TEXARKANA, Texas—TSD Logistics Inc. has opened a transloading facility in Texarkana to supply carbon black to tire manufacturers in the U.S. and Canada.
TSD has been involved in shipping carbon black to customers for more than 30 years, but starting up the transloading facility in mid-March is a new business segment for the company.
The facility accepts overseas shipments of carbon black in large bags of about 2,200 pounds each.
TSD workers then transfer the carbon black, in a pellet form, into hopper trailers to be trucked to tire manufacturers mostly in the western half of the U.S. and Canada, according to company officials.
Only one other facility in the U.S. specializes in transferring carbon black from the large shipping sacks into hopper trailers, the officials said. The work is difficult because it must be done by hand to prevent the carbon black pellets from being crushed and damaging the product's usefulness in tire manufacturing.
"Carbon black can't be loaded by machine because it breaks it down, and it becomes unusable to the tire manufacturers," said Lew Rowden, TSD chief operating officer. "It really has to be done by hand or it tears up the product."
Tire manufacturers, meanwhile, are moving toward purchasing more carbon black from overseas sources.
"We're seeing a lot of change from domestic production to bringing in foreign material," Rowden said.
"The only way they bring in foreign material is in these Super Sacks. Most of the tire manufacturers do not like to take Super Sacks. They like it in bulk form, which is either hopper trucks or hopper cars on trains. Anytime you get something brought from overseas, it has to be transferred into one or the other."
The only other facility in the nation specializing in transferring carbon black from large shipping sacks to hopper cars or trailers is in the Eastern U.S., said TSD Marketing Coordinator Natalie Peek.
"A lot of people don't like to work with carbon black because it's a very sensitive product, and it is quite messy," Peek said. "That's why it's a specialty for us to work with it."
Two major tire manufacturers have committed to move approximately 30 million pounds of material through TSD's new transloading facility in 2013, according to the company. It currently is in negotiations with other customers that could increase the volume to 65 million pounds.
"All of the major tire manufacturers are very interested in it because there is basically a limited supply of carbon black that can be produced domestically," Rowden said. "They're all going to be bringing in carbon black from overseas or Mexico."
Preparing for delivery
Carbon black manufacturers in Russia, India, Egypt, Mexico and China are looking to bring their product into the U.S., Rowden said.
However, the products enter this country in Super Sacks and need to be transferred into hopper cars for delivery to tire manufacturers.
Texarkana is a good location for a new transloading facility because of its proximity to ports and customers, Rowden and Peek said.
TSD can accept sacks of carbon black that come into ports in Louisiana, Texas and California, and then transfer the material into hopper trailers for trucking to tire manufacturers, primarily west of the Mississippi.
The addition of TSD's Texas transloading facility gives tire manufacturers options that reduce the miles carbon black needs to be shipped.
"If it comes into Long Beach (Calif.) from China, they had to truck it or rail it all the way over to West Virginia and then bring it back to the tire plants that are in Texas, Oklahoma and Arkansas," Rowden said. "This way, we kind of cut out half the miles of transportation."
Rowden declined to reveal the two tire manufacturers that already have committed to using the company's new transloading facility.
He also wouldn't disclose how much money the company invested in building the new plant.
The company said the facility has more than 65,000 square feet of optional storage capacity, a truck dock, rail spur, onsite staff and drop yard. Custom reporting and inventory management are available as well, according to the company.
While the firm is transferring the carbon black into hopper trailers for truck shipping only, future plans call for also putting the material aboard rail hopper cars, Rowden said.
Additional information about the company and its new transloading facility are available at tsdlogistics.com.