By Phyllis Zorn, Staff Writer
Enid News and Eagle
From its Depression-era beginnings as a one-man operation to a present day annual revenue of $195 million, Groendyke Transport has grown into a major player in the tank truck business.
Harold Groendyke hauled his first load of kerosene from Borger, Texas, to Beaver in July 1932, driving a two-axle Ford truck with a 3,000-gallon tank mounted on its homemade chassis. The 114-mile trip took all day.
Three years later Groendyke moved his 10-truck company to Enid to be closer to suppliers, setting up headquarters in a gas station. The company now operates 34 terminals in 12 states and hauls more than 420,000 loads of chemicals, acids, fuels, lubricants, flour and vegetable oils throughout the United States, Canada and Mexico each year.
Chief of operations Greg Hodgen said Groendyke currently employs about 1,350 and drove about 76 million miles last year. It is the fifth-largest tank truck company in the U.S. and among the top 100 trucking companies.
Hodgen credits the company’s determination to pursue opportunities and its culture of “getting things done” with the company’s success. Those values were instilled by Harold Groendyke, who kept a hand on the steering wheel of Groendyke Transport until his death in 1986.
“Being a product of the dust bowl and the depression, he knew the value of hard work,” Hodgen said.
Though Groendyke weathered the economic downturn well, the future is not without its challenges. Top of the list is finding qualified drivers for the fleet of 1,000 tractors and 1,700 trailers, Hodgen said. Because the company hauls hazardous materials, its drivers must pass an FBI check and be 23 or older. In addition, there’s more to the job than hitching the trailer and driving down the road. Drivers must operate tank valves, change hazardous materials placards and keep accurate records.
“Our drivers have to be more than drivers,” Hodgen said. “It really takes highly-skilled applicants to do the job. Finding people to do that is a challenge.”
Another challenge is the infrastructure of the U.S. today, Hodgen said. Bridges and highways are deteriorating and needing significant investment in repair and replacement.
“If we go to ethanol and electric cars, how are we going to pay for those repairs?” Hodgen said.
Then there are regulatory agencies making proposals that don’t always get enough thought, in his opinion.
“There needs to be a balance between being smart and safe, and over-regulation,” he said.
Meeting Environmental Protection Agency standards for diesel emissions has reduced the reliability of tractor engines today and lowered fuel economy. Technology hasn’t had time to catch up with the regulation, Hodgen said.
“I’m confident manufacturers will get it worked out, but it’s a hassle right now,” Hodgen said.
Nevertheless, Hodgen sees a bright future for a company instilled with a drive to get things done.