A Family Business Delivers Up Chemicals and Excellent Service
Altom Transport is a family-run firm with a well-deserved reputation for top-of-the-line equipment, excellent service and a superlative safety culture. Launched in the 1970s, but with roots going back to 1948, the company is a specialized carrier of petroleum and chemical products.
“Altom is a family-owned company that has been in business for over sixty years. The third generation of the family is operating the business today. We have been proudly serving the petrochemical industry since our founding,” says Terry Rodery, vice president of Gulf Coast operations at Altom.
The company transports acids/corrosives, additives, asphalt paving materials, aviation fuels, base oils, finished lubricants, glycols, hazardous and non-hazardous waste, solvents, motor fuels, petroleum distillates, resins, solvents, specialty chemicals, wastewater, and more.
While founded in Chicago, Altom “just recently switched our corporate office to Hammond, Indiana, as we see a culture more favorable to businesses in Indiana,” says Rodery.
Altom currently has “approximately 250 to 300 employees/independent contractors. This number has gone down a bit in the last year by about ten to fifteen percent,” he says. The company also features an impressive fleet of nearly two hundred trucks and five hundred trailers.
“The most unique thing about Altom is the quality of our equipment. We buy nothing but the best equipment available, and we takes lots of pride in maintaining that equipment to very high standards,” says Rodery.
Altom acquires top-of the-line Peterbilt trucks and Polar trailers, straight from the factory. Based in Denton, Texas and founded in 1939, the Peterbilt Motors Company is one of the premier truck manufacturers in the United States. The Polar Corporation, meanwhile, is North America’s largest maker of tank trailers. Launched in 1946 and based in Minnetonka, Minnesota, Polar shares with Peterbilt a reputation for manufacturing very high-quality equipment.
Given the range of products it carries, Altom’s trailers come in a variety of forms; the company has stainless steel insulated trailers, aluminum skin, single and multi-compartment configured trailers of both stainless and aluminum, trailers configured with front-center-rear unloading capabilities, dedicated aviation fuel trailers, asphalt trailers, and vacuum trailers.
Altom’s origins can be traced to the late 1940s, to a company called Al Warren Oil that delivered heating oil in the Chicago area. “As Al Warren trucks would go into the local refineries picking up oil, they quickly gained a reputation for having great equipment and providing excellent service. This reputation grew as the company was presented with opportunities to transport products on a commercial basis for the refineries,” explains Rodery.
The firm began handling “more and more chemical commodities” and as a result, Altom Transport was created in 1978 to handle chemical shipments. The Al Warren company still exists today, making deliveries of oil and petroleum products.
The Altom company name is “made up from the founder’s name – Al – and his son, Tom. Today, Tom is still our CEO and his own son, Tom is our executive vice president… continuing the family business, for years to come. Both Toms are engaged in the business on a daily basis, preferring to be ‘hands on,’” says Rodery.
Rodery cites loyalty, skills and a strict adherence to safety as attributes that the company looks for in a new employee. “First off, we look at a driver’s background history and safety record. When we hire a driver, we are looking for someone that lives and breathes a safety culture, as safety is always a high priority here at Altom. We want to hire a driver that is looking for a home, as we would like to hire people that want to make the commitment and dedication to be a long time partner with Altom.”
The company goes to great lengths to maintain and enhance this safety culture. “All Altom employees and contractors participate in a five-day orientation program covering regulations, safety measures, equipment standards, and hands-on training with our equipment. All employees are trained to OSHA standards as first responders at the operations level, so they are prepared to handle any emergency that may arise on the job,” says Rodery.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is a department of the U.S. government. Altom employees take part in ‘Hazwoper’ training run by the OSHA. Hazwoper stands for Hazardous Waste Operations and Emergency Response Standard. It covers such topics as basic chemistry and toxicology for emergency response, chemical hazard recognition, implementing an emergency action plan, basic blood-borne pathogen response in chemical emergencies, minimizing hazards at work, and decontamination processes.
Altom is also a partner member of the Washington D.C. based American Chemistry Council’s Responsible Care Partnership Program. The program “is a risk-based management program employed by a majority of the best run companies in the world. Participation requires third-party certification by an independent auditing firm,” says Rodery.
The American Chemistry Council (ACC)’s Responsible Care Partnership Program is open to companies that distribute, transport, store, use, treat, dispose of, sell, or market chemicals. The Responsible Care program emphasizes systemic safety, vigilance, strict record keeping, and independent certification.
In addition, Altom is also C-TPAT certified. C-TPAT is the Customs-Trade Partnership Against Terrorism, an initiative run by the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and partner companies.
“C-TPAT is a voluntary public-private sector partnership program which recognizes that CBP can provide the highest level of cargo security only through close cooperation with the principal stakeholders of the international supply chain such as importers, carriers, consolidators, licensed customs brokers, and manufacturers,” explains CBP online information.
C-TPAT aims to improve the security of private company supply chains with an eye to preventing terrorism. Firms participating in the program need to provide evidence of heightened security precautions. Among other steps, participating companies have to conduct and document a security risk assessment, complete a supply chain security profile, and submit a basic application through C-TPAT’s online portal. Vehicles from companies that live up to C-TPAT’s tough standards enjoy expedited processing at border crossings.
The company’s intense focus on safety has been recognized and honored. “Altom has received special awards from many different organizations – most recently from the University of Illinois, Fire Service Institute for contributing training and equipment for training first responders and local fire departments to respond to emergencies that may arise in their communities. We have received many safety awards from various organizations we belong to.”
In addition to safety measures, it boasts a family-oriented corporate culture, says Rodery. The company genuinely cares about its employees and “wants people to be as committed to Altom as Altom is committed to them. It’s hard to put into words … being a family owned business, the owners know and deeply care about their employees and contractors. Nearly everyone knows and has access to the owners,” he adds.
Oil prices have been taking a tumble in recent years, falling to record low levels, which has affected business. “Sinking oil prices have been somewhat detrimental to the tank truck industry as a whole, as many of the products that have been transported in the last several years were being delivered to the drilling industry. When drilling is down, the need for products relating to [this sector] is in much lower demand.”
Right now, Altom is entirely focused on the North American market, minus Mexico. “We only provide service in the USA and Canada at this time. We have had several customers request that we service Mexico, and we are investigating the possibilities of transporting into Mexico, but at this time we do not provide service south of the U.S. border.”
If moving into Mexico is on the back-burner, the company is keen to expand its operations. Rodery makes clear, however, that uncontrolled growth is not on the company’s agenda. “We would like to see our business and fleet size continue to grow but at a controlled rate. We would like to make smart decisions about future customers and rates and only make acquisitions and equipment purchases based on our projected needs and those needs of our customers. We prefer to expand when we have a business opportunity that supports long-term growth … we are always looking for new business opportunities that would allow us to grow our fleet, but we want to do it [in a smart fashion] by seeking long-term contracts.”
While Altom has a website, the company primarily promotes itself through “word-of-mouth and salesmen hitting the streets,” says Rodery. The company’s excellent reputation, he explains, is the firm’s main marketing asset.
“Altom’s mission statement is ‘Superior Service Every Single Delivery,’” he says. “We employ and train the finest drivers in the industry. We equip them with the safest, best-equipped trucks in the industry today. We proudly serve communities all over the United States and take pride in being a responsible partner in keeping their communities safe.”