'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.


Southern Dallas inland port, Panama Canal link still viable

From the Dallas Morning News

An inland port moving containers from rails to warehouses to trucks remains a driver for economic development in southern Dallas, says an executive with Intermodal Cartage, a trucking firm with container yards in Wilmer and Haslet.

The International Inland Port of Dallas hasn’t been in the news much since developer Richard Allen filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection on his 6,000-acre development there in January 2010. Allen says he hopes to emerge from bankruptcy this summer, possibly with a partner. Meanwhile, Whirlpool and American Standard have announced warehouse projects in the area.

Intermodal Cartage, a firm based entirely on international trade, has built up its Wilmer site while watching Panama expand its canal.

“We believe this area is going to take off with the canal,” said Harrison Hoof, executive vice president of Intermodal Cartage.

Most containers coming from China and other Asian exporters enter the U.S. market at the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, Calif. They are then mounted on trains heading east to inland ports such as Chicago, Kansas City, Alliance Texas in Fort Worth and the Union Pacific (UNP) yard in Wilmer.

Expanding the Panama Canal will allow very large ships carrying as many as 12,000 containers to bypass California and sail on to the Gulf of Mexico or the Atlantic. That should increase traffic at ports like Houston.

From Houston, railroads could bring many of the containers to warehouses and trucking firms in southern Dallas. Exports of Texas cotton and other goods could travel the same route in reverse.

“The I-45 corridor is going to be a key part of the all-water route from Asia. It’s just a matter of time,” Hoof said. “It’s a great business opportunity in this area.”

Share of the pie

By now, this is a familiar expectation. Before the recession caught up with Dallas at the end of 2008, the International Inland Port of Dallas was moving on a wave of optimism that, finally, southern Dallas and its neighbors would get their share of the North Texas economic pie.

The main attractions are still in place: Union Pacific Railroad’s intermodal terminal in Wilmer, Interstates 20, 45 and 35E, and lots of available land.

During the recession, Texas remained the nation’s leading exporter, but volumes of both U.S. imports and exports fell sharply. Cost pressures eased for shippers relying on the California ports.

While BNSF Railway carries plenty of those container cargoes to Alliance Texas in Fort Worth, some of that California rail traffic arrives daily at Union Pacific’s Wilmer yard.

The existing assets were enough to attract Whirlpool and American Standard, who struck deals for giant warehouse facilities in Wilmer and Hutchins last year with Duke Realty.

“We believe in the area,” said Jeff Thornton, Duke’s senior vice president for Dallas operations. “If they’re able to get an inland port in place down there, no question, it would add to the attraction of area.”

Thornton said he expects the expansion of the canal and rising volumes of trade to propel southern Dallas in the future, but, right now, “the area’s still in its infancy.”

Consistent vision

Allen said the recession “slowed down the process a lot more than all of us had hoped,” but “the vision hasn’t changed a bit.”

Intermodal Cartage, headquartered in Memphis, Tenn., bought 100 acres in Wilmer in January. It handles thousands of containers in both Wilmer and Haslet, but the bulk of its traffic is in Wilmer.

“Once those volumes start through the canal — it’s three years away, but when customers look to setting up distribution networks, this area will definitely take off,” Hoof said.


Keepin’ on Truckin’; Intermodal Cartage’s business is continuing to grow – and how they’re doing it.

From the Memphis Business Quarterly –

When a company grows from one man with one truck to operating in 27 locations in 10 different states, somebody is doing something right. That somebody is Mark George, who founded Intermodal Cartage in 1982.

Since that time, the company has mushroomed so much that George is now chairman of Intermodal Cartage Companies, the parent company of Intermodal Cartage, or IMCG. Intermodal Cartage Companies now operates six other companies around the country with a total of 1,400 employees.

One way George has built such a successful company is by surrounding himself with the brightest and best people, cultivating a management team and promoting within. IMCG almost never hires from outside the organization at the executive level. Experienced managers are moves up when positions become available.

Randall Wright, who started with Intermodal Cartage in 1985 as vice president of operations, is now executive vice president of Intermodal Cartage Companies, and he has designed a manager-in-training program to ensure the company is run by the best home grown talent. “What’s unique is that we don’t even advertise [jobs],” Wright says. “We have a lot of contacts here, and almost all of the [applications] have come out of Memphis.”Applications continue to pour in, he says.

Managers in training at IMCG start fresh out of college, and by the time they take their positions with the company, they already know the business inside and out. The program takes place at the company’s Memphis location, 145 acres on Holmes Road.

“It’s very intense,” Wright says. “We’re grooming them to e mid-level managers.” In the four years the program has been running, 15 managers have completed the program – and they are all still with the company. “We’re responsible for providing the field with qualified managers,” he says. “We’re taking kids coming out of college, whether they have a business degree, a transportation-and-logistics degree, or finance, and we give them one more year of college.”

