What distinguishes a premier tank fleet? Performance, safety, sharp-looking equipment, professional drivers, financial stability—all are enviable traits that belong on the list. But ultimately, says Thomas Warren, Jr., it’s about helping customers solve problems and secure their own reputations as premier businesses.
“A lot of that ‘premier’ status comes from doing your job really well—delivering on time, being dependable, being reliable—so you’re in a position to do something truly special when the opportunity comes,” says Warren, vice president of operations at Altom Transport, a petroleum and chemical carrier based in Summit, Ill.
Last year, when opportunity came for Altom’s oldest and perhaps closest customer, Warren turned to Polar Tank for assistance.
A Family Business
Altom got its start in 1970 as the dedicated carrier for the Al Warren Oil Co., a family-owned distributor of gasoline, diesel, and heating oil in the Chicago area. Al Warren ran the fuel business, and his son, Thomas Warren, Sr., handled the trucks. The fleet expanded, diversified, and became a standalone business unit specializing in bulk chemical and petroleum transportation.
Today, the Altom operation is one of the nation’s leading fuel and chemical carriers, with 250 power units and 450 tank trailers. Its customers include Fortune 500 companies throughout the United States and Canada.
Altom also manages the dedicated fleet for Al Warren Oil, including 45 tank wagons. “We provide on-site fueling, on-site tanks, 24-hour automated fuel sites, bulk fuel delivery—just about anything a trucking company or municipality will need,” says Warren.
Those needs are changing as fleets take on vehicles that use urea-based diesel exhaust fluid (DEF) to reduce engine emissions.
Because the on-road distribution network for DEF is still developing, fleets want the convenience of filling their vehicles’ tanks on site. But the 275-gallon and 330-gallon totes that DEF comes in are unwieldy. The empties either need to be disposed of or stored until they can be collected.
Bulk DEF storage or on-site refilling are better options, but would involve a separate delivery in addition to the fuel and chemicals the fleet gets from the distributor.
Warren had an idea to deliver DEF and diesel fuel on the same vehicle.
“Our Warren Oil fuel trucks make 10 to 15 stops a day, and two or three of those customers will require DEF as well,” he says. “If we could provide DEF and diesel fuel at the same time, we could offer a unique service that would both appeal to our customers and increase the productivity of our distribution business.”
A Unique Solution
Warren worked with Polar Tank to develop a customized straight truck capable of delivering bulk DEF and fuel at the same time. More than 90 percent of Altom Transport’s tanks are Polar, a relationship that goes back nearly 30 years.
“They know our spec,” he says. “They know our priorities. Polar was my first call.”
It started with “us just kicking around the idea with our rep at Polar,” Warren explains. “We knew what we wanted to accomplish from an operations standpoint. Polar stepped up with the expertise to turn our pencil sketch into a cost-effective vehicle that would deliver the performance we expect.”
The result is a tank wagon with a 1,000-gallon stainless steel 406 tank for DEF and a 3,500-gallon three-compartment aluminum 406 tank for refined fuel. Both ride on the same Peterbilt Model 348 chassis.
Polar worked closely with Warren and the application engineers at Peterbilt to ensure that the truck would handle well and provide the highest allowable payload.
DEF weighs approximately 9 pounds per gallon, roughly 3 pounds more than gasoline and 2 pounds more than No. 2 diesel. “We needed to make sure the vehicle would be legal throughout its delivery cycle,” Warren says.
While Altom prides itself on highly specialized services, this is the only dual diesel-DEF tank truck that Warren is aware of.
“No one else can offer this type of delivery,” he says. “At the same time, we value versatility. The 1,000-gallon tank cleans up dry and odor free. When we’re not delivering DEF, we can haul bulk glycols, solvents, and other chemicals that our customers need.”
For its DEF provider, Altom relies on the Air1 DEF solution from Yara North America. DEF is made from a high purity urea solution. Urea is produced synthetically from ammonia and carbon dioxide (CO2). Urea is found in every day U.S. products such as hair conditioner, cosmetics and adhesives. Yara is the largest single urea producer in North America with the 1.1 million tons production capacity at its Yara Belle Plaine plant. In addition, Yara North America imports around 1 million tons of urea to its strategically located coastal terminals to cover regions not covered by domestic U.S. plants.
A History of Cooperation
The customized DEF truck is the latest milestone in a long history of cooperation between Altom and Polar Tank.
“Our Polar equipment enhances our reputation as a premier operation,” Warren says. “Our tank trucks and trailers are the Cadillac of the industry. There’s more hard piping, fewer connections, fewer hoses, ground-level vapor recovery, and curbside pump controls. New trailers include Bendix roll stability controls and central tire inflation. Simply put, we pride ourselves on having the best equipment on the road.”
Altom performs preventative maintenance and most repairs at its own shops, but will use Polar Service Centers for HM-183 and D.O.T. inspections. Polar has locations in many areas where Altom operates. When the fleet expanded operations in the Gulf Coast, with more than 70 power units and 130 tank trailers, it worked with the Polar Service Center in Houston to provide maintenance support.
Altom typically replaces its trailers every seven years, so a high-end spec and attention to maintenance translate to higher resale values. This is “definitely an added benefit” to using Polar, says Warren.
“Everything about our Polar equipment is focused on safety, convenience, and efficiency,” he explains. “We can give customers not only what they want, but service that exceeds their expectations whenever we can.”