WHILE BEST known as a cargo tank manufacturer, Beall Corporation has established the largest tank repair network in the western states. The company operates 13 repair facilities in seven western states.
All of the Beall repair locations have "R" stamps, and the mechanics are experienced at performing a wide range of tank repairs, from routine annual inspections and testing to major wreck rebuilding. At the shops, Beall services specification and non-specification cargo tanks and pneumatic dry bulkers.
"We started out providing repair services to those who bought our tanks, and the operation grew from there," says Dan Jarboe, Beall vice-president of marketing. "We sell a quality product, and our customers want to know that high-quality repairs will be made.
"We have found that many customers plan on keeping their tanks 20 years or more. Good service and repairs are crucial to the long life. The future looks very good for our repair operations.
"We put the shops where our customers are, and we have the West pretty well covered. We see a need for perhaps one more shop at this point, but we are still reviewing possible locations."
Shop Locations The repair facilities are at Beall factory or branch locations. However, Beall managers stress that service operations are completely separate from manufacturing. "We do major wreck repair at our factories, but service work is done only at the repair shops," says Jerry E Beall, president of Beall Corp.
Gordon Groshong, vice-president and general manager of Beall Trailers of California Inc, adds that tank repair is a stand-alone operation regardless of whether the shop is sited at or near a Beall manufacturing plant. In particular, personnel are not shared.
"Service is a big part of the branch operation, and parts sales are an excellent companion," Jarboe says. "Most of our locations have parts salesmen out calling on customers. Parts sales goes hand-in-hand with good service." The branches carry a wide range of tank parts for vendors, including Betts, Civacon, Scully, Emco Wheaton, and Dixon. Beall locations also stock a wide range of parts for brake, suspension, and electrical systems."
Largest Facilities The largest repair shops in the Beall network are in Billings, Montana, and Portland, Oregon, and have approximately 20,000 square feet of shop space. The Fresno and Oakland, California, shops are the smallest with about 6,000 square feet of space.
The other nine shops are in Phoenix, Arizona; Turlock and Rialto, California; Denver, Colorado; Dickinson, North Dakota; Springfield, Oregon; and Kent, Washington. Portland has two shops. One specializes in cargo tank work, while the other handles a wide range of non-vessel trailer repairs. Phoenix also has two Beall locations, both of which repair tanks.
The Fresno shop is the newest in the system, having opened for business in January 1997. Like the other Beall shops, the Fresno facility provides pick-up and delivery service for tank trailers scheduled for service or repair. It has an "R" stamp for code tank work, and the mechanics repair anything Beall manufactures. The Fresno shop also has expanded into intermediate bulk containers.
Three Beall mechanics in Fresno are certified for code welding. Other Beall shops have as many as 15 to 20 code welders. These mechanics are key personnel in the operation.
"One of the biggest challenges we face is finding good tank mechanics," Jarboe says. "In particular, there is a shortage of mechanics who have the qualifications and experience to weld on aluminum tanks. We do a lot of training from scratch.
"Our objective is for weld repairs to be as good as the original welding. It's amazing how a good mechanic can fix a tank to make it look almost like new. There is no school for that. It's a special art to take something apart and reassemble it perfectly."
Mechanic Training Mechanics joining the Beall tank repair operation learn much more than welding techniques, though. Tank testing and inspection accounts for 25% to 30% of the maintenance activity at each shop, and mechanics are kept up to date on the Department of Transportation requirements for those procedures. Training for confined-space entry is an on-going program. Safety always comes first, and mechanics are required to double-check the tank atmosphere before going inside. Disciplinary action is immediate if a mechanic fails to verify the tank condition and sign the entry tag.
Safety supervisors check for oxygen level, lower explosive limits, and the presence of hydrogen sulfide. The entry permit is posted on the tank along with a red tag stating that the tank has been designated a confined space. The red tag carries Beall's definitions of confined spaces. It states that proper safety equipment must be worn by anyone entering a tank, and forced ventilation must be used prior to and during tank entry.
Clean Tanks Beall doesn't allow mechanics in any tank that hasn't been cleaned or degased. Some locations clean tanks on-site, while others use outside contractors.
Degasing has become more of a problem for the Beall shops in California. Since last year, the California Air Resources Board (CARB) has barred anyone from airing out or steaming out tanks that have contained products with high levels of volatile organic compounds (VOCs).
CARB officials contend that as much as 100 pounds of VOC emission is released when a 9,500- to 10,000-gallon gasoline trailer is degased. However, CARB has yet to show any data supporting that claim, according to Groshong.
"We believe steaming or blowdown are the best and safest methods for degasing cargo tanks," Groshong says. "CARB wants to bar us from doing anything that would require opening the domelids.
"Instead, CARB officials have suggested degasing a gasoline trailer by running a load of diesel through it. This is not practical in many cases. Charcoal filters or closed-loop air circulation have been suggested, but we haven't found any of these systems that work satisfactorily."
Beall is working with other tank repair shops and various trade organizations in California in an effort to eliminate or modify the CARB requirement. Public hearings were scheduled for January, with a ruling expected shortly. Degasing is a major consideration because large numbers of petroleum tanks move through the Beall shops. Many tanks are brought in for the federally mandated tests and inspections. Beall mechanics report that they often find inoperable vents and vapor recovery systems on petroleum tanks.
While tests and inspections are bread-and-butter activities for the Beall shops, the mechanics have plenty of opportunities to demonstrate their full range of skills. They will rebuild almost any type of cargo tank, except pressure vessels.
The repair facilities give Beall Corp the ability to fully service customer needs in virtually any part of the West where concentrations of tank truck fleets can be found.