Safety and Sustainability across the Entire Wastestream
Heritage has a long and distinguished history. Born from necessity to service the industrial waste from various offshoots of the Heritage Group in a safe and ecologically sound way, the company has grown to become a nationwide hauler and transportation company that contains and transports hazardous and non-hazardous waste.
While Heritage Transport has many customers across various industries, its primary customer is very close to home. Steve Clausing, President of Heritage Transport, explains this dynamic. “Our number one customer is actually our parent company, Heritage Environmental Services, which ties directly into what we primarily haul.” He is clear, though, that the wide range of services the company offers – due in no small part to its large fleet – puts the client’s needs first, regardless of industry.
“We have a very diverse fleet,” Clausing says. “We offer vanloads, we do roll-off containers, we do dumps, tankers, we have a rail division – so it is a very diverse fleet, depending on our customers’ or clients’ needs and the waste that they need moved to a waste treatment and disposal facility.”
The waste management and transportation industries are not for the faint-hearted. Both sectors require innovative ways to stand out amongst a huge number of competitors. Clausing identifies the key area that allows Heritage Transport to grow in a steady and secure manner. “We have competitors in both the waste management business and also on the transportation side,” he explains. “We are very fortunate that our business is directly aligned with our parent company which would also correspond to our growth strategy. As they bring aboard more partners and more clients, there is more waste to be moved and it allows us to continue growing our fleet, to hire more drivers, to purchase more equipment so we can offer that transportation service to those clients.”
Regardless of how the company grows its business, it is important that the product and service provided is of the highest standard in order to retain these clients. “The service that Heritage Transport provides is high-class. We have a national footprint with five primary terminals so we can reach all areas of the country. We are permitted in forty-six out of fifty states so that is certainly an advantage to us when you think about compliance, regulations around transporting hazardous materials – we have that and it sets us apart.”
Clausing points out that, in addition to the national reach of the company, the fleet of vehicles is second to none which allows the company to be customer-led. “We have a very diverse fleet and over time we have grown based on clients’ needs, being able to provide solutions for them. I would also say that our rail division is unique. If the volume is there, we can do a lot of the transportation via rail then offer a truck to collect it from the rail terminals.”
The collection of waste can certainly be an arduous task. Heritage Transport has learned from experience and has specialist equipment on-hand to react to any situation it encounters. “We have had, as part of our van container business, certain clients with containers that are in very rough terrain,” says Clausing. “It is not your traditional collection with a forklift so something that we implemented were van trailers with a removable all-terrain forklift. For those clients that have waste containers in hard to reach areas from a safety factor, we are able to get onsite and get into those hard to reach areas to safely move those containers. Some of the things that we were seeing historically were drivers trying to get pallet jacks in these rough areas or to use a different mechanical aid that put us at risk of injury. By having this all-terrain forklift we are able to service those clients much better.”
The company set out to learn from its drivers’ experiences, and an in-house program was established to explore and learn from the day to day operations its drivers were engaged in. Learning from experience and tweaking its processes and products was the result. “It came about based on our safety observation program,” Clausing says. “We really encourage all our employees in bringing our attention to things that they are seeing out in the field, whether it is unsafe conditions or unsafe acts, so that we can drive or improve action plans. If the starting point was the environment of our clients and how they are generating the waste drums, taking it to that next step on the improvement initiative was our employees being able to submit their observations.”
The link between Heritage Transport and The Heritage Group is a long and mutually beneficial one. However, as Clausing points out, the relationship, and in particular the evolution of it, has always been partnership-based as opposed to a hierarchy. “The family that founded the Heritage Group in the 1930s currently serves industries from asphalt to petroleum refining, gasoline mining, energy exploration and construction – those types of industries. In 1970, Heritage Environmental Services entered into the industrial waste treatment business. At that point, we were offering both oil reclamation and also industrial waste disposal services. So when you think about industrial waste treatment activities, [the company] had that environmental piece and also offered the trucking solution.”
These industries as a whole are not necessarily historically known for their environmental awareness, yet many are now starting to take a different approach. The core beliefs at Heritage are rooted in ethics and responsibility. As the company website says, its goal is “the complete elimination of injuries, occupational illness, unsafe practice and environmental harm.” Clausing explains that, “The Heritage Group is still in the chemicals, construction, petroleum and asphalt [sectors] but we also understand very clearly that any waste generated from those industries must be handled in a responsible manner, making sure that we go through the waste management hierarchy to find the correct solution for it.”
Like any other company, there are of course challenges. The largest, and most consistent challenge industry-wide is the shortage of drivers. “That is something that we have really had a lot of discussion on,” says Clausing. “How we can be competitive with our compensation package, improving how we market the Heritage brand to bring attention to how attractive the company is to work in. Across the industry, I think there is a shortage of about 90,000 drivers. You can imagine how competitive that market is both to recruit drivers and also to retain them. What we have found is that once we are able to hire a driver and train them, we have had good success with retaining them by incentivizing performance, whether it is based on meeting safety and compliance goals or operational goals.”
Clausing also points to industry associations and the positive work they are doing. “When you see an upswing in the economy, there is more opportunity out there and more demand for moving freight, which has contributed to the shortage. The industry associations are doing a lot to shed good light on the profession and highlight the positives of being a driver,” he says.
Looking forward, Steve Clausing identifies the issue of safety as an area the company will continue to focus on. “In our safety compliance, something we are rolling out is a video surveillance project. We are putting cameras in the trucks and the first benefit that will come is being able to protect our drivers in the event that something happens. Secondly, we can use it to coach safe driving behaviors. We are able to set up certain triggers or alarms so that, when certain safety parameters are met, it will record footage around that. It allows our supervisors and management team to use the footage to further coach our drivers.”
By improving on an area that will benefit the client, the driver, the company and the industry at large, Heritage is showing once more that it is a driving force in the transportation industry.