Media reports to the contrary, heavy manufacturing remains a significant contributor to the US economy. Manufacturers include those that turn out a vast array of products fabricated from steel.

Much has changed in the steel fabricating industry in recent years, but many of the manufacturing processes still call for application of various chemical treatments — including galvanizing and pickling. Further, the fabricators still have to find a safe and reliable way to dispose of the waste chemicals from the treatment process.

Many of these steel fabricators — especially those in the Midwest — turn to Vickery Transportation Inc and its partner, Vickery Environmental Inc, for disposal of what are often hazardous wastes. It is something that these two companies do exceedingly well.

“As the house carrier for Vickery Environmental, we transport better than half of all inbound hazardous waste shipments to their facility in Vickery, Ohio,” says John Whittington, transportation specialist at Vickery Transportation. “We're seeing steady growth from year to year, and 2007 was our best year to date. We are very optimistic about the future for this operation.

“Probably 95% of the loads we handle go to Vickery Environmental, although we do haul some shipments to other treatment locations. Most of the loads we transport are hazardous wastes, but we do move a few non-hazardous wastes.”

Growing operation

A subsidiary of Grammer Industries Inc, the Vickery, Ohio-based tank truck fleet was established in 1999. “Grammer got into this as a contract carrier supplementing the trucking service provided by Vickery Environmental's own small fleet,” Whittington says. “We served Vickery Environmental with trucks from our Ft Wayne (Indiana) terminal. Before long, Grammer was supplying 80% to 90% of the brokered transportation for the waste treatment company. Eventually, we were offered the opportunity to take over the Vickery Environmental fleet and manage all of the transport operations for the facility.”

Today, Vickery Transportation runs eight company-owned tractors and 28 tank trailers. Five to six owner-operators also haul loads for Vickery Transportation, and the carrier has access to fleet assets of its parent company.

They serve a waste disposal operation that has been open since the 1950s. The 517-acre facility is operated by Vickery Environmental, a division of Waste Management Inc. Typically, Vickery Environmental processes 30 million to 35 million gallons of hazardous waste annually and is permitted for a maximum of 54 million gallons a year.

Wastes handled at the facility include acids (hydrochloric, sulfuric, chromic, nitric, hydrofluoric, and phosphoric), ammonium products, brines, landfill leachate, and caustic. Site restrictions include the following: reactive cyanides must be less than 250 parts per million (ppm); reactive sulfides must be less than 500 ppm; flashpoint must be above 212°F; volatile organic compounds must be less than 5%; and oil content must be less than 10%. The facility does not accept radioactive, shock-sensitive, and infectious wastes.

Disposal of the hazardous wastes is through deep well injection, according to Vickery Environmental literature. The facility sits on top of a geological formation that has proven to be ideal for injection disposal. Four wells at the site extend 3,000 feet down through multiple impermeable rock layers and into the Mount Simon formation, a layer of porous sandstone stretching over thousands of square miles. The sandstone layer is 2,000 feet below the water table.

Through the wells, waste liquids are pumped into the Mount Simon formation, which contains them and holds them indefinitely without posing any risks to people, animals, plants, groundwater supplies, or drinking water resources, according to Vickery Environmental literature.

The facility uses some of the latest in liquid storage, pumping, and monitoring technology to ensure the long-term integrity of the system. Each well is composed of fiberglass tubing surrounded by four to six layers of steel and concrete. Between the innermost layer of steel pipe and the injection tubing is a space called the “annulus,” which is filled with diesel fuel that is maintained at a pressure higher than the pressure inside the injection tubing. This pressure differential ensures that — in the event of a breach in the injection pipe — none of the waste solutions can escape.

State-of-the-art computer systems with built-in redundancies continuously monitor and control the wells. In addition, Vickery Environmental workers routinely inspect the wells and pumping equipment, and yearly testing is performed to ensure the mechanical integrity of each well.

The Vickery Environmental facility is open Monday through Saturday, and in-bound waste shipments are scheduled at 20-minute intervals. All of the shipments must be pre-cleared before being sent to the disposal facility.

Waste profiles

Customers must provide a waste profile prior to the first shipment, and Vickery Environmental managers must sign off. The facility receives about a half dozen new profiles each month, according to Vickery Environmental managers.

Customers also complete a loading sheet before each shipment. Along with the initial waste profile, this is used by Vickery Transportation to determine the equipment that will be needed to safely transport the hazardous waste shipment.

Increasingly, these shipments come from more distant origins. “At one point, most of the loads we hauled were within a 200-mile radius of the Vickery Environmental location,” says Mark Cooley, Vickery Transportation operations manager. “Today, half of the loads we haul come from more than 350 miles away. We go as far south as Tampa, Florida, and west to Sioux City, Iowa.”

Longer hauls aside, Vickery Transportation still handles a large number of relatively local shipments and averages a load a day per tractor. The carrier maximizes productivity in a couple of ways. McLeod dispatch software gives the fleet managers the ability to keep the trucks moving safely and efficiently. A drop-and-hook system means drivers do none of the unloading, which gets them back on the road with minimal delay.

