HTI Tank Wash started as a facility to service only Harkrader Trucking, but 25 years later, it's handling major work in the Bay Area
Mar 1, 2010 12:00 PM, By Rick Weber
HARKRADER Trucking Inc (HTI) is celebrating the 25th anniversary of its six-bay tank-wash facility in Oakland, California — which is rather amazing to owner John Harkrader, given that he never planned it.
He built the tank wash three years after starting his trucking company, Harkrader Trucking. His trucks hauled food-grade products and light-chemical commodities in the San Francisco Bay Area and surrounding counties.
The process of getting tank trucks cleaned in between loads could be long and costly. Not only was the tank truck delayed from completing the next load, but the driver had to be paid for the waiting period. It seemed like the natural course was to build his own tank wash rack — which would mean no waiting, and a lower cost for the cleaning.
“Shortly after we built our tank wash, the only other wash rack in the area was closed,” he says. “We were thrown all of the business in the bay area, and we went from 8 hours, 5 days a week to 24/7 to handle it all.
“We soon decided that tank cleaning was a much easier business to run, and more profitable than the trucking had been to us, so we sold the trucks and shifted all of our attention to the tank wash. I just lucked out, getting into this business. It wasn't my original plan.”
At its peak in the mid 1990s, HTI handled 150 trucks a week. But a number of food companies moved out of California, because of the high costs of labor, insurance, and land. This definitely impacted business, as the call for food-grade washes was drastically decreased.
These days, HTI handles 80 trucks a week. Harkrader isn't complaining, though.
“Business is not as great as it used to be,” he says, “but adjusting to changing times is a factor in any business. The gross amounts may have gone down but costs have also gone down. The costs of operating have been refined over the years. My profit margin today is the same as it was when I used to do twice as many trucks.”
As the years have gone by, the restrictions of the local publicly owned treatment works (POTW), East Bay MUD, have become more rigorous. Handling so many various food grade and chemical washes, HTI's waste stream has been different every day — even every minute. The biggest challenge became developing a treatment system to meet the environmental boundaries set by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and East Bay MUD.
“We definitely paid our dues and fines over the years, trying to experiment with different treatment systems,” Harkrader says. “We finally came up with one that works pretty darned good. We haven't had a violation in seven years.
“We've worked with HydroTech Environmental in building a treatment system that uses a special powdered polymer to separate any hazardous content from our waste stream. The waste water is sent to a 15,000-gallon holding tank, the pH level is adjusted and the waste water is sent to the treatment machine. The hazardous elements are separated, removed and the water is sent to another holding tank. The final step takes the water through a carbon filter to remove any trace of hydrocarbon that may be present, before being released to the sewer district.
“Hydro Tech Environmental experimented with different blends of polymer to finally find the one that works for our waste stream. We experimented for five years to get the right blend, right pH, the right speed on the treatment machine, and the right carbon filter. It was all worth it.”
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