Illinois Auto Electric Company recently enhanced its transportation business by opening a full-service container depot facility known as National Repair Group. The parent company also operates Illinois Auto Central, Chicago's full-service Thermo King dealer, in business since 1956.
National Repair Group (NRG) sits on a 21-acre site adjacent to Illinois Auto Central at the intersection of Interstate 55 and Central Avenue in Chicago. Most of the major rail intermodal facilities are within a seven-mile radius of the company's location.
"Illinois Auto has serviced the intermodal market since its infancy as a pioneer in the refrigerated rail market," says Gordon Sirotek, president of Illinois Auto Electric Company. "Illinois Auto Central has its mobile service vehicle in the rail facilities daily."
Whatever Customer Wants Illinois Auto's new NRG division employs 48 technicians under the supervision of Rich Esler, general manager, the former owner of NRG.
"We do whatever the customer wants, including intermodal chassis, container, and refrigeration work," Esler says. "Typically, containers stop here between loads. We steam-clean them and check all equipment before it goes out again. We inspect containers for damage and do needed repairs - for example, a damaged corner post. Of course, we do container chassis, genset, and reefer work."
NRG has container handling equipment that can stack standard containers six high in the depot lot. "We turn about 200 refrigerated containers per week," Esler says, "and another 400 dry containers."
NRG has a large open-floor facility. The company works on all types of equipment except chemical tankers, Esler says. For instance, on a typical day, technicians were repairing the plywood liner of a dry van trailer, replacing the top rail of a Utility trailer that had struck a viaduct, and replacing rear swing doors with a Todco overhead door on a refrigerated trailer. "This shop can work on 24 trailers at once," Esler says.
The full-service container depot provides Illinois Auto Electric more room to offer myriad services. "With the personnel, locations, and variety of services offered, transportation operators have a one-stop shop available in the Chicago area," Sirotek says.
Major Rail Center All major railroads have big interchanges in Chicago, including Burlington Northern Santa Fe, Union Pacific, Norfolk Southern, Illinois Central, Canadian National, and Canadian Pacific, Sirotek notes.
Illinois Auto Electric has worked with railroads since the 1940s. Even before becoming a Thermo King dealer, the company was remanufacturing locomotive components. With the change and progression in intermodal traffic, Illinois Auto Electric has evolved as one of the dominant suppliers in the service of refrigeration equipment, generators, and full-service trailer, container, and chassis repair.
One change in the intermodal business is the increasing role played by international steamship lines, Sirotek notes. "The international steamship lines are becoming dominant players in the intermodal traffic through Chicago along with domestic freight carriers," he says. "We are extending our services to this customer base."
Illinois Auto Central provides many maintenance services, ranging from refrigeration service to tire repair. Since 1956, Illinois Auto has offered many truck equipment lines, such as fifthwheels and air brakes. The company also supplies cab air-conditioning, Qualcomm installation and service, and full trailer repair, to name a few. In addition, the company stocks and services the full line of transport refrigeration and bus air-conditioning products from Thermo King.
Nine-Bay Shop "Illinois Auto has a nine-bay shop for installation and maintenance of refrigeration equipment," he says. "We also are one of the biggest installers of Qualcomm satellite tracking in the country."
The company's main branch is a 24-hour shop with a staff of 26 technicians. Illinois Auto has another large shop at Great Lakes Thermo King in Portage, Indiana, also having complete trailer repair capabilities.
Illinois Auto Central has two parts delivery vehicles. "We have two drivers who deliver parts Monday through Friday throughout the metro area, almost to the Wisconsin state line," says Andy Marco, general manager of Illinois Auto Central. "We are one of the top Thermo King dealers in parts sales."