Sumter Transport Builds Busy Niche as Specialized Haz Waste Hauler
Apr 1, 1998 12:00 PM
SUMTER Transport in Sumter, South Carolina, has undergone a multitude of transitions since it was founded in 1951. The evolution continues today.
The company began as a petroleum transporter and expanded into solvents and related chemicals. More recently, however, the best growth opportunities were found in hazardous waste hauling and plant services. That work has given the carrier access to some specialized chemical hauling.
"We have carved out a profitable niche by operating vacuum and tank trailers with the Maitland Roberoller agitation system," says Pat Sears, vice-president of sales at Sumter Transport. "Waste hauling was our initial focus with this equipment, but we're beginning to develop some good accounts with shippers of bulk virgin products that contain high percentages of solids that settle out during transit."
Sister Companies Sumter Transport is part of a group of six companies, all of which are owned by the Rumph family. The first company in the group is Sumter Petroleum, which was founded in 1934 as an Amoco jobber. Other sister companies are Palmetto Gas, Market Express, The Maitland Company, and Carolina Carburetion.
Market Express operates a group of convenience stores in South Carolina. Maitland manufactures tank agitation systems. Carolina Carburetion is an automotive and truck repair operation that specializes in propane conversions.
Sumter Transport handles all bulk movements for Sumter Petroleum, Market Express, and Palmetto Gas. The fleet includes 10 power units, 15 Roberoller agitation-equipped tank trailers, four gasoline transports, and four propane trailers.
The carrier also has six additional agitator trailers that are available for lease. "This has been a profitable sideline for us," Sears says. "We believe we'll find more leasing opportunities in the future."
Sumter Transport hauled for Southeastern Chemical, a distributor of solvents and related products that was owned and operated by the Rumph family until 1995. It was through Southeastern Chemical that the carrier got involved in hazardous waste hauling.
Waste Opening "Many of our customers had difficulties finding ways to dispose of their waste solvents," says Scott Rumph Jr, Sumter Transport vice-president. "To help them, we set up a waste solvent storage and distillation operation."
By the 1980s, the Rumphs were looking for more effective ways to handle solvent wastes with a high solids content. Unable to find what they needed on the market, they designed their own equipment: the Roberoller agitation system, drum augers, power strainers, and grinding tanks.
When the solvent distribution business was sold, along with most of the specialized waste handling equipment, The Maitland Company retained the patents for the machines they had designed. The Rumph family retained a desire to work in the hazardous waste field.
Fuel-Blended Waste The current hazardous waste portion of Sumter Transport is focused on fuel-blended materials coming from recycling centers. These wastes are transported to cement kilns or incinerators.
The tank truck carrier also supports Maitland's plant services activities, and the carrier is promoting its support capabilities to other industrial service specialists. "Many industrial service companies don't have bulk transportation of their own," Sears says.
Maitland continues to develop new products and processes for various industries. For instance, Maitland has developed a process for cleaning out storage tanks and recycling the material. The patented Solids Recovery and Reintroduction Process combines a vacuum loader, mobile shredder tank, and agitator-equipped frac tanks that serve as temporary storage.
The recycling process is needed because solids settle out of some chemical solutions and build up in the storage tanks at the papermills. Sediment is often five to six feet deep in the tanks at the time of cleaning.
Through the Maitland process, packed sludge is sucked out of the storage tank by the vacuum loader. A high-temperature dilutant is added, and the sludge is transferred to the shredder tank, where it is transformed into a slurry containing about 50% solids. Pumps route the slurry back into the production process or to the frac tanks.
"This process benefits the plants because it helps them achieve greater efficiency through increased recycling of the slurry," says Robert Rumph, Maitland president. "We usually use several frac tanks, so the job goes faster and we get the storage tank back in operation quickly."
Sumter Transport's role in the operation is to move the processing equipment from one job site to another. In some cases, the carrier also hauls away waste that cannot be recycled.
The storage tank cleaning activities with Maitland are just a small part of the business Sumter Transport does with various industries. The process they use provides industries with an alternative solution to disposal. "We are gaining new customers in this industry primarily through word of mouth," Sears says.
Growing Popularity Besides wastes, Sumter Transport is using the Roberoller agitation system to haul virgin products that would require agitation during transit and offloading. Virgin products can be hauled dry or in a semi slurry. Products carried by Sumter Transport in agitator trailers include titanium dioxide and precipitated calcium carbonate.
The agitator trailers in the Sumter Transport fleet are a big attraction to customers, and they enable the fleet to fit a very specialized niche. Virgin product can be shipped containing little or no water. Water doesn't have to be added until delivery. The trailers can handle up to 80% solids in a solution and can offload some of the thickest slurries in as little as 45 minutes.
"We're getting 100% agitation in these tanks," Sears says. "One benefit is that almost no product residue remains after unloading. Waste tanks can be emptied to an RCRA (Resource Conservation and Recovery Act)-clean status as defined by the Environmental Protection Agency."
