Road Warriors: RLI Services Provides Transportation to Pipeline Industry

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Mobilizing machinery and materials for a cross-country pipeline project demands expert logistics and coordination. Pipeline contractors rely on specialized companies like RLI Services Inc. to provide transport coordination and timely delivery of heavy equipment such as dozers, sidebooms, excavators and any equipment or supplies associated with pipeline construction, including mats, skids and pipe.

The oil and gas pipeline industry represents the primary focus of RLI Services’ business, says Gary Osborne, vice president of pipeline sales. The company employs 18 people and partners with hundreds of specialized motor carriers to ensure sufficient truck capacity for its clients.

Based in Fort Smith, Arkansas, along the Oklahoma border, RLI has sales offices in Houston, Texas; Tulsa, Oklahoma; and Bentonville, Arkansas.

“RLI provides service nationwide with our client’s projects dictating our primary locations” Osborne says. “Like the pipeliners, we follow the work.”

What is the biggest challenge in transporting equipment and supplies for pipeline projects?

RLI Services Osborne: Our clients work in a very dynamic environment where regulations/permitting issues require them to adapt to sudden changes in project start dates and deadlines. As a result, access to the client’s construction yards is sometimes a moving target. Close and constant communication between RLI and the client is critical to ensure the equipment is onsite as soon as our client has the approval to access their yards.

How does RLI Services work with clients to meet their logistics needs?

Osborne: One key to successfully managing transportation in this industry is knowing our client’s equipment fleets in detail. We are often moving the same equipment from job to job and having our software track serial numbers and specs which allows us to handle the transportation process without our client’s having to provide time consuming details while they are on the job.

What are some common misconceptions about transportation and stringing services?

Osborne: Many who are unfamiliar with transportation in this industry assume it is no different than moving any other type of general freight. The detailed specifications of equipment, permitting requirements and tight delivery schedules all contribute to an already strained capacity for available trucks. The specialized, heavy-haul trucking market is predominately served by smaller motor carriers with fewer than 20 trucks. Matching client’s transport needs with available truck capacity is a constant challenge.
What was the biggest pipeline-related job you had in the last five years? What were some of the challenges you faced?

RELATED: North American Pipeline Project Roundup for July/August 2018

What was the biggest pipeline-related job you had in the last five years? What were some of the challenges you faced?

Osborne: Mobilizing multiple contractors for the Sabal Trail project in Florida was one of the largest and most challenging jobs we have completed. Securing truck capacity to move several hundred loads, many of which required overweight/dimension permitting, over a two- to three-week period. The ground conditions for this job required an unusually large number of crane mats which further stretched available truck capacity.

Several weeks into construction, Hurricane Irma threatened central Florida requiring our clients to temporarily move much of their rolling stock out of the area and back in a very short time frame.

How do you view the oil and gas pipeline industry in North America? Why does RLI Services work in this industry?

RLI ServicesOsborne: As we began to focus on the pipeline/heavy haul industry in the mid-2000s, we were drawn to the diversity and fast-paced environment and continue to learn from it every day. It is an industry that requires transportation providers to understand the client’s business much more so than general freight transport.

We believe infrastructure expansion will continue to drive a strong pipeline construction market for the foreseeable future. Our communication with current and potential clients certainly indicates this.

In what ways has technology impacted transportation and stringing business in the last five years?

Osborne: The electronic logging device (ELD) mandate that went into effect this year has certainly had a huge impact on transportation in general and specifically in the movement of heavy equipment. Permitted oversized loads were already subject to travel curfews that lengthen transit times and the ELD mandate has added to this. In a time-sensitive industry, this obviously adds challenges to our client’s scheduling.

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