms.
Conclusion & call-to-action
In order to get the most out of the bulk liquid tanker carrier partnership start with the basics, or:
- Establish regular contact with carrier dispatchers to open the lines of communication
- Review standard operating procedures regularly to keep up with changes and regulations
- Remain flexible when confronted with problems or changes and work alongside carriers to solve any issues in a team-like manner
- Be clear and always provide clear information to dispatchers, receiving departments, guard shacks, outbound personnel, brokers, and carriers
While all of the above may seem a bit complex, just think back to how the human body is able to automate much of what it makes operational and do so in your organization. A strong dispatch center is essential for this and then, if and when crises arise, quickly alert the rest of the organization and resolve the matter post haste.
If you have a liquid bulk shipment and would like to partner with total connection, simply give us a call in the office today to discuss your specific needs or fill out the form below and we’ll get back to you right away.