Stainless Steel Trailers The newest agitator trailers start with a stainless steel tank. Typically, the double-conical DOT407/412 tanks have a 10-inch drop to center and a 6,200-gallon capacity. Specified with three manholes, the single-compartment tanks are fully vacuum capable. A full-length catwalk runs along the curbside.
Basic trailer hardware includes Betts discharge valves and Girard pressure-relief vent. A hydraulically powered Fruitland RCF 500 vacuum pump is mounted on the front curbside. Running gear includes a Hutch spring suspension, Meritor axles and Meritor WABCO antilock braking, and Goodyear radial tires.
Inside the tank is the paddle-wheel-type Roberoller agitation system that is fabricated and installed by Maitland. All of the ASME (American Society of Mechanical Engineers) code-related prep work is done by the tank manufacturer when the tank is built.
The agitator assembly is fabricated from aluminum or stainless steel and is powered by explosion-proof, submersible hydraulic motors. Special seals and O-rings protect the motors from contamination and damage. "We go through a lot of effort to modify the hydraulic motors to perform reliably submerged in highly abrasive hazardous wastes," Robert Rumph says.
The variable-speed hydraulic motors are rated at 20 horsepower and generally run at 27 rpm. The hydraulic system is powered by a 16.5-hp Kubota diesel engine and high-pressure hydraulic pump mounted under the belly of the tank. Stainless steel hydraulic lines run to and from the motors in the tank.
Transloading Opportunities Besides the Roberoller design, Maitland also has installed its Rip Tide agitator system in some Sumter Transport trailers. The Rip Tide system resembles a series of upside-down ceiling fans. It works well in applications where the load can't be agitated until it reaches the destination, according to Robert Rumph.
The Rip Tide agitation system is used primarily in rail tankcars. Following two years of engineering and testing, it received approval from the Association of American Railroads. The agitator tankcars are available for lease through Maitland and GE Capital Railcar Services.
Maitland's tankcar leasing activities have given Sumter Transport an entree into transloading of various wastes and virgin materials. Sears says this is an area that shows good potential for the future.
Agitator trailers in the Sumter Transport fleet generally operate within a 300-mile radius of the terminals in Sumter and Birmingham, Alabama. Many trips are very short. On the waste side, trip distance often is determined by disposal requirements.
With few exceptions, the Sumter Transport fleet stays east of the Mississippi River. The company is most active in the Southeast, but some business takes it west to Missouri and north into Maine.
Experienced Drivers The carrier hires experienced drivers with good records. Most of the drivers currently employed by the carrier have in excess of 20 years over-the-road truck-driving experience and all are over 35 years old.
"We look for drivers with at least 10 years' over-the-road experience, because we want to know that they are professionals," says Claude Iler, Sumter Transport safety director. "We look for tank qualifications, and we check the motor vehicle records thoroughly."
Training takes about 10 days even for the most experienced truck drivers. Sumter Transport makes sure that newly hired drivers have a full understanding of the Roberoller agitation system operation.
Drivers attend monthly safety meetings. "With hazardous waste, there are always plenty of topics to discuss," Iler says.
Safety meetings cover updates in DOT rules, as well as drug and alcohol testing requirements. Safe-driving techniques are reviewed, along with accident reports. Pre-trip and post-trip inspections are discussed, as well as driver log accuracy.
Company Tractors Drivers are assigned to well-maintained tractors. The carrier runs both new and used power units. "We get quite a few vehicles out of the leasing fleets, usually with 150,000 to 200,000 miles on the odometer," Sears says. "We buy new trucks for applications where maintenance might be a concern."
The carrier has no set replacement schedule for tractors. With so many different applications in the organization, tractors are moved from one job to another until they are no longer cost-effective to operate. They might start in hazardous waste and then be moved to petroleum or propane.
The typical tractor in the fleet is a Kenworth T800 with a 350-hp Cummins engine and a nine-speed Fuller transmission. The daycabs have air-ride driver seats, air-conditioning, AM-FM radios, and cellular telephones.
Most maintenance of tractors and trailers is performed in-house by Carolina Carburetion. Mechanics perform all tractor work except warrantied engine repairs. Code work on tanks and DOT tests are contracted out.
Roberoller system service is handled by Maitland. Hydraulic motor shaft seals generally are replaced every six months. Bearings last about 800 hours, at which time they should be replaced and the motor rebuilt.
"Highly abrasive cargoes may result in shorter bearing life," Robert Rumph says. "Motors need to be rebuilt because grit will cut a groove in the shaft. We always keep plenty of replacement parts in stock at Maitland, and we guarantee overnight shipment to just about anywhere in the United States."
The maintenance program provided by Carolina Carburetion and The Maitland Company ensures that Sumter Transport is ready to go anytime. Reliability of the specialized equipment has played a strong role in helping the carrier build a profitable niche.
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