Professional drivers

With more shipments coming from farther away, Vickery Transportation relies heavily on its drivers to ensure that everything is in order before the wastes are loaded into the Vickery Transportation tankers. Drivers are thoroughly schooled in hazardous waste hauling procedures and regulations.

“Our drivers must know when there is a problem with the waste,” Cooley says. “We select the best truck drivers we can find, and we provide all the training they need. We give them the tools to do the job right, and this includes equipment such as a pH meter and digital thermometer.”

Upon return with a waste load, the Vickery Transportation driver checks in at the main office and delivers a sample of the waste shipment. The loaded tractor-trailer rig is weighed, after which the driver drops the trailer in the unloading bay.

Vickery Environmental personnel unload the trailer and rinse it out. Vickery Transportation trailers are washed out only at the Vickery Environmental facility, and the cleaning follows standard practice for hazardous waste transportation.

“Our tankers are cleaned thoroughly enough to ensure that we don't have a reaction from different wastes,” Whittington says. “Trailers are cleaned after each load as needed, but equipment hauling the same waste loads daily may go a week between cleanouts.”

Vickery Environmental personnel close the domelid (but don't lock down the wing nuts) after the cleaning process. The empty trailer is shuttled back to the facility entrance, where it is reweighed. It is then dropped in the parking lot ready for its next load.

Upon dispatch, the Vickery Transportation driver climbs on top of the trailer, checks to make sure the tank interior is clean and dry, and tightens the domelid wing nuts. After the trailer is loaded at the customer location, the driver seals the domelid and outlet with J J Keller plastic seals.

“Those seals are critical to our quality, safety, and security procedures,” Cooley says. “If we see a seal, we know the trailer hasn't been unloaded. A damaged seal can be an indication of tampering.”

Hazwaste trailers

The tank trailers used in the Vickery Transportation operation are designed for and are dedicated to the hauling of hazardous wastes. “We don't transport any virgin product in our operation,” Whittington says.

Most of the trailers in the fleet are vacuum tanks built to DOT407/412 code. These are preferred because they provide cleaner, more efficient operation, according to Whittington. Vacuum operation makes it possible to completely remove all hazardous waste from the hoses.

The fleet runs a variety of vacuum trailers to meet the specific handling needs of different hazardous wastes. Fiberglass reinforced plastic (FRP) trailers are getting plenty of attention right now. Vickery Transportation just bought four more FRP vacuum trailer — two from Comptank Corp and two from Brenner Tank LLC/Poly-Coat Systems Inc. All of them have a 5500-gallon capacity.

“We expect to buy more of the trailers in the future,” Whittington says. “Probably 80% of the products we haul could go in a fiberglass tank.”

Rubber-lined carbon steel vacuum trailers — mostly supplied by Brenner — have a 5,000-gallon capacity. The carrier specifies chlorobutyl rubber for longer lining life. “We're getting 10-12 years out of these linings, compared with five years for the lining material we used to specify,” Cooley says.

The carrier also runs stainless steel vacuum trailers. The unlined tanks typically have a 5500-gallon capacity. Recent stainless steel tank purchases have been from Acro Trailer Co and Brenner.

Tank hardware

Tank hardware includes National Vacuum Equipment (NVE) stainless steel butterfly valves with EPDM gaskets. Plastic butterfly valves are used on rubber-lined and FRP tanks. “We find a lot of debris in waste shipments, and we've had the best success with these valves,” Whittington says. “The valves last four to five years in our operation.”

Trailers also have NVE Challenger vacuum pumps, Girard pressure-relief vents, and MiniRanger level gauges. Chlorobutyl rubber hose with stainless and polypropylene fittings is supplied by Hart Industries Inc.

Hendrickson Intraax air suspensions were specified on the newer vacuum trailers in the fleet. Running gear also includes steel disc wheels and Firestone tires.

Company tractors in the Vickery Transportation fleet are Peterbilt Model 379 conventionals with 70-inch walk-in sleepers. “We like the classic Peterbilt style,” Whittington says. “We chose Peterbilt for performance and resale value. We replace our tractors on a three-year schedule, which helps ensure that we run some of the latest technologies.”

The newest company tractors were specified with the Cummins ISX 475-horsepower engine, 13-speed Fuller transmission, and Eaton tandem-drive axles. A Drum Hydrapak hydraulic system provides power for the trailer-mounted vacuum pump.

Vickery Transportation outfits tractors with spill kits that are assembled in-house. Focused specifically on hazardous wastes, the kits include a 300-gallon popup swimming pool for spill containment.

Vehicle maintenance is a critical part of the operation, and every effort is made to ensure that the tractors and trailers can operate safely and reliably. Maintenance operations are contracted out, because the carrier found that to be most cost effective.

Whitey JAM Tire in Toledo, Ohio, handles most of the tractor and tire service. Buckeye Tank & Trailer Inc in Toledo, Ohio, provides most of the routine tank trailer service and federally mandated tank tests and inspections.

All in all, Vickery Transportation has assembled an operation capable of providing the best in hazardous waste hauling. The carrier continues to grow as it gains market share and expands its operating area.