“It’s great to have a year between college and work when you have all this opportunity to learn,” says Erin Meyer, the most recent graduate of the program. She is now working in the company’s newest location in Kansas City.

Although almost all the program participants are from Memphis, they are aware on the front end that they may not e staying in Memphis. “They make that clear in your first interview, that you’re more than likely going to be relocated,” Meyer says. Upon completion, the new managers are plugged in at one of the other six operations of Intermodal Cartage Companies.

The experience of completing the program provides adequate training for new managers to hit the ground running. “They are thorough: You spend a good amount of time in each department,” Meyer says.

Katie George Hooser is the chairman’s daughter, who now handles business development for IMCG. She went through the management training program as other candidates do.

“He quizzes you to make sure you’re paying attention,” Hooser says of the one-on-one weekly meetings the trainees have with Wright. He holds weekly sessions with each participant in the program because they don’t report to their department heads but directly to him.

The program is not cut in stone. Wright says he tailors the program for each person, so if there is a department or skill that needs additional focus, the would-be managers are returning for additional training in the deficient area.

Wright and his trainees agree the most vital department is customer service, although the extensive training also includes time spent in all other departments, some of which include repairs and maintenance, gate inspection, revenue accounting, risk management, and driver services, among others.

The drivers are also critical to the smooth operation of IMCG. “The most important asset we have is our drivers,” Wright says. “We do a good job of recruiting company drivers because they are company employees. They have the same benefits as other employees, the same 401(k). They have a quarterly bonus.”

Company drivers are easier to recruit, Randall says, but owner-operators are more difficult to find these days, and that poses a bit of a challenge.

Wright attributes high fuel costs to the decline in the number of owner-operators. The economy in 2008 and 2009 also put many drivers out of business, forcing them to take other jobs.

As the economy slowly rebounds, owner-operators who have taken other jobs are ineligible to work at IMCG because they have no recent driving experience. Each company has its own requirements for hiring drivers. At IMCG, drivers must be 23 years old and have two years of driving experience within the last three years.

Owner Operators are an important labor component, and the percentage is that about half of the drivers IMCG uses are independent drivers.

“We rely on them to assist us with the workload and the number of customers that we have,” Wright says.

Wright says that people are really the driving force of the company, and he never loses site of that. “To me, what’s most important is the excellence and service we provide and the high standards that I not only set for myself but for my employees,” he says. “We’re not just a normal trucking company. We are a professional group of people. We’ve put together a professional organization.”


Business leader brings new indoor sport to the Memphis area.

From Memphis Sport Magazine –

Winter can prove brutal to the average soccer player. While playing outdoors is not ruled out entirely, frozen fields and bitterly cold temperatures offer little in the way of pick-up games. For those seeking warmth and competition, an internationally popular alternative has reached the United States, providing athletes the opportunity to take the game indoors.

Futsol, a variant of soccer, is mostly played indoors on a hard court surface. The name is derived from the Spanish futbol de salon, or hall football. Futsol teams have fewer players than those of soccer, playing on a field much smaller than a soccer pitch using a harder ball with less bounce. Because of tighter boundaries, futsol players face a fas-paced game with the need for precise ball control.

At Independent Presbyterian Church (IPC) in Memphis, some of the Mid-South’s finest young soccer players are invited to palay futsol twice a week with area club and college coaches, honing in on their footwork and training during soccer’s off-season. The invitational also allows them to compete at a higher level, free of charge.

For IPC member and futsol co-manager Randy Wright, offering the church’s gym to the athletes was a natural decision. As a former coach of various youth sports at IPC and lifelong athlete, Wright sought a way to assist with futsol in the Mid-South.

“Since futsol is mostly parent-led in Memphis and is not widely offered, hosting it provides an opportunity for me to become very involved,” he said. “It gives me a lot of satisfaction and enjoyment to coach my own children and be involved in something they enjoy. Any part I can have in teaching kids sportsmanship, leadership and teamwork is personally very rewarding.”

Along with co-manager Kevin Parker, Wright serves as timekeeper and official for the futsol scrimmages at IPC as well as guardian to the athletes, ensuring clean matches and hydrated, helathy bodies.

“The players’ parents trust that they can leave their kids here for a couple of hours and know that we’re going to take care of them, make them take water breaks and play fairly, all while providing elite competition,” Wright said. “And, during soccer season, we take the game outdoors so they can practice year-round.”

By day, Wright leads a team of more than 40 employees as Executive Vice President for Intermodal Cartage, a Memphis-based company and home to the largest intermodal terminal in the Southeast. He finds a distinct correlation between the workplace and sports.

“Teamwork is just as critical for business as it is in sports,” Wright said. “Behind my desk, I have a photo that depicts a sailing team working shoulder to shoulder to keep its boat upright. As any team works to reach a common goal, they must put differences aside and have trust for and commitment to one another.”


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.”

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.”


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